Tier 4 Student Visa
What is Tier 4 Student Visa and who needs it?
If you want to come and study in the UK from a non-EU country, you may need to apply for a UK student visa, which is known as a Tier 4 student (general) visa. Here is your guide to applying for a UK student visa.
What documents do I need to prepare?
- current passport (current passport has at least 6 months period of validity and at least two-sided blank page) or other valid travel documentation ( you need also provide any previous passports if applicable).
- 2 passport-sized colour photograph with your name written on the reverse side
- your financial evidence and original documents such as bank statements (you will need to show the British Home Office that there is enough fund for tuition fee and living expenses)
- your proof of passing a secure English language test (in most cases, this is your IELTS result sheet)
- a copy of your CAS letter
- an ATAS certificate if it is required
How do I apply for the visa?
After you receive an offer from the university, you’ll need to either fulfil your condition on the conditional offer or firmly accept your unconditional offer (how do I accept a university offer?).
The university may request you to pay tuition fee or deposit in advance. If this is the university that you really want to go to, you should make the payment.
After you accept your offer, the university will issue a document called CAS and sent it to your email. CAS, short for Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies, is one vital part of the visa application. Any tuition fees paid, including deposits and scholarships should be shown in the CAS letter. You are required to confirm with the university if the details in the CAS letter is correct.
Prepare all the documents that you need to apply for a UK Tier 4 student visa.
Complete your online visa application form (applicants in North Korea have to hand in the print application form) and submit your visa application.
You’ll have to pay the NHS surcharge and visa application fee online.
You will need to book an appointment with the visa application centre and attend in person to submit your documents. They will also take your fingerprint, and you might be required to do an interview at the application centre.
Switching rules for Tier 4 Student visa holders
Tier 4 Students who are in the UK can apply to “switch” to various other kinds of visa. The rules about this are complicated, but the following are some of the main visa types which Tier 4 Students can potentially switch into:
Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa: A Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa enables someone to set up and run a business in the UK or invest in or take over an already-existing business and run it. A Tier 4 Student may be able to apply for this visa, but only if they have access to funding from a venture capital firm, an official UK entrepreneurial seed funding competition or from a UK Government Department. (However, if an applicant has sufficient funding from a different source they may be able to return to their home country and make a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa application to the British Embassy which, if successful, will enable them to return to the UK). Entrepreneurs can potentially acquire Indefinite Leave to Remain in either five years or three years, depending on the performance of their business.
Tier 1 Investor Visa: A Tier 1 Investor visa enables someone to invest between £2m and £10m in the UK and apply for a visa on the basis of this investment. Tier 4 Students are able to switch into this category. A particular attraction of this visa is that applicants who invest £5m can potentially acquire Indefinite Leave to Remain in three years and applicants who invest £10m can potentially acquire it in two years.
Tier 2 Work Permit Visa: A Tier 2 Work Permit visa enables someone to work in a skilled job for an employer in the UK. A Tier 4 Student who has graduated in the UK may be able to apply for this visa. Tier 2 Migrants may, in many cases, be potentially able to acquire Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK after five years.
Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange Visa: This is a visa scheme that allows someone to come to the UK and work for a temporary period as an intern for a UK employer. It is particularly useful for recent graduates who want to gain real-life experience in their field of education. There are a number of registered Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange sponsors; if you have found a paid internship in the UK let us know and we can point you the right direction. Tier 4 Students who have graduated are able to switch into this category.
Spouse or Civil Partner Visa: A Tier 4 Student may be able to switch into a Spouse visa or Civil Partner (ie same-sex relationship) visa if their spouse/civil partner is either a British citizen or holds Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. After five years, and if the relationship is still intact, the applicant may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Unmarried Partner Visa: A Tier 4 Student may be able to switch into an Unmarried Partner visa if their partner is a British citizen or holds Indefinite Leave to Remain and they have lived together as a couple for at least two years (and they have documents to prove it). After five years, and if the relationship is still intact, the applicant may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Fiance(e)/Proposed Civil Partner Visa: A person may apply for a Fiance(e)/Proposed Civil Partner (ie same-sex relationship) visa if they are engaged to a person who is a British citizen or holds Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK and they intend to marry them. This application can only be made from outside the UK to a British diplomatic post, not from within the UK.
If the visa application is successful the visa will be issued for six months. Within that six months period the migrant is expected to marry, and then they can apply for a Spouse/Civil Partner visa in the UK.
European Family Visa: If your spouse, civil partner (ie. same-sex relationship) or unmarried partner (with whom you have lived for at least two years) is an EEA or Swiss national and they are living in the UK you may be able to apply for an EEA Residence Card, which is issued for five years, and which allows you to remain in the UK on the basis of your relationship. After five years, and if the situation with your partner remains the same, you may be able to apply for Permanent Residence in the UK.
Indefinite Leave to Remain
In many cases someone who holds a working visa or family visa may eventually be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after five continuous years on that visa.
And anyone who has been lawfully in the UK for ten continuous years, under any immigration category or any combination of immigration categories, may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain on that basis.
Under the newer Immigration Rules, where limits have been placed on how long students can study in the UK, it has become increasingly unlikely that Tier 4 Students will be in this situation, but there are still some cases where it could happen.
For example, in cases where a Tier 4 Student has studied for some years in the UK and then switches to another visa category, after ten years total leave they may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain on that basis. So if for example someone has studied in the UK continuously for seven years and then they switch to a working visa they may be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain after three years on the working visa.