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Studying in the UK: a guide for international students

This guide illustrates how you can apply to enter or to remain in the UK  to study and describes your rights, prohibitions and obligations once in the country.

06 January 2011.*Guide for visa nationals (non-EEA country nationals)

Serious changes to the rules to enter the UK as an international student are going to come into effect on April 1st. In the meantime, the old rules still apply.

Under the current legislation, students can apply for entry to the UK for a course of study:

• Under the points-based system: Tier 4 Students

• Under the non points-based system: Visit Visa

The route you choose will depend on your age, and on the length and level of the course that you want to study.

If you plan to study in the UK for more than 6 months, you must apply for permission to enter under Tier 4 of the Points-based System.
There are 2 categories under this Tier:

1. General student: for post—16 education
2. Child student: for students between 4 and 17 years of age

If your course of study is 6 months or under, you must apply for a visit visa under the non points-based system.
There are 3 categories of visit visas you may apply under:

1. Child visitor: if you are 17 years old or under and you want to attend a course of study for up to 6 months
2. Student visitor: if you are 18 years old or over and you want to attend a course of study for up to 6 months
3. Prospective student: if you want to come to the UK to decide which course to study or if you plan to start a course of study within six months.

TIER 4 (General): Adult students visas

The Tier 4 (General) category is for students aged 16 or over who wish to enter or remain in the UK to study.

You can do a work placement as part of your course and a short preparatory course if you need one before starting your main course of study.

If you are 16 or 17 years old, you and your approved education provider ('Tier 4 sponsor') can agree whether you should apply under this category or under Tier 4 (Child).

However, if you want to study English as a foreign language, you must apply as a Tier 4 (General) student.

In both cases, your parents or legal guardian, or just one parent if that parent has sole responsibility for you, must confirm that they consent to the arrangements for you travel to, and reception and care in, the UK.

Eligibility

To be accepted under this Tier, you have to be able to show that:

• you must have been offered a place on a full-time course at an acceptable level; and
• the course must be offered by an approved education provider ('Tier 4 Sponsor'); and
• you have enough money to cover your course fees and monthly living costs when you submit your application.

In general, it appears only those of a certain financial status can successfully apply under the Tier 4 system and those from less well of backgrounds, will no longer be eligible to apply or indeed will face great difficulty.

Required points

You will need a total of at least 40 points to be able to apply apply for a Tier 4 (General) migrant visa:

• 30 for attributes (availability of valid Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies)
• 10 points for maintenance.

Course at an 'acceptable level'

To be acceptable for UKBA, your course should be full-time and:

• lead to a qualification at or above level 6 on the revised National Qualifications Framework (NQF) – equivalent to a UK bachelor's degree – or its equivalents; or
• be a short-term 'study abroad' programme as part of your qualification at an overseas higher education provider, if UK NARIC has confirmed that the qualification is at or above UK degree level; or
• be an English language course at or above CEFR level B2; or
• be an English language course at any level, if you are a government-sponsored student or if the course is a pre-sessional course which you are taking before a degree course; or
• lead to a qualification at or above NQF level 3 – equivalent to a UK 'A-level' – or its equivalents if you will be studying with a Highly Trusted sponsor; or
• lead to a qualification at or above NQF level 4 if you will be studying with a sponsor that has an A (Trusted) or B (Sponsor) rating; or
involve at least 15 hours per week of organised daytime study. 'Daytime' is 08:00 to 18:00, Monday to Friday.

Your course or programme must be provided by an approved education provider ('Tier 4 (General) sponsor').

A recognised Foundation Programme for postgraduate doctors and dentists is an acceptable course if you have attained a recognised UK degree in medicine or dentistry from:

• a Tier 4 (General) sponsor; or
• a UK publicly funded institution of further or higher education; or
• an institution that is included as a recognised body or a listed body on the Department for Innovation Universities and Skills website.

