UK Tier 4 Student Visa and Short Stay Visas

Tier 4 student visas allow people from outside of the European Economic Area to enter the UK as a student, usually either at a school, college, or university. In order to apply for a Tier 4 student visa you will need to have Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) at a UK educational institution that holds a valid Tier 4 sponsorship license. The option to enter the UK on a Prospective Student visa ended in October 2013.

Tier 4 visa students must spend at least 15 hours a week in study, and the student must be able to meet the cost of the course, maintenance and accommodation without working. Loans are available from Student Finance to cover tuition fees for Tier 4 students at UK universities. However, help with maintenance and other costs is usually restricted to UK and EU nationals, and those with legal residence; usually this means anyone who’s legally been in the UK for 3 years or more.

Some Tier 4 students may work for up to 20 hours per week while they study. However, changes to UK immigration law brought in in 2015 mean that Tier 4 students at publicly further education colleges may no longer work.

These changes to Uk immigration law also mean that Tier 4 visa holders at further education colleges may no longer switch to another UK visa category from inside the UK when their studies finish, such as Tier 2 or Tier 5 work visas. Tier 4 college students who wish to work in the UK after their studies finish must now leave the UK and apply for a UK work visa from outside of the country. Students at UK universities are not affected.


Tier 4 Visa Students

  • Tier 4 (General) Student visa For students aged 18 or over who have been offered a place on a course at a UK educational institution. Courses of study covered by this visa include degree level courses, and level 3 courses such as A levels. While studying, some students are allowed to work for up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during the holidays. Changes to UK immigration rules in 2015 mean that students at further education colleges on this type of visa may no longer work while they study. 
  • Tier 4 (Child) Student visa For students under the age of 18 who have been offered a place on a course at a UK educational institution with a valid Tier 4 sponsorship licence. Tier 4 sponsors are usually independent fee-paying schools. Some students over the age of 16 may work for up to 10 hours per week during term time and full time during holidays. Changes to UK immigration rules in 2015 mean that students at further education colleges on this type of visa may no longer work while they study.

Short-term Study

  • Short-term Study visa For students offered a place on a short-term course in the UK, such as an English language course or training course. Overseas university students may also do a short period of research in the UK. This visa usually lasts for 6 months, or 11 months for migrants aged 18+ who are studying an English language course.

Tier 4 Visa Family Members

Some students may wish to bring family members with them. Tier 4 (General) Student visas allow family members to apply to come to the UK with the visa holder, or to remain if already in the UK. Family members covered include married, civil, and unmarried partners; and children under the age of 18. In order to bring family members to the UK students must meet at least 1 the following conditions:

  • Studying towards an NQF level 7 (UK Master’s degree) or higher qualification in the UK for at least 1 year, OR; 
  • Sponsored by the UK government on a course lasting at least 6 months, OR; 
  • Studying on a Doctorate Extension Scheme

Parents of children on the Tier 4 (Child) Student visa may also apply under the Parent of a Tier 4 Child visa. Please see our UK Family visas page for more details.


Tier 4 Visa for International Students

Tier 4 Student Visa Overview

The Tier 4 visa application process is points based, and requires various supporting documents as well as confirmation of acceptance for studies at a UK school, college, or university. The education institution in question must be on the UK’s list of registered Tier 4 sponsors.

Below you will find detailed information on the Tier 4 visa and its application process.

Tier 4 visa categories

There are two types of Tier 4 Student visa: the Tier 4 (General) Student visa – for applicants aged 18+, and the Tier 4 (Child) Student visa – for those aged between 4 and 17. This guide covers both types of Tier 4 visa.

  • Tier 4 (General) Student visa For students aged 18 or over who have been offered a place on a course at a UK educational institution. Courses of study covered by this visa include degree level courses, and level 3 courses such as A levels. While studying, some students are allowed to work for up to 20 hours per week during term time and full time during the holidays. Changes to UK immigration rules in 2015 mean that students at further education colleges on this type of visa may no longer work while they study. 
  • Tier 4 (Child) Student visa For students under the age of 18 who have been offered a place on a course at a UK educational institution with a valid Tier 4 sponsorship licence. Tier 4 sponsors are usually independent fee-paying schools. Some students over the age of 16 may work for up to 10 hours per week during term time and full time during holidays. Changes to UK immigration rules in 2015 mean that students at publicly funded further education colleges on this type of visa may no longer work while they study.

Length of stay

The current system grants student visas for an initial period which varies depending on the length of the course: 

  • 12 months or more: Students may arrive in the UK upto 1 month before their studies commence, and may stay for upto 4 months after they finish 
  • 6-12 months: Students may arrive in the UK upto 1 month before their studies commence, and may stay for upto 2 months after they finish 
  • Less than 6 months: Students may arrive in the UK upto 1 week before their studies commence, and may stay for upto 1 week after they finish 
  • Pre-sessional English courses:  Students may arrive in the UK upto 1 week before their studies commence, and may stay for upto 1 month after they finish

English language requirement

Tier 4 student visa applicants may be required to complete an English test if they are not nationals of an English-speaking country or have not completed any academic courses in English.

Points system

The Tier 4 application process is based on a points assessment. Applicants must score the full 40 points to be granted a Tier 4 visa. The table below gives a detailed breakdown of the Tier 4 points assessment.

Tier 4 Student Visa Points Table

RequirementPoints
Having a valid Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies from a Tier 4 sponsor30
Funds: at least £9,180 for maintenance (living costs), and enough to cover course/tuition fees for the first year of your studies10

Fees

Help with tuition fees may be available to international students from Student Finance; the UK’s official student loan provider. However, help with maintenance (living costs) is restricted to UK nationals and residents. Generally this means people who have legally been in the UK for at least 3 years.  

