If you have a valid Tier 4 (General) visa, whether you can use this to return to the UK depends on a number of factors. Whether you are returning to study at a new institution or are returning to study at the institution that sponsored your current visa, you should check that:
- the institution you are returning to study at still has a Tier 4 sponsor licence and they have agreed to sponsor you (or continue to sponsor you) under Tier 4; and
- you have not been reported to the Home Office as having finished your course, interrupted your studies, or having not enrolled. If the institution that sponsored your current Tier 4 visa has reported you, it is likely that your visa might already have been 'curtailed' and is no longer valid; and
- you are eligible and can meet the requirements to make a further Tier 4 application from within the UK, if required.
New course at a new institution
If your Tier 4 visa is still valid but you are starting another course at a new institution (who will be your new Tier 4 sponsor), you will need to apply for a new Tier 4 visa. This is because your visa is issued for you to study at that particular institution, and in many cases, to a particular course. If you are currently in the UK but plan to travel outside the UK before you start the new course, it is advisable that first you check whether you are eligible to apply for your new Tier 4 visa from within the UK (see Making a Tier 4 (General) application in UK for more information). If you are eligible to apply from within the UK, it is safest to do this and obtain your new Tier 4 visa before you leave the UK. Alternatively, you can apply for your new Tier 4 visa from your home country. You can use the Home Office's visa processing times tool to check current processing times in your home country.
If you cannot do either of the above, you may be allowed to re-enter the UK using your current visa if you have already been issued a CAS from your new sponsor institution, and they have Tier 4 Sponsor status on the Home Office's Register of Tier 4 Sponsors. However, the border force officer at the port of entry will decide if you can re-enter the UK. It is important that you carry a print-out of the CAS statement for your new course in your hand luggage so you can show it to the border force officer. It is also very likely that you will be asked questions about your reasons for returning and if the border force officer is not satisfied you may be refused entry.
Returning to study at the same institution
We strongly advise that you seek advice specifically with your institution before you attempt to enter the UK using Tier 4 immigration permission that was previously issued to you with their sponsorship.
- If you are returning to the UK to continue your current course, you should check that your institution has not reported you to the Home Office, for example, as having interrupted your studies or for not enrolling or re-enrolling on your course. If the Home Office has taken action on such a report, your visa may have already been curtailed and may no longer be valid. If the Home Office has not yet taken action, they may be about to.
- If you are returning to continue on a different course from the one your visa was granted for, your current visa may prohibit you changing course once you are in the UK. This very much depends on what course you will continue on, as well as when you applied for your current Tier 4 visa. Therefore, it’s very important that you seek advice regarding your particular circumstance from your institution prior to travelling to the UK.
- If you have recently completed a course and you are progressing to start a new course at the same institution, even if your existing Tier 4 visa does allow you to enter the UK, you might want to apply for a new Tier 4 visa before you travel to the UK. You can use the Home Office's visa processing times tool to check current processing times in your home country.