Additionally, you must have had permission to stay here as a Tier 4 (General) student, or as a student under the rules in place before 31 March 2009 during the final academic year and at least one other academic year of your studies leading to the above degree.

Approved education provider – Tier 4 (General) sponsor

As well as being at an acceptable level, your course must be provided by an education provider licensed by UKBA to teach international students in the UK (Tier 4 (General) sponsor licence) and included in the Tier 4 register of sponsors.

The register contains the education provider's name and location. It also indicates whether the education provider is a Highly Trusted sponsor, or is a standard sponsor with an A (Trusted) or B (Sponsor) rating.

Highly Trusted sponsors have demonstrated the highest levels of compliance with the UKBA standards, and in return can offer a wider range of course levels and work placement opportunities.

When a Tier 4 sponsor gives an international student an unconditional offer of a place on a course, it assigns a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) to you. This is an electronic document with unique reference number containing your personal details and information about your course.

Only Tier 4 sponsors can assign CASs to international students. Without one, your student visa application will be refused. Make sure the provider of your chosen course is a licensed Tier 4 sponsor. Look for them on the register of Tier 4 sponsors, regularly updated on the UKBA website.

If your education provider's Tier 4 sponsor licence is suspended or withdrawn before you apply, your CAS will become invalid and you will not be able to use it in an application.

If you do not use your CAS to apply to us during the 6 months after it is assigned to you, it will expire and you will need to get a new CAS from your education provider. If you apply using a CAS that has expired, your application will be refused.

If you want to change to a sponsor with a Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) licence, you will be able to begin your new course of study, at your own risk, while you are waiting for the UKBA to make a decision on your application to change sponsor.

Tier 4 sponsors' reporting duties

If a Tier 4 visa was issued to you on the basis of their confirmation of acceptance for studies, a Tier 4 sponsor has the duty to keep a copy of your personal records and report to UKBA if:

• you fail to enrol on your course within the enrolment period; 
• you miss 10 expected contacts without your education provider's permission; 
they stop being your immigration sponsor for any other reason (for example, if you move into an immigration category that does not need a Tier 4 sponsor); 
• there are any significant changes in your circumstances (for example, if your course of study becomes shorter); or
• they have any suspicion that you are breaking the conditions of your permission to stay.

You must give your education provider all the information they need to meet these duties. If you do not, you may be investigated you and action may be taken against your education provider (which may affect you).

Maintenance

To successfully apply, you need to have enough money to pay for your course fees and for your monthly living costs.

The amount of money that you will need to show depends on:

• the length of your course;
• where you will be studying; and 
• whether you are currently studying or have recently studied in the UK. 

If you are applying to enter or remain as a student without having an established presence in the UK as a student, you must have funds amounting to:

a) Less than 9 months:

• the full course fees for the entire course; and
• £800 per each month of course if the course is in inner London; or
• £600 per each month of course if the course is in outer London or elsewhere in the UK

b) More than 9 months:

• the full course fees for the first academic year of the course; and
• £7,200 to cover living costs if the course is in inner London; or
• £5,400 to cover living costs if the course is in outer London or elsewhere in the UK

Your money requirement will be lower if you are currently studying or have recently finished studying in the UK ('established presence'): if you completed a course of study in the UK that was at least 6 months long in the past 4 months, or if you have completed at least 6 months of a course which you are currently studying here.

If you have an established presence as a student in the UK, you must have funds amounting to:

a) Less than 9 months:

• the full course fees for the entire course; and
• £800 per each month of course, up to a maximum of £1,600 if the course is in inner London; or
• £600 per each month of course, up to a maximum of £1,200 if the course is in inner London.

b) More than 9 months:

• the full course fees for the first academic year of the course; and
• £1,600 to cover living costs if the course is in inner London; or
• £1,200 to cover living costs if the course is in outer London or elsewhere in the UK

You must be able to prove that the money you need to apply has been in your account for 28 days before you submit your application.

