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Tier 4 (student info)

Points-based system Tier 4: (General) Student and Child Student - visa application guide

This guide is for applicants who are resident outside the United Kingdom. It explains what you need to do if you wish to come to the United Kingdom (UK) either as an Adult (General) Student or Child Student under Tier 4 of the points-based system. It is only a guide but it aims to answer some common questions. There are also notes to help you to complete an application form.

More comprehensive guidance is available on the UK Border Agency website, which is the definitive version, and in the event of any discrepancy overrules the information provided in this guide. You should also consult the UK Border Agency guidance if you are resident in the UK.

Important announcements!

Other recent announcements of interest can be found on the right side of this page

Changes following Tier 4 review (12 August 2010)
Following a review of Tier 4, a new set of measures have been introduced to tighten the criteria on student Tier 4 visa applications, including the introduction of a new Highly Trusted Sponsor Scheme.

From 12 August 2010, the UK Border Agency will introduce secure English language tests for Tier 4 (General) students coming to study courses below degree and foundation degree level. This will not apply to applicants for English language courses. If you are applying to study a course that is below NQF Level 6 (except a Foundation Degree or an English language course), using a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) issued on or after 12 August 2010, you may be required to take an English language test. You should consult the Tier 4 policy guidance and the UK Border Agency website for further details of these requirements.

Secure English language testing for Tier 4 applicants (21 July 2010)
Introducing mandatory secure language testing for adult students studying below degree level under Tier 4 (General). This new requirement will come into effect on 12 August 2010. For more information see our news reports on the changes.

What is the points-based system?
What are the age limits on (General) Student and (Child) Student?
Do I need a sponsor?
What is a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)?
How can I find out more about sponsorship?
Can I do a pre-sessional (foundation) course under PBS?
Can I undertake extra studies?
What study related routes remain outside of PBS?
Do I still need a visa if I have a CAS?
How do I apply for a visa?
What do I need to make my application?
How are the points calculated?
What supporting documents should I include with my application?
Courses requiring Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Clearance Certificates
Which are the Inner London Boroughs?
How long will I be able to stay in the UK?
Are any special care arrangements required for persons under the age of 18?
Can I appeal if my application is refused?
What is Administrative Review?
Can I work whilst I am in the UK?
Can my dependants join me in the UK?
Can my dependants work in the UK?
What do my dependants need to make an application?
What supporting documents should my dependants include with their application?
What fee will my dependants pay?
Do dependants have a right of appeal?
More advice and information

Further information

What is the points-based system?

The points-based system (PBS) is a system for managing migration for those wishing to enter the UK for work or study.

Tier 1 (General) Migrant of the points-based system was launched for foreign nationals living in the UK on 29 February 2008 and replaced the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP). On 30 June 2008 three additional sub-tiers were rolled-out and the programme was extended to include applicants resident overseas. The four sub-tiers are Tier 1 (General) Migrant, Tier 1 (Investor), Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Post-Study Work). Tier 2 for Skilled Workers and Tier 5 for Temporary Workers and the Youth Mobility Scheme were launched worldwide on 27 November 2008. See the companion leaflets in this series for the other PBS routes. The first stage of Tier 4 (General) Student and Tier 4 (Child) Student rolled-out on 31 March 2009.
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What are the age limits on (General) Student and (Child) Student?

Tier 4 (General) Student is for people coming to the United Kingdom for their post-16 education. Tier 4 (Child) Student is for children between the ages of 4 and 17 to come to the UK. Those aged between 4 and 15 may only be educated at independent fee-paying schools. Applicants aged 16-17 years studying on courses at National Qualification Framework level 3 or above have a choice of making an application either in the Tier 4 (General) Student category or the Tier 4 (Child) Student category. 16 and 17 year olds studying English language courses at level B2 of the Common European Framework of reference for Languages must apply under the Tier 4 (General) Student route. For any applicants under the age of 18, suitable arrangements must have been made for their travel, reception and care whilst in the United Kingdom.

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Do I need a sponsor?

Yes. All applicants under Tier 4 (General) Student and Tier 4 (Child) Student need a sponsor. The sponsor is an education provider offering the applicant a place on a course of study in the United Kingdom. An education provider will need to have registered with the UK Border Agency as a licensed sponsor. They will need to meet the requirements for the particular category within Tier 4 and accept certain responsibilities to help with immigration control.

The new Highly Trusted Sponsor category has been introduced from 6 April 2010. Highly trusted sponsors have to demonstrate the highest levels of compliance with their sponsor duties and in return are able to offer a wider range of course levels and work placement opportunities.

Sponsors will either either be marked as having Highly Trusted Sponsor status or they will be rated as either A (Trusted) or B (Sponsor). The B (sponsor) rating is a transitional rating and means that the sponsor is working with the UKBorder Agency to improve their systems.

You can check whether your education provider has a licence and the status that they hold on:

Register of Sponsors Licensed Under the Points-Based System (Tier 4 only).

With the launch of the new Highly Trusted Sponsor category, applications made on or after 6 April 2010 will only be able to study the following courses if they have a sponsor that holds (or is deemed to hold) a Tier 4 Highly Trusted Sponsor licence.:
Courses at level 3 on the National Qualifications framework (NQF), or its direct equivalents in the devolved administrations, and
Courses below degree level (excluding foundation degrees) which include a work placement.

There are some time-limited transitional arrangements for students in the process of applying during the changeover period. Please see the table in the Tier 4 Guidance .

You should also check the Tier 4 guidance for what happens if your sponsors status changes from Highly Trusted to either A (Trusted) or B (Sponsor).

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What is a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)?

A CAS is an electronic document that is created by a UK Border Agency licensed sponsor to demonstrate that they have accepted an applicant to join one of their courses in the UK. Under Tier 4 an applicant must have a CAS before making an application. The CAS must demonstrate that the applicant has an official, unconditional offer from the sponsor for the course of study he / she wants to undertake. The applicant must note the unique fourteen digit reference number for their CAS on the appropriate field on their application form.

The CAS must be issued no longer than 6 months before the date of application, otherwise it will expire. Having a valid CAS will not guarantee entry clearance as the applicant will still need to demonstrate that they meet all the Immigration Rules for the category.

You may obtain several CAS from different licensed sponsors, but you should only apply for a visa with the one from your chosen institution. The others will automatically be made obsolete once your application is made.

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How can I find out more about sponsorship?

The Tier 4 Guidance contains information about what to do and what may happen if:
Your sponsor’s licence is suspended;
Your sponsor’s licence is withdrawn;
Your sponsor is taken over by another organisation;
Your sponsor’s licence changes from Highly Trusted to either A (Trusted) or B (Sponsor).

You will also find information about:
Sponsor’s record keeping duties;
Sponsor’s reporting duties;
What to do if you think your sponsor is not complying with their duties; and
Account manager or compliance officer visits

Find more information for sponsors on our website at:
Sponsorship under points based system

You should also consult the Tier 4 Guidance for information regarding changing courses whilst in the United Kingdom, either with an existing sponsor or a new sponsor.
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Can I do a pre-sessional (foundation) course under PBS?


Yes, if your pre-sessional course is an intensive English language course or any other course which prepares you for your main course of study in the United Kingdom.

Level of English language you can study as a pre-sessional course

Where you have an unconditional offer of a place on a main course at NQF level 6 or above, and you have a single Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies that covers both the short course (Pre-sessional) and the main course of study, you can study the pre-sessional course at any level.

Where you have an unconditional offer of a place on a main course at NQF level 3 or above at an independent school (General student only), and you have a single Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies that covers both the short course (Pre-sessional) and the main course of study, you can study the pre-...

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