Your family's immigration if you do not have Tier 4 leave
6 July 2011
Who is this information for?
This Information Sheet is for you only if you currently have student immigration permission that you applied for before 31 March 2009. If you applied for your student immigration permission on or after 31 March 2009, please see instead Your family's immigration.
If you are about to make a Tier 4 application and you are wondering whether to bring your family to the UK now or after your Tier 4 application, see Choosing when to bring family if you need to make a Tier 4 immigration application below.
If you are a European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national, or if you are in the UK as the family member of such a person, this Information Sheet does not apply to you. Please see instead EEA and Swiss Students.
The information in this Information Sheet is based on:
- Paragraphs 76 to 81 of the Immigration Rules at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/policyandlaw/immigrationlaw/immigrationrules/part3
- Modernised guidance for UK Border Agency caseworkers at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/modernised/studying
- Entry clearance guidance at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/policyandlaw/guidance/ecg/sty/sty1
Which family members can be with me in the UK?
Spouse or civil partner
Your spouse is your husband or your wife.
Your civil partner is your same-sex partner with whom you have registered a legally recognised relationship. In the UK, this is called a civil partnership. This type of relationship has many different names in other countries. If you entered into a legally recognised same-sex relationship in a country outside the UK, check the UK Border Agency instructions for caseworkers (Chapter 8 Section 2) for a list of relationships that meet the definition of civil partnership in the UK:
Spouses and civil partners must meet all the following requirements:
- they must intend to live with you during their stay in the UK, though you can be apart for temporary periods
- they must not intend to stay in the UK longer than their grant of immigration permission
- there must be adequate accommodation for you and your family without relying on council housing
- they must not intend to work in the UK unless they are allowed to – see Can they work and study? below for details
- you must have sufficient money to support you and your family without having recourse to public funds. This means that you must have enough money to live in the UK without claiming specified benefits. For details of what "no recourse to public funds" means, see the UK Border Agency's guidance for caseworkers at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/modernised/cross-cut/
- there are no "general grounds" for refusing their applications, for example, they have not previously broken UK immigration laws (if they think they might have previously broken UK immigration laws, by for example staying longer than the time limit in their passport, or working when they were not allowed to, you should ask the international student adviser at your college or university for advice about whether they should apply)
For information about the documents you need to show you meet these requirements, see How do my family members make their immigration applications? below.↑ Back to top
Children, including babies born in the UK
Children must be under 18 years old if they are coming to the UK. If they are already in the UK, they can apply to stay with you if they are 18 or older, but only if they already have immigration permission as the child of a student.
Children must meet all the following requirements:
- they must intend to live with you, unless they are at boarding school in the UK
- they must not be married or in a civil partnership or have started leading an independent life, and this includes being financially independent
- they must not intend to stay in the UK longer than your period of immigration permission
- if both parents are still alive, both parents need to be in or coming to the UK. The only exceptions are if you have sole responsibility for your child or if there are other serious or compelling considerations that mean the child should be with you in the UK and you have made suitable arrangements for the child's care – you will need to be able to provide documents that prove that the other parent is dead or that you have sole responsibility, or that there are compelling reasons for your child to be with you without the other parent
- there are no "general grounds" for refusing them, for example they have not previously broken UK immigration laws
- you can accommodate and support them without having recourse to public funds, as for spouses and civil partners (see above).
For information about the documents you need to show you meet these requirements, see How do my family members make their immigration applications? below.
Babies born in the UK
If you have a baby whilst you are in the UK, the baby will not automatically be a British citizen. One of the parents must be British or have settled status in some other way, for example, Indefinite Leave to Enter or Remain. However, your baby is lawfully in the UK and is not required to make an immigration application in the UK. However, it is often a good idea to do this, simply so that you can travel outside the UK and re-enter with your baby without any problems. If you do not apply for your baby in the UK, you will have to make an entry clearance (visa) application for your baby when you are outside the UK if you need to come back. The only exception to this is if:
- your baby is not a visa national – see Appendix 1 of the Immigration Rules for the list of visa nationals at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/policyandlaw/immigrationlaw/immigrationrules/appendix1, and
- your baby needs to be in the UK for six months or less
If your baby meets both of these conditions, you can apply for your baby to enter the UK on arrival in the UK, for example, at the airport. You will need to have the relevant documents with you in your hand luggage, for example, the baby's full birth certificate, confirmation that you are studying in the UK and information about the other parent if the other parent is not travelling with you.