Application forms

If you are applying from inside the United Kingdom, you have to fill in the application form, and either post it or make an appointment to take it to a public enquiry office (you must book an appointment before you attend and you should do this well in advance of your visa expiring as it can take several weeks to secure an appointment at the public enquiry office) with your visa fee and documents and supporting documents. When notified, you must also arrange to give your biometrics.

The form to submit is the TIER 4 (General) application form.

There are seven public enquiry offices in the UK and they are in: Solihull, Croydon (south of London), Glasgow, Liverpool, Sheffield, Belfast and Cardiff.

If you are applying from outside the United Kingdom, you need to fill out:

Application Form VAF9 – PBS Migrant ; and
Appendix 8: Tier 4 (General) Student

Duration of adult student visa

Your student visa will allow you to stay in the UK for the whole duration of your course, plus additional time, which varies according the length of your main course of study:

12+ months: additional 4 months;
6-12 months: additional 2 months
less than 6 months: additional 7 days

Short courses to prepare you for study lasting less than 6 months allow 1 additional month.

Studies at below degree level allow you to stay for the full length of the course (up to a maximum of 3 years if you are 18 years old or above) plus 4 months after the end of the course.

Postgraduate doctors and dentists on a recognised Foundation programme are allowed to stay for the full length of the course (up to a maximum of 3 years) plus 1 month after the end of the course.

Visa start date

If you are doing a course that 6 six months or more, or it is a course to prepare you for study (known as a pre-sessional course), you can come to the UK up to 1 month before your course start date.

If you are doing a course that lasts less than 6 months and is not a course to prepare you for study, you can come to the UK up to 7 days before your course start date.

Your course start date is the date given by your approved education provider on your CAS.

Working while under Tier 4

Migrant students are allowed to work:
 

during term time:

20 hours per week if you are studying foundation degree courses or courses at NQF level 6 (and equivalents) or above; or
10 hours per week if you are studying below NQF level 6 (and equivalents) and are not studying a foundation degree course.

during vacations: full-time.

This work is in addition to any work placement you may be doing as part of your course.
You may not fill a full-time permanent vacancy, except on a recognised Foundation Programme for postgraduate doctors or as a students' union sabbatical officer.
Additionally, the following categories of employment are not allowed:
• self-employment;

• employment as a doctor in training (except on a recognised Foundation Programme);
• employment as a professional sportsperson (including a sports coach); and
• employment as an entertainer.

Work placements

Under Tier 4 (General), you can do a work placement as part of your course of study, provided that the work placement is an assessed part of the course and the course is:
 

• at degree level or above; or
• a foundation degree course; or
• provided by a Highly Trusted sponsor.

The work placement must be no more than 50% of the length of the course in the UK, unless there is a legal (statutory) requirement for the course to contain a specific period of work placement.

If you are coming to the UK to do a 'study abroad' programme as part of a higher education course at an overseas higher education institution, you may do a work placement as part of the programme as long as it is no more than 50% of the length of your study in the UK.

Dependants

If you will be studying in the UK for more than 6 months, you can bring your family members to the UK.

Family members (also known as dependants) are:
 

• your husband, wife or civil partner; or 
• your unmarried or same-sex partner; or 
• your children aged under 18 years old.

They must be able to support themselves financially for the entire length of their stay without recourse to public funds.

The money that your family members will need to show depends on your own circumstances:
 

a) If you have no previously established presence as a student:

In inner London: £533 a month for each family member, for each month of your course up to a maximum of 9 months;
Outside London: £400 a month for each family member, for each month of your course up to a maximum of 9 months;

b) If you have a established presence as a student:

In inner London: £533 a month for each family member, for each month of your course up to a maximum of 2 months;
• Outside London: £400 a month for each family member, for each month of your course up to a maximum of 2 months.

You must be able to prove that the money you need to apply has been in your account for 28 days before you submit your application.

Dependants accompanying a migrant under this category are not allowed to work.

Visa refusal

If you are applying from outside the United Kingdom and your application for a Tier 4 (General) migrant visa is refused, you have a right to an Administrative Review, which is free of charge.

