UK Immigration & Nationality Lawyers

Tier 4 (general)

Tier 4 (general)

The Tier 4 (General) Student visa is for non-EEA nationals over 16 years of age, who wish to pursue a full time course of study in the UK.

In order to qualify for Tier 4(General) visa students have to produce a valid certificate of acceptance for studies (CAS) and demonstrate availability of maintenance funds at appropriate level.

Currently, maintenance level is £800 per month of studies for inner London students, and £600 per month eslewhere; up to a  maximum of nine months, or two months, if the student has “an established presence”.  Additional funds required for dependants of students are £533 per month for inner London, and £400 elsewhere, up to a maximum of 9 months, or two months if the student has “an established presence”.

From April 2012, the new maintenance requirements will be £1000 per month for inner London students, £800 – elsewhere; and £600 per month for dependants of inner London students, and £450 per month for the rest of the UK.

Tier 4 (General) Students are only permitted to study accredited courses at level 3 NQF (National Qualification Framework) or above with institutions that have a Highly Trusted Sponsor accreditation.  Institutions which have not yet obtained Highly Trusted status are, so far, still permitted to offer international students courses at NFQ level 4 or above.

English language students are eligible for Tier 4(General) visa if they are studying at level B2 or above, or if they are Government sponsored students, or if the language course is a pre-sessional course preceding a degree course.

Where a student is applying for entry clearance or leave to remain in order to take a further course of study, sponsors will have to vouch that the student is making genuine academic progress.  This will not preclude students from undertaking courses at the same level where this will develop the breadth or depth of their learning, or prevent those undertaking re-sits or transferring from one institution to another from applying for extension of stay.

A Tier 4 (General) Student who is 18 years old or over is allowed to spend no more than three years in the UK studying below UK Bachelor’s degree level. This three year limit excludes time that a Tier 4 (General) student had spent studying in the UK below the age of 18; or in any non-Tier 4 category which permits studying, or under the rules that were in place before 31 March 2009.

From April 2012, time permitted for studying at a graduate level will be limited to five years, with some exceptions of those studying for Master’s degrees or a PhD.  For those who spend eight years or more in Tier 4 (General) category on completion of their PhD, no further leave under Tier 4 will be granted.

Time limit will not affect students in

  • Architecture
  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Veterinary medicine
  • Law
  • Music at a Conservatoire level.

English language requirements

Degree and above-degree level students are required to demonstrate knowledge of English at level B2 (upper intermediate level) on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for languages.  Students studying below degree level need to provide a Secure English Language Test certificate at level B1 (intermediate level).

Entitlement to work for Tier 4 (General) Students

From 4th July 2011, Tier 4 (General) students sponsored by a Higher Education institution for studies at degree level or above are allowed to work for 20 hours per week during term time and full time during vacations.

Students sponsored by a higher education institution undertaking study below degree level are able to work 10 hours per week during term time, and full time during vacations.

Students sponsored by a publicly funded further education college undertaking a course of study at any academic level are allowed to work 10 hours per week during term time, and full time during vacations.

Other students are not permitted to work.

Entitlement to bring dependants

From 4th July 2011, entitlement of students to bring their dependents to the UK has been restricted.

New students can only bring their dependants (partner and children) to the UK if they study at postgraduate level or above on a course lasting not less than 12 months being sponsored by a higher education institution. Other students entitled to bring their dependants are Government sponsored students following a course that is longer than six months.

Dependants with existing permission to stay in the UK are allowed to extend their stay provided they apply at the same time as the Tier 4 (general) student.

Permission to work for dependants (partners) of Tier 4 (General) Student

If the main Tier 4 (General) Student’s grant of leave is for less than 12 months, the dependant will not be allowed to work whilst in the UK, except where the main applicant is a Government Sponsored Student.

If the Tier 4 (General) Student’s grant of leave is for a course of study below degree level, the family member will not be allowed to work whilst in the UK, except where the main applicant is a Government Sponsored Student.

Designated low-risk nationalities

Student of designated low-risk nationalities attending courses at Highly Trusted Sponsor will not routinely have to present the specified documents at the application stage in respect of their maintenance funds or educational qualifications.

The low risk countries are:

  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • British National Overseas
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States of America


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