Protecting your Tier 4 status

Last modified: 27 September 2016

This section is for anyone who has, or who is applying for, Tier 4 leave. We say "Tier 4 leave" rather than "a Tier 4 visa" because your Tier 4 permission can be in the form of:

  • an entry clearance vignette/sticker, which you applied for in your home country; or
  • a residence permit vignette in your passport, or a Biometrics Residence permit (BRP) card, which you were issued in the UK.

Tier 4 leave is issued with some immigration conditions, which are normally printed (in an abbreviated form) on your vignette or BRP, however they can also appear in the letter that accompanies your leave. There are also requirements and obligations related to the Immigration Rules, and related to your studies and your Tier 4 sponsor. This section explains all of these, plus some general good practice for protecting and maintaining your Tier 4 status.

Tier 4 conditions

Last modified: 05 January 2017

Your Tier 4 immigration permission will be subject to certain conditions. It is very important that you abide by these conditions as failure to do so can have serious consequences for both your current Tier 4 leave and any future immigration applications you may make.

The Home Office Tier 4 policy guidance says that you must inform them if you have been given incorrect conditions (see under 'Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs)' on page 15). Your Tier 4 sponsor is also obliged to let the Home Office know if it becomes aware that you have been granted incorrect conditions.

Sponsor duties

Last modified: 05 January 2017

All Tier 4 sponsors have specific duties they must undertake. These duties are outlined in document 2 of the Home Office's guidance for Tier 4 sponsors.

Your Tier 4 sponsor must provide information about you to the Home Office in a process called 'reporting'. Your sponsor must meet these duties even when you are:

  • doing a work placement as part of your course; or
  • studying at a partner institution that was named on your Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS).

If you applied for your Tier 4 immigration permission before 5 October 2009 (using a 'visa letter'), your sponsor is not obliged to report to the Home Office but it may choose to do so, for example, in order to treat all Tier 4 students equally.

If your institution does not inform the Home Office of something that it should, it could lose its Tier 4 sponsor licence.

If your institution submits a report about you to the Home Office, then you need to be aware of what can happen next. You will find examples of what your institution may need to report, below.

Changing Tier 4 sponsor

Last modified: 05 January 2017

There is some limited flexibility to switch to a different Tier 4 sponsor but you must apply for permission from the Home Office first (unless your new course is supplementary to the course for which your visa was granted). It is important that you take the necessary steps before you start your new course; failure to do so is a breach of your immigration conditions and may lead to the Home Office curtailing your current Tier 4 leave and/or refusing any future immigration applications that you make.

You must make a full Tier 4 immigration application before you start the new course. The only exception is for those who applied for their current leave before 5 October 2009.

If your new course is at an institution that has Tier 4 Sponsor status you can start the new course before you receive a decision from the Home Office. However if your new college or university is a Probationary Sponsor, you cannot start the new course until the Home Office has given you new immigration permission to study at the new institution.

If you need to make a Tier 4 application, it is important that you meet all the requirements and can make the application before you move to the new institution. See Making a Tier 4 (General) application in UK.

Avoid overstaying

Last modified: 14 December 2016

Overstaying means allowing your visa, or BRP, to expire whilst you remain in the UK. Overstaying is a criminal offence. There is no 'grace period' within which you can lawfully overstay.

If you submit a valid application for further leave to remain before your current visa/BRP expires, and your application is pending (ie, still being decided) when your current visa/BRP expires, you will not be an overstayer in this post-expiry period; instead your previous immigration permission and the conditions attached to it will continue while your application is pending.

If you become an overstayer, and then wish to make a new Tier 4 application in order to remain in the UK, your Tier 4 sponsor may not issue you a CAS in order for you to do this and/or it may withdraw any unused CAS that you were issued before you became on overstayer. Seek advice from your Tier 4 sponsor about its policy on issuing CAS to overstayers.

If you do make a visa application in the UK while you are an overstayer, you will continue to be an overstayer while your application is pending and your Tier 4 sponsor may not allow you to continue your studies. Seek advice from your Tier 4 sponsor about its policy on allowing overstayers to study.

Overstaying will have serious consequences for any future immigration applications that you make. If you overstay by more than 90 days you will normally be prohibited from coming back to the UK for at least 12 months from the date you leave the UK. Overstaying in the UK could also affect applications you make for entry to countries other than the UK. You must tell the truth in immigration applications and declare any periods of overstay if asked about them. If you are found to have used deception in an immigration application you are likely to be barred from the UK for ten years.

If you need more time in the UK to complete your studies see our information on Making a Tier 4 application for information about submitting a Tier 4 application before your current leave expires.