The Entry Clearance Manger will then review the case and may decide to issue the visa if they believe you satisfy the immigration criteria and the Entry Clearance Officer was wrong in refusing it.

You must request a review of the refusal within 28 calendar days of the date the refusal notice was issued.

You can only ask for one administrative review per each refused application. You should not send any additional documents and proof with your request for a review.

Tier 4 (Child): Child student visas

The Tier 4 (Child) category is for children coming to the UK to be educated between 4 and 17 years of age.

You can do a short preparatory course if you need one before starting your main course of study. If you are 16 or 17, you can do a work placement as part of your course.

You cannot switch into Tier 4 if you are in the UK as a child visitor or student visitor – you will need to leave the UK at the end of the short course and apply from overseas for permission to study your main course here.)

16-17 year old students

If you are 16 or 17 years old and you want to study a course at or above National Qualifications Framework NQF level 3, you and your Tier 4 sponsor can agree whether you should apply to us under Tier 4 (Child) or Tier 4 (General). If you want to study at NQF level 2 or below, you must apply as a Tier 4 (Child) student.

You cannot be a Tier 4 (Child) student if you have any children who are living with you or for whom you are financially responsible.

As well as being at an acceptable level, your course must be provided by an education provider which has a Tier 4 (Child) sponsor licence.

Eligibility requisites

Children between 4 and 15 must be educated at independent fee-paying schools.

Tier 4 (Child) students cannot study at publicly funded schools. The only publicly funded education providers that can teach Tier 4 (Child) students are publicly funded further education college which are able to charge for international students.

There must also be suitable care arrangements in place for their travel, reception and care.

Required points

A child will need a total of at least 40 points to be able to apply:
 

• 30 points for a confirmation of acceptance for studies, which they get for studying an acceptable course with an approved education provider (also known as sponsorship); and
• 10 points for maintenance funds, to cover course fees and living costs.

Course at an 'acceptable level' for child students

To be acceptable for UKBA, your child must have an offer for a place on a full-time course which is:
 

• taught in line with the National Curriculum; or
• taught in line with the National Qualifications Framework (NQF); or
• accepted as being at the same academic level as the National Curriculum or the NQF by Ofsted in England, the Education and Training
Inspectorate in Northern Ireland, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education in Scotland or Estyn in Wales; or
• taught in line with existing (prevailing) independent school education inspection standards.

Pre-sessional courses

If your child has an unconditional offer of a place on a main course of study, they may apply for a pre-sessional course (an intensive English language course, or any other course to prepare your child for the main course of study) along with their main course of study, if the course meets one of the conditions above and if it is offered by:
 

• the same education provider as the main course; or
• a partner institution named on the child's education provider's sponsor licence.

The education provider will need to assign your child a single confirmation of acceptance for studies that covers both the pre-sessional course and the main course.

The pre-sessional course must end no more than two months before the main course starts.

If your child only has a conditional offer of a place on the main course of study, or if the pre-sessional course provider is separate from the main course provider, you will need to apply to us for permission to do the pre-sessional course first.

If your child successfully completes the pre-sessional course, you can apply from inside the UK to extend their stay under Tier 4 and do the main course.

Approved education provider

As well as being at an acceptable level, your course must be provided by an education provider licensed by UKBA to teach international students in the UK and included in the Tier 4 register of sponsors. For more details, see Tier 4 (General).

Maintenance

To successfully apply, you need to have enough money to pay for your course fees and for your monthly living costs.

You can prove you have the money if you have cash in an account in your name (this includes joint accounts with your name) or a loan in your name; or official financial or government sponsorship.

As a child student, you can include money held in an account owned by your parents. You do not need to show any additional evidence of this relationship.

The amount of money that you will need to show depends on:
 

• Whether you are applying to start a new course or to extend your stay so that you can continue that course
• Whether you will be boarding at a residential school or living elsewhere

If you are not being accommodated by your Tier 4 sponsor, you are a 'non-boarder'. You will need to show that you have enough money to pay your course fees and your living costs.

