Tier 4 - Immigration Overview
The fourth tier of the new points based UK immigration service focuses upon overseas students who wish to gain entry clearance to study in the UK. Tier 4 visas replace the UK student visa service and place more emphasis upon the responsibility of the educational body in question for the applicants they permit to study. The aim of this tier immigration service is to provide a more user-friendly, transparent route to studying in the UK.
With the exception of tier 1 visas, which directly replace the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme or HSMP, all tier visas for the new system will require a certificate of sponsorship from the relevant sponsor. In this case, the sponsor will be the educational institution offering a place which a student has accepted. Each sponsoring institution will be required to vouch for the ability of students.
Our immigration consultants can guide you at every stage of obtaining a visa for the UK, whichever tier visa service is right for you. As a specialist UK immigration consultancy, we can offer immigration lawyer advice on your initial application and can help you adjust to living and working in the UK through a range of on arrival services.
Students will be granted leave to enter the UK for the purposes of completing their course at a specified institution. The grant will also take into account the time needed to conclude affairs and attend graduation. Changing from one course to another at the same establishment will not require a new visa application; however, changing a sponsor or obtaining a UK tier visa extension will require a further application to be lodged.
This level of the new system is not designed as a route to settled status in Britain and does not provide the opportunity to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (ILR) or permanent residency. A Tier 4 visa is a temporary immigration service designed with a specific purpose in mind and will not lead to British naturalization as a UK citizen.
Categories of student:
Students are divided into three categories when applying for a UK visa at this level. Each category requires the satisfaction of separate criteria as set out below.
Students studying in Britain at or above degree level in a publicly funded institution, or engaging in more than 15 hours of study per week. In this category, work is permitted for 20 hours each week rising to full time hours during holiday periods. Dependents are permitted to join students in this category.
Students in full time study at an independent school up to the age of 18. Working hours are the same as the general student category but dependents are not permitted.
Study through work:
Students on courses of work experience or placements. Working hours will be the same as the other two categories and dependents will be permitted in instances where the principal applicant will be in the country in excess of 12 months.
Educational institution obligations:
Educational institutions offering study places to overseas students will need to attain the status of approved sponsors by demonstrating that they are bona fide establishments, rather than non-accredited or purely commercial operations.
Certificates of sponsorship act as verification from a college or university that students making UK visa applications will abide by the rules and requirements of their course. Educational institutions will also be obliged to report non-enrolment and non-attendance.
As noted, dependents of students making a successful UK visa application will be permitted to enter the country, however, as with tier 3 visas and tier 5 visas this tier is regarded as a temporary immigration route. Unlike tier 1 and tier 2 visas, spouse immigration and dependent immigration in these circumstances will also be temporary and will reflect the grant of leave awarded to the principle applicant.
Family visa services such as the marriage visa, fiancé visa and unmarried partner visa, or De Facto visa will continue to function independently of the new system, however they will not apply to applications of this kind.