As a student currently in the UK under a Tier 4 visa, you may be looking to extend your stay to finish your existing course or to progress to a new and higher level of studies. Below we examine the rules relating to Tier 4 visa extensions, including the requirements, process and cost when applying for leave to remain.

What are the Tier 4 visa extension requirements?

As a Tier 4 (General) student, you may be able to apply for further leave to remain in the UK, either to complete your existing course of studies or to enrol on a new course. Broadly speaking, to be eligible to apply for a Tier 4 visa extension from within the UK you must:

  • Have a qualifying sponsor
  • Be granted a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
  • Meet the Tier 4 maintenance requirement

Having a qualifying Tier 4 sponsor

You can only apply from within the UK to complete your existing course of study, or to enrol on a new course with the same or another sponsor, if your current period of Tier 4 leave is for a course that is sponsored by one of the following:

  • A higher education institute (HEI)
  • An overseas HEI
  • An embedded college offering pathway courses
  • An independent school

If you wish to extend your period of study under Tier 4 but are currently sponsored by any other type of institution, you must leave the country and instead apply for a visa from outside of the UK.

Being granted a CAS

To be granted a CAS by your sponsor you must be able to show that you are academically progressing and not merely seeking to extend your stay in the UK, unless you are exempt.

You will be exempt from showing academic progression for any of the following:

  • Resitting exams, repeating modules or repeating an academic year
  • Applying for the first time to a new institution to complete a course you started at an institution that had its Tier 4 licence revoked
  • Applying to extend your stay to complete your studies because you have done, or want to do, a work placement or study abroad programme
  • Completing a PhD or other doctorate that you started studying under your last Tier 4 (General) visa
  • Applying after working as a student union sabbatical officer to complete a qualification you started studying under your last Tier 4 (General) visa
  • Continuing your medical, dentistry or medical science degree after completing an intercalated course.

If you are exempt from demonstrating academic progression, your sponsor must confirm and explain this on the CAS.

Otherwise, to meet the academic progression requirement, you must have successfully completed your previous course and have an unconditional offer of a place on a new course with a licensed Tier 4 sponsor.

Your new course must normally be at a higher level than your previous programme of study for which you were granted Tier 4 leave. For example, you must be applying to progress from a Bachelors’ to a Masters, or a Masters to PhD. In some cases, the course can be complementary study at the same level, but it must be a specialisation of your previous studies, or a new programme that, combined with previous studies, will allow you to achieve your career goals.

If you cannot demonstrate academic progression, you will have to apply from overseas if you wish to make a Tier 4 application to study a new course.

Tier 4 visa maintenance requirement

To be eligible for a Tier 4 visa extension you must show that you have enough money to support yourself whilst studying in the UK and to pay for your course, although the amount will vary depending on your circumstances.

The amount of money you will need for living costs will be calculated based on the length of your course and where you will be studying in the UK. You must show that you have either:

  • £1,265 per month for living costs if you are studying in London for the majority of your study, ie; more than 50% of your study time, or
  • £1,015 per month for living costs if you are studying outside London, or anywhere else in the UK, for the majority of your study.

You will need to show you have money for your living costs for each month of your course, up to a maximum of nine months. For example, if studying outside London on a course for more than twelve months and have paid your course fees in full, the amount of maintenance you would need to show would be £9,135, ie; £1,015 for nine months.

What is the Tier 4 visa extension process?

To apply for a Tier 4 visa extension you will need to make an online application using your new CAS reference number. When you apply you will be asked to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to provide your biometric information, ie; a scan of your fingerprints and a digital photo of your face.

You will also need to submit your documents in support of your application. These can either be uploaded into the online service or you can have them scanned at your UKVCAS appointment.

If you have any dependants on your existing visa, they must form part of your application, including children who have turned 18 during your stay in the UK.

When can you apply for a Tier 4 visa extension?

If you are looking to stay in the UK beyond the date of your current Tier 4 visa, you must apply to extend your visa before your existing visa expires. Your Tier 4 visa extension application must also be made:

  • Within six months of getting your CAS from your UK sponsor
  • No more than three months before the course start date on your CAS
  • If you are applying to continue your studies in the UK, your new course must start within 28 days of the expiry of your permission to stay

Having submitted your Tier 4 visa extension application, you will be permitted to stay in the UK until you get your decision. However, you must not travel outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man during this time.

How long does a Tier 4 visa extension take?

Once you have submitted your online application for a Tier 4 visa extension and attended your UKVCAS appointment, a decision will usually be made within eight weeks using the standard service.

You can pay to get a faster decision using the priority or super-priority service. Under the priority service, you should get a decision within five working days, whilst under the super-priority service you will usually get a decision by the end of the next working day unless your UKVCAS appointment is at the weekend.

How much does a Tier 4 visa extension cost?

The cost of applying for a Tier 4 visa extension is £425, together with a fee of £19.20 to enrol your biometric information. For applicants looking to get a decision quickly, the priority service will cost an additional £500, whilst the super priority service will cost an extra £800.

You will also be liable to pay an immigration healthcare surcharge (IHS) currently set at £300 for each period of twelve months’ leave granted. This must be paid in full when you submit your application, although you may be eligible for a part refund on any previous payment.

Can I work in the UK after I graduate?

After you have finished your studies in the UK you will usually receive an additional period of leave. During this post-study period you may be permitted to undertake full-time employment if your visa conditions allow you to work.

The length of your Tier 4 visa will depend on the length of your course, as set out in your CAS. For example, if your studies lasted for twelve months, you should have a further four months to remain in the UK, whilst for a six-month course you would normally be able to stay in the UK for an additional two months.

If you want to work in the UK longer term after you graduate there are various options available to you. If you have finished your PhD or doctorate, you may be eligible to apply for the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme. This will allow you to stay in the UK for twelve months following your PhD to gain experience in your chosen field, seek skilled work or plan to set up as an entrepreneur.

You may also be eligible to apply under the Tier 2 skilled work category if you have the offer of a genuine job from a UK licensed sponsor. You may even soon be able to take advantage of the new proposals recently announced by the UK government for a two-year post-study work visa. This new category of visa is aimed at international graduates wanting to work in any career or position of their choice for a period two years after completing their studies.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

Anne Morris is a corporate immigration and employment lawyer based in London. Anne is the Founder of DavidsonMorris and specialises in employment & immigration law and human resources and global mobility consultancy.