If you are boarding, your 'school fees' will include course fees and boarding or lodging fees.

In both cases, you must show that you have enough money:
 

a) If you are applying to start a new course: to pay your school fees

• for the first year of your course; or
• for the entire course, if it lasts less than a year.

b) If you are applying to extend your stay: to pay your school fees

• to the end of the current academic year; or
• for the next academic year, if you will continue on your course at the start of the next academic year.

Your confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) tells us the amount of money you need to show to pay your course fees. If you do not know what this amount is, you must ask your Tier 4 sponsor.

If you are a non-boarder, you must also have enough money to cover your living costs. The amount you will need depends on your care arrangements while you are in the UK:
 

1) if you are staying with a UK resident carer:

a. your intended carer must have agreed to look after and accommodate you in the UK for the length of your course; and
b. your intended carer must have at least £500 per month to look after and accommodate you in the UK for each month of your course, up to a maximum of 9 months; and

2) if you are coming to the UK with a parent or legal guardian (under 12-year olds only), who have applied to enter a special visitors,

a. £533 per month throughout your course for your living costs, up to a maximum of £4,797 (9 months); and
b. £800 per month throughout your course for your parent or legal guardian's living costs, up to a maximum of £7,200 (nine months).

If your parent or legal guardian is bringing more of their children to the UK as child students, the first child student must show that they can pay their course fees plus £1,333 per month for up to 9 months; each additional child must show that they can pay their course fees plus £533 per month for up to 9 months.
 

3) if you are 16 or 17 years old and will be living independently in the UK: the same rules of Tier 4 (General) apply.

If the length of your course includes a part of a month, you must round the time up in excess, that is to the next month.

Application forms

If you are applying from inside the United Kingdom, you have to fill in the application form, and either post it or make an appointment to take it to a public enquiry office with your visa fee and documents and proof. When notified, you must also arrange to give your biometrics.

The form to submit is the TIER 4 (Child) application form .

There are seven public enquiry offices in the UK and they are in: Solihull, Croydon (south of London), Glasgow, Liverpool, Sheffield, Belfast and Cardiff.

If you are applying from outside the United Kingdom, you need to fill out:
 

Application Form VAF9 – PBS Migrant; and
Appendix 9: Tier 4 (Child) Student self-assessment form

Duration of child student visa

Your child student visa will allow you to stay in the UK for:
 

• a period of no more than 1 month before the course starts, plus
a period requested by the applicant, equal to the length of the course, or of 6 years (3 years, if aged 16+), whichever is the shorter, plus

4 months.

• a period of no more than 1 month before the course starts, plus
• a period requested by the applicant, equal to the length of the course, or of 6 years (3 years, if aged 16+), whichever is the shorter, plus • 4 months.

Your course start date is the date given by your approved education provider on your CAS.

Visa refusal

If you are applying from outside the United Kingdom, you have a right to an Administrative Review, which is free of charge.

The Entry Clearance Manger will then review the case and may decide to issue the visa if they believe you satisfy the immigration criteria and the Entry Clearance Officer was wrong in refusing it.

You must request a review of the refusal within 28 calendar days of the date the refusal notice was issued.

You can only ask for one administrative review per each refused application. You should not send any additional documents and proof with your request for a review.

Work placement

If you are a child student who is at least 16 years old, you can do a work placement as part of your course of study, provided that the work placement is an assessed part of the course.

The work placement must be no more than 50% of the length of the course in the UK, unless there is a legal (statutory) requirement for the course to contain a specific period of work placement.

Child students who are under 16 are not allowed to work in the UK, so they cannot do work placements as part of their course of study here.
 

Student visitors

 

If you are over 18 year of age and you wish to study up to 6 months in the UK, can apply for a student visitor visa.

To apply under this category, you need to use Application form VAF1D.