Work

Students who are in a course at or above degree level (NQF 6/QCF 6/SCQF 9) at a UK higher education institution are allowed to:

  • work for up to 20 hours per week during term time 
  • work full-time during vacations 
  • do a work placement as part of your course 
  • work as a student sabbatical officer 
  • work as a postgraduate doctor or dentist on a recognised Foundation Programme.

If you are on a course below this level at a UK higher education institution, you are allowed to:

  • work for up to 10 hours per week during term time; 
  • do a work placement as part of your course; 
  • work full-time during vacations.

If you are on a course at any level at a publicly funded further education college, you are allowed to:

  • do a work placement as part of your course, provided your education provider is a Highly Trusted sponsor or the course is at or above NQF 6/QCF 6/SCQF 9.

Tier 4 visas rule changes mean that as of August 2015 students at publicly funded further education colleges are no longer allowed to work, bringing them in line with existing rules for privately further education funded colleges.

Family members (dependants)

In some cases, you can bring your partner or children with you during your studies, but you must show that you have sufficient funds to provide for them. They will be able to apply under the Tier 4 student visa as a dependent. People who can bring their dependants to the UK include:

  • Studying towards an NQF level 7 (UK Master’s degree) or higher qualification in the UK for at least 1 year, OR; 
  • Sponsored by the UK government on a course lasting at least 6 months, OR; 
  • Studying on a Doctorate Extension Scheme

Parents of children under the age of 12 who are studying at an independent fee paying UK school on a Tier 4 (Child) visa may also come to the UK on a Parent of a Tier 4 Child Visa.

Documentation

Tier 4 applicants must supply several documents with their application. These include:

  • Current passport and/or other travel documents 
  • A separate passport photograph, with the applicant’s name on the back 
  • Proof of maintenance and course fee funds, such as bank statements and loan agreements 
  • If under the age of 18, a letter showing that the applicant has his/her parent/legal guardian’s consent to travel to the UK 
  • A clear tuberculosis (TB) test result letter, if the applicant is from one of the countries on the Home Office’s TB testing list, found here (link).

Documentation exceptions

Tier 4 student visa applicants from certain countries can qualify for an exception because they are considered to be ‘low risk’ and will normally be required to provide fewer evidential documents.

A Tier 4 student visa applicant qualifies for this exception if they are:

  1. sponsored by a Highly Trusted Sponsor; and
  2. applying for entry clearance in his/her country of nationality or for leave to remain in the UK; and
  3. a national of:
  • Argentina 
  • Australia 
  • Brunei 
  • Canada 
  • Chile 
  • Croatia 
  • Hong Kong 
  • Japan 
  • New Zealand 
  • Singapore 
  • South Korea 
  • Taiwan 
  • Trinidad and Tobago 
  • United States of America 
  • British Nationals living oversea

Switching to another UK visa category

Tier 4 students at UK universities may be able to switch to a UK work visa – such as Tier 2 or Tier 5 – when their studies are completed. Please see our UK Business and Work page for more details on these visa types.

As of 2015 Tier 4 visa holders at further education colleges may no longer switch to another UK visa category from inside the UK when their studies finish, such as Tier 2 or Tier 5 work visas. Tier 4 college students who wish to work in the UK after their studies finish must now leave the UK and apply for a UK work visa from outside of the country.

  • UK Visa Tier Points-Based Immigration System
    • Tier 1 Visa
      • Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa
      • Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur
      • Tier 1 Investor Visa
    • Tier 2 Visa for Skilled Workers
      • Tier 2 General Visa
      • Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visa
      • Tier 2 Visa Points System
      • UK Visa Tier 2 Certificate of Sponsorship
      • Tier 2 Sponsor Licence Application – How to apply
      • UK Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List
      • Tier 2 Minister of Religion Visa
      • Tier 2 Sportsperson Visa
      • Tier 2 Visa Resident Labour Market Test
      • Tier 2 visa switching from another visa scheme
      • Tier 2 Visa Government fees from 29 March 2019
    • Tier 3 Visa – Never Implemented and discontinued
    • Tier 4 Student Visas
      • Tier 4 Visa for International Students
    • Tier 5 Visa for Temporary Workers
      • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Charity Worker) visa
      • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting) visa
      • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange) visa
      • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – International Agreement) visa
      • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Religious Worker) visa
      • Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa
    • Who needs a UK Tier 2 Work Visa or other visa?
  • Non Tier UK Business visas
    • UK Innovator Visa
    • UK Start Up Visa
    • UK Sole Representative of an overseas business visa
    • UK Turkish Businessperson visa
  • UK Visitor Visas
    • UK Standard Visitor visa
    • UK Permitted Paid Engagement visa
    • Who needs a UK visitor visa?
  • UK Family Visas
    • UK Family of a settled person visa
      • UK Marriage visa (Family of a Settled Person Visa) tips
      • UK Fiancé visa (Family of a Settled Person Visa) tips
    • EEA Family Permit and UK Residence Card
    • UK Parent of a Tier 4 child visa
    • British Ancestry visa
    • UK Entry Clearance Guide
    • EU, EEA and Swiss Nationals Working in the UK
  • UK Permanent Residence and UK Citizenship
    • UK Permanent Residence/Indefinite Leave to Remain
    • UK Citizenship and Naturalisation – How to apply
      • Children Born Outside The UK
        • The British Nationality Act 1981
        • British Citizenship By Descent Or Otherwise
        • Children born outside the UK/qualifying territory
        • UK Children of parents in Crown and similar services
        • Children who will not be British citizens
        • List of Crown and services
      • Right of Abode (UK)
    • Long Residence in UK