For information about British citizenship, see UK Border Agency guide to who is a British citizen.↑ Back to top
Other family members
No other family members can be with you as your dependant if you have student immigration permission you applied for before 31 March 2009. If you have an unmarried partner, or a same-sex partner who is not your civil partner, you might consider applying under Tier 4, even if you do not need extra time in the UK. This is because unmarried and same-sex partners can apply as the dependants of Tier 4 students. However, read our Information Sheet Your family's immigration very carefully before you do this. From 4 July 2011, the Immigration Rules for the family members of Tier 4 students became very complicated and many Tier 4 students can no longer have their family with them in the UK. In this situation, you should apply under Tier 4 in order to bring your unmarried or same-sex partner to the UK only if one of the following applies to you:
- You are financially sponsored by your government and your course is more than six months long, or
- You are studying a postgraduate course that is at least 12 months long (it does not matter if you have under 12 months left) at an institution that is a recognised body or that receives state funding as a higher education institution – check with your course provider if it meets one of these requirements
For information about family members who are not partners or children, see Other ways that family can come to the UK below.↑ Back to top
Choosing when to bring family if you need to make a Tier 4 immigration application
You might need to make an immigration application under Tier 4 in order to complete your studies or in order to start a new course. If your family is not already with you in the UK, you might find it more difficult than you would expect to bring your family to join you after you have applied under Tier 4. The same applies if your family members are already with you in the UK but they do not have immigration permission as student dependants. This means that it can be important in some cases to think about bringing your family to the UK or changing their immigration status, even for a short period, before you apply under Tier 4.
If you fall into one of the following groups, it does not matter if your family members apply now, at the same time as you apply for Tier 4 or after you apply for Tier 4 immigration permission:
- You are financially sponsored by your government and the course for which you need Tier 4 immigration permission is more than six months long, or
- The course for which you need Tier 4 immigration permission is a postgraduate course that is at least 12 months long (it does not matter if you have under 12 months left) at an institution that is a recognised body or that receives state funding as a higher education institution – check with your course provider if it meets one of these requirements
If you do not meet all of the requirements of one of these groups, your family members should consider applying to join you while you still have student immigration permission you applied for before 31 March 2009.
This is because anyone else has to show that:
- you, the student, have immigration permission for a course that was over six months long and
- the new course will be over six months long and
- very importantly, your family members must already have immigration permission as your dependants and
- you must all apply at the same time, whether in or outside the UK.
For babies, the provisions become even more complicated and the Immigration Rules prevent you from applying for them in the UK. Therefore, if you have a baby who does not have immigration permission to be in the UK you should apply for that leave for them before you make your Tier 4 application.
For full details of the Immigration Rules that apply to Tier 4 dependants, see our Information Sheet Your family's immigration.↑ Back to top
How do my family members make their immigration applications?
Applying outside the UK
Your family members who do not already have immigration permission as your dependants and who are outside the UK will, in most cases, have to apply for entry clearance (a visa) before coming to the UK. The only exception is if your family members meet both conditions below:
- they are not visa nationals – see Appendix 1 of the Immigration Rules for the list of visa nationals at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/policyandlaw/immigrationlaw/immigrationrules/appendix1, and
- they need to be in the UK for six months or less
If your family members meet both of these conditions, they can apply to enter the UK on arrival in the UK, for example, at the airport. They will need to have the relevant documents with them in their hand luggage, for example, marriage or civil partnership certificates, birth certificates, evidence of funds and confirmation that you are studying in the UK.
If you family members must apply for entry clearance, each dependant must complete application form VAF3B or apply online if that service is available in their country. Each dependant must pay a fee which is the equivalent of £255 in local currency. The checklist at the back of the form provides helpful information about how your family members can prove that they meet all requirements. It is also important if you have a child whose other parent is either dead or will not be able to come to the UK, that you provide documents that explain that. For example, the other parent's death certificate, or legal documents that confirm you have sole care of your child, or documents from the other parent that explain why that parent will not come, why it is so important for the child to be with you and not with the other parent, and the care arrangements for the child that you have organised in the UK.
Entry clearance application form VAF3B
Details of how to apply in each country↑ Back to top
Applying in the UK
If your family members are already with you in the UK, they need to make an application to the UK Border Agency before their current immigration permission expires. If they will apply at the same time as you, you should not continue reading this Information Sheet, but should instead read Your family's immigration if you are applying under Tier 4. If you are applying under Tier 1 (Post-Study Work), see our Information Sheet Working in the UK after your studies.