If you intend to work or extend your visa, you will need to apply for Tier 4 (General) Student Visa under the Point Based System.

If you are under 18, you will need to apply for a Child Visitor Visa, by filling in the General Visitor application form.

If you have been in touch with educational institutions in the UK, but only provisionally accepted on a course, with final acceptance dependent on an interview, you need to apply for a Prospective Student Visa.

You cannot switch into Tier 4 if you are in the UK as a child visitor or student visitor: you will need to leave the UK at the end of the short course and apply from overseas for permission to study your main course here.

Eligibility requirements for a Student Visitor visa

As well as the normal requirements for visit visas (‘How to successfully apply for a visit visa ’), to come to the UK under this category, you must show that:
 

• you are aged 18 or over, and
• you have been accepted on a course of study provided by an education provider that is:

– a licensed sponsor under Tier 4 of the points-based system; or – accredited by an accreditation body that is approved by the UK Border Agency; or
– inspected or audited by either the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education in Scotland, Estyn, Northern Ireland's Education and Training Inspectorate or the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI); or
– an overseas higher education institution that offers only part of its programmes in the UK, holds its own national accreditation, and offers programmes that are of an equivalent level to a UK degree.

You must also show that, during your visit, you do not intend to:
 

• take up employment in the UK (including part-time or full-time vacation employment);
• engage in business, produce or sell goods or provide or sell services within the UK;
• study at a government-funded school;
• undertake a work placement or internship (paid or unpaid) as part of your course of study;
• extend your stay in the UK;
• marry or form a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership;
• carry out the activities of a business visitor, sports visitor or an entertainer visitor; or
• receive private medical treatment.

As supporting documents, besides the normal requirements, you need to provide:
 

• Evidence that you have been unconditionally accepted or enrolled on a course of study in the UK i.e. a letter from the school or university;
• Evidence of any previous study or qualifications gained in the UK;
• Evidence of any English language ability or qualifications e.g. IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic;
• Evidence of the cost of your course fees and of all other costs relating to your studies in the UK, e.g. flights, accommodation, food, exam fees, books etc
• Evidence of any money paid out towards the cost of your studies, e.g. deposit towards your course fees, flights, accommodation
• Evidence of any funds set aside by your financial sponsors specifically to pay for your studies

 

Prospective Students

A prospective student is a person who intends to undertake studies in the United Kingdom, but does not have complete arrangements for their course of study.

You should have a clear idea of the type and purpose of the studies and should already have been in touch with educational institutions in the UK. For example, you may already have been provisionally accepted at an establishment with final acceptance dependent on an interview. A vague intention to study for qualifications or to enter an unspecified university or other institution is insufficient.

If or once you have an unconditional offer from a UK education provider, which you fully intend to accept, you should apply under Points Based System Tier 4.

To apply under this category, you need to use Application form VAF3A .

Requirements to successfully apply for a prospective student visitor visa

As well as the normal requirements for visit visas (‘How to successfully apply for a visit visa ’), to come to the UK under this category, you must show that:
 

• you intend to enrol on a course of study within 6 months of arriving in the UK;
• you intend to leave the UK when your permission to stay ends if you do not qualify to stay in the UK under Tier 4 of the Points Based System.

As supporting documents, besides the normal requirements, you need to provide the supporting documents for Student Visitor Visas plus:

• Evidence of your contact with educational institutions in the UK

 

By Federica Gaida
FOREIGNERS IN UK
Edited by Raheela Hussain,
Principal Solicitor
Greenfields Solicitors
www.greenfieldssolicitors.com
January 2011

 

Disclaimer: The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. Information is offered for general information purposes only, based on the current law when the information was first displayed on this website.

You should always seek advice from an appropriately qualified solicitor on any specific legal enquiry. For legal advice regarding your case, please contact Greenfields Solicitors for a Consultation with a Solicitor on 020 8884 1166.

 
 
For questions regarding the subject covered in this guide, please visit migreat.com.

 

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