Tier 4: eligibility and requirements

Last modified: 20 March 2017

Tier 4 (General) visas are issued for certain full-time courses.  If your course is eligible course then your institution will give you a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) with which you can apply for a Tier 4 visa.

You need to meet a number of requirements, and submit appropriate evidence of this, in order to be granted a Tier 4 visa. 

There are limits on how much time you can spend in the UK as a Tier 4 (General) student. 

This information is based on the changes to the Immigration Rules which come into force on 6 April 2017. The Home Office's Tier 4 policy guidance was last updated in November 2016. We update our information as soon as possible after any changes. However, if you have printed this webpage, we advise that you check on our website that it is still the most recent version

Eligible courses

Last modified: 21 March 2017

You can study a wide range of courses in the UK, but you must check that the course you want to study is at a high enough level.

The levels of courses studied in the UK are defined on these external webpages::

For information about how different qualifications compare across the UK and Ireland, see the guide Qualifications can cross boundaries [PDF]

Time limits

Last modified: 18 July 2016

There are maximum time limits ('caps') on studying with a Tier 4 visa. Before they can issue you a confirmation of acceptance for studies, a Tier 4 sponsor will need to check that your application will not take you over the maximum time allowed. The Home Office will not grant further leave to someone whose current Tier 4 application means they will exceed these time limits unless there are "compelling and compassionate circumstances", such as injury or disability. 

When making these calculations the Home Office will count the time in months and will round individual days upwards or downwards to the nearest month. For example, three months and ten days will be rounded down to three months but three months and three weeks will be rounded up to four months.

The Immigration Rules make it clear that it is the period of leave that you have previously been granted that will count towards the time limits, even if you did not spend all of this time studying and/or you used this time to study a different level of course. This includes the extra periods of time added to your visa before and after your course.

However, the Home Office's Tier 4 policy guidance states that if your leave has been curtailed, the date that your curtailed leave expired will be used.

If you are a Syrian national who is normally resident in Syria, but who is currently resident in the UK then these time limits will not apply to you, you should check the concession for Syrian nationals before applying.  If you need to rely on this concession we suggest that you speak to an immigration adviser before you apply and that you include a letter with your application explaining your situation and asking for the concession to be applied.

Below degree level: 2-year cap

The cap only applies to students 18 years old and over.  From your 18th birthday you can study courses...

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Degree level: 5-year cap

Any new Tier 4 application must lead to you spending no more than five years on courses at degree level...

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Last modified: 26 February 2016

There are some requirements that you must meet in order to apply for a Tier 4 (General) visa. Also, the evidence you submit in support of your application must meet specific requirements, otherwise your application is likely to be refused.

Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)

You must have a CAS before making an application as a Tier 4 (General) student. A CAS is an...

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Your money

You will need enough money to pay for your course fees and your living costs while you are in...

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Criminal convictions

The application form requires you to state any criminal convictions, including traffic offences, that...

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General grounds for refusing

The Immigration Rules include provision for an application to be refused under the 'general grounds for...

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Last modified: 31 March 2016

Your application must include a valid passport and all the documents listed in the application forms and guidance. Unlike many other countries the UK doesn't require that a passport is valid for any particular period of time after arrival in the UK; but it must be valid when you make your application and when you arrive in the UK.  It must also contain at least one full page that is blank on both sides.

If your passport will expire shortly after you arrive in the UK then it is advisable to renew it before you apply for your Tier 4 visa, if there is time to do so.  If your passport will expire at any other point during your time in the UK then you should check if you will be able to replace it in the UK as this is not possible for all nationalities. 

We advise that you copy all of your documents and print out your application form before you send your documents.  You should keep these copies for your records in case there are any problems with your application.

Applicants in Bangladesh

You will need to provide a copy of every document you submit with your application, including your passport.  For more information, see the UK Home Office website.

Syrian applicants

If you are a Syrian national who normally lives in Syria and you are applying for a Tier 4 (General) visa in the UK before 28 February 2017, and you are not able to obtain the required documents due to the civil unrest in Syria then you should explain this in your application.  See the concession for Syrians for more information. If you need to rely on this concession we suggest that you speak to an immigration adviser before you apply and that you include a letter with your application explaining your situation and asking for the concession to be applied.