Your family members can apply in the UK whether they currently have immigration permission as your dependant or in any other category. However, the UK Border Agency can refer to any undertakings or statements they made when they applied to enter the UK. This can be a problem if your dependants enter as visitors and then very soon after arriving apply to change their status to student dependants. Unless your family members provide an explanation of this change of intention, the UK Border Agency can refuse their applications on the grounds that they deceived the entry clearance officer abroad or the border force officer at the airport about their true intentions when they applied as visitors. Seek advice from the international student adviser at your institution or from an immigration lawyer before your family members make their applications if you are worried about this.
The application form your family members should use to make their applications in the UK depends on where and when you made your application.
They should use form FLR(O) if you applied for the student immigration permission you have now either:
- outside the UK at any time up to and including 30 March 2009 or
- inside the UK before 25 November 2008
If you made your student immigration application in the UK on or after 25 November 2008 and before 31 March 2009, you will have been issued with an Identity card for Foreign Nationals, which is now called a Biometric Residence Permit. Your dependants must also apply for a Biometric Residence Permit so they must make their application using form FLR (BID).
Each dependant must fill in a separate form. The fee for each form is "550 if the application is made by post and "850 if they apply for a decision on the same day at a public enquiry office.
The safest way to make sure that the fee is paid is to use postal orders or a banker's draft. Payments using visa cards and cheques often fail, which means that the application is treated as though it was never made.
When asked on the form "which category?", they should tick "other purposes or reasons not covered by other application forms" and then explain that they are applying as the husband, wife, civil partner or child of you (giving your name), and that you have immigration permission to be in the UK as a student, which was granted to you before Tier 4 of the Points Based immigration system was introduced and that has not expired. In the guidance to completing forms and on the forms itself, you are sometimes referred to as your family's sponsor.
Additional evidence that your family should include is the same as for those applying for entry clearance abroad. The checklist on the entry clearance application form VAF3B is helpful. This information is not included on the FLR(O) and FLR(BID) forms because they are used by many different categories of applicant and not just student dependants. It is important that your family members include evidence of your immigration permission, for example, your passport or your Biometric Residence Permit, and recent confirmation from your institution that you are studying there.
To find the correct immigration forms – FLR(O) and FLR(BID) – complete the form finder as follows:
- I want to – select "live temporarily in the UK (residence)"
- I am applying as – select "the partner or spouse of someone with the right to live in the UK" or "the son or daughter of someone with the right to live in the UK"
- I am now living in – select "United Kingdom"
Select the relevant nationality and age for one your dependants.↑ Back to top
Unlike Tier 4 dependants, there is no set amount of money your dependants must show in order to be granted immigration permission as your dependants. However, it is sensible to show an amount that is similar to the requirement for Tier 4 dependants because this is based on average living costs in the UK and UK Border Agency decision makers are used to checking that families can meet these requirements. This is particularly important if you later intend to apply under Tier 4 and you want your family members to stay with you, if possible.
These figures are £400 per month, up to a maximum of £3,600 if you are studying outside inner London and £600 per month up to a maximum of £5,400 if you are studying in inner London, as defined in the Tier 4 policy guidance.
If your family members need to show less money than this, you should include with their applications a letter from your institution that confirms the cost of living in the area where you are studying and information about your accommodation costs. A detailed explanation of your expenses and the expected expenses of your dependants will help a UK Border Agency decision maker to see that you will be able to live in the UK as a family without having to claim welfare benefits or work more than is permitted.
There is no required format that evidence of your funds must take. However, if you later intend to apply under Tier 4, it is a good idea for you to check that you hold your money in a way that meets the Tier 4 requirements so that you know you can apply successfully in the future or so that you can make changes now.
Tier 4 policy guidance
If your family members are refused permission to come to or to stay in the UK as your dependants, they will in most cases have the right of appeal to a tribunal against that refusal if they believe that the refusal was incorrect. The exceptions are:
- they applied in the UK after their previous immigration permission had expired, as overstayers, or
- they applied in the UK and were refused before their current immigration permission expired – in this case, they can apply again if they now meet the requirements described in this Information Sheet and they still have immigration permission
If they want to appeal, they must meet the deadline in the decision letter and they should enclose all evidence they want the tribunal to consider. Note that from October 2011, there will be a fee for lodging an appeal. It will be £80 if you want the tribunal to make a decision just on the paperwork or £140 if you or your family members want to appear before the tribunal. We do not yet know the exact date on which these fees will be introduced.
Your family members might choose to make another application if they can see that they did provide incorrect or insufficient evidence, or if they do not want to wait for an appeal to be decided. They can do this, but they will need to declare on the application form that they have been refused permission previously. If they are applying from outside the UK, they can lodge an appeal and make a fresh application at the same time. If they applied in the UK, this is not possible.↑ Back to top
Can my family members work and study in the UK?
If your family members are granted permission to come to or stay in the UK, their passport or Biometric Residence Permit will state their work conditions. If it says nothing about work, this means they can work without restriction. They can work full-time or part-time and they can be self-employed or employed. This should be allowed to do this if your immigration permission is for 12 months or longer, even if you have under 12 months left when they make their applications.
If your family members' passports or Biometric Residence Permits say "No work" or "Work prohibited", they must not take any employment, whether paid or unpaid. They will usually not be allowed to work if your immigration permission is for under 12 months. This is unlikely to apply to you, unless you spent a long time appealing against a refusal.
Your family members can study full-time or part-time in the UK without having to seek any further permission. In most cases, they will be overseas fee payers and will not be entitled to student loans. Your children can attend state schools free of charge. If your children need to stay longer at school than your immigration permission allows, they will probably need to apply as Tier 4 (Child) or as Tier 4 (General) students in their own right. This means that they must attend an independent school as they cannot attend a state-funded school with Tier 4 immigration permission.
Relevant UKCISA and UK Border Agency information
UKCISA information about working during your studies: www.ukcisa.org.uk/student/working_during.php
UKCISA information about living in the UK including schools and health care: www.ukcisa.org.uk/student/accommodation_health.php
UK Border Agency guidance for caseworkers: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/modernised/studying
Other ways that family can come to the UK
If your family members are not a spouse, civil partner or child, or if they cannot meet all the requirements for coming to the UK as a student dependant, they might be able to spend time with you in other ways.
They can come to the UK for up to six months as a visitor. Some can apply as Family Visitors which means they have a right of appeal if their application is refused. This depends on their relationship to you. Others who are 18 or older can apply as General Visitors. Children aged under 18 can apply as Child Visitors.
Child Visitors can study in the UK but not at a state-funded school, unless they are taking part in a formal exchange arrangement. Other visitors must not study. If they are interested in doing this, they should instead apply as Student Visitors.
Visitors must not take paid or unpaid work in the UK. They are not entitled to free health care, so they should always arrange insurance before travelling to the UK.
If they meet the requirements of the Immigration Rules in their own right, they can apply under the appropriate category, for example, as a student or worker.
If they must be in the UK with you for longer than six months and they do not meet any of the categories of the Immigration Rules, they might be able to make an application that is "outside the Rules". In order to do this, they will usually need help from an immigration lawyer and/or from your education provider. This is because they need to prove to a UK Border Agency decision maker that there is an exceptional reason that they need to be with you, even though they do not meet the legal requirements. This will depend on the facts of your case.↑ Back to top
Further information and contacts
UK Border Agency
Information about the immigration system of the UK, and forms for applications in and outside the UK.
UK Council for International Student Affairs
Telephone advice line: Mon-Fri 1300-1600 hours (UK time)
Tel (from within the UK): 020 3131 3576
Tel (from outside the UK): +44 20 3131 3576
We regret that we cannot advise personal callers at our offices. Please use the telephone advice line or write to us at: UKCISA, 9-17 St Albans Place, London N1 0NX, UK.
UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group
A charity that provides useful information, a forum for discussions, and links to immigration lawyers who can help with applications.
Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA)
An organisation, many of whose members are immigration lawyers. The website has a list of members, details of training events and other immigration-related information. Note that ILPA itself cannot help with your family's immigration applications.
This information sheet may be printed and reproduced provided it is copied unaltered and in its entirety, including UKCISA's logo, disclaimer, copyright statement and the reference to UKCISA's website as a source of further updates, and provided that no charge is made to any persons for copies. NO PART OF IT MAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES.
The information in this Information Sheet is given in good faith and has been carefully checked. UKCISA, however, accepts no legal responsibility for its accuracy.