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Tier 4 General


Applicants wishing to study in the UK can apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa. Applicants need to be 16 or over and must:

  • have been offered a place on a course
  • be able to speak, read, write and understand English
  • have enough money to support themselves and pay for their course
  • be from a country that’s not in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland
  • meet the other eligibility requirements

Applicants can apply for this visa from 3 months before the start of their course. Visa processing times can vary depending on the country from which the application is made however; a decision is usually made within 3 weeks.

Applicants have to pay the visa fee for themselves (and any dependents) along with the healthcare surcharge as part of the application.

Applicants are permitted to arrive in the UK before their course starts.  For instance, they can arrive up to one week before if their course lasts for 6 months or less or up to one month before if the course lasts for more than 6 months.

Applicants are allowed to:

  • study
  • work as a student union sabbatical officer
  • apply from inside or outside the UK
  • apply to extend their stay
  • work (depending on the level of their course and their sponsor)

Applicants are not permitted to:

  • obtain public funds
  • work in certain jobs such as professional sportsperson
  • study at an academy or a local authority-funded school


Applicants must have the following:

  • an unconditional offer of a place on a course with a licensed Tier 4 sponsor
  • enough money to support themselves and to pay for their course. The amount they will have to pay will vary depending on their circumstances

Applicants can study on one of the following courses:

  • full-time leading to a qualification that’s at least level 6 on the Ofqual register
  • an overseas course of degree level study that’s equal to a UK higher education course and is being run by an overseas higher education institution
  • full-time, with at least 15 hours per week of organised daytime study, leading to a qualification which is at least level 3 on the Ofqual register
  • a recognised foundation programme as a postgraduate doctor or dentist

Postgraduate doctors and dentists applicants can apply for leave under this route if they’re sponsored to do a recognised foundation programme and they have:

  • finished a recognised UK degree in medicine or dentistry
  • received that degree from a registered Tier 4 sponsor
  • spent their final year and at least 1 other year of studies leading to that degree in the UK

Confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS)

The education provider will send the applicant a reference number which is called a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) once they have been offered a place on a course.  The applicant than has up to 6 months to apply for the visa following the receipt of CAS. A CAS can only be used once.

An applicant can only obtain a CAS for a new course if they have studied in the UK before and they’re:

  • re-sitting exams or repeating modules
  • applying for the first time to a new institution to complete a course started at an institution that’s lost its Tier 4 sponsorship
  • applying to complete a PhD or other doctorate that they started studying under their last Tier 4 (General) student visa
  • studying for a new qualification at a higher academic level
  • studying for a new qualification at the same level and related to their previous course or career aspirations – it must be degree level or above at a Higher Education Institution (HEI)
  • applying after working as a student union sabbatical officer to complete a qualification started studying under their last Tier 4 (General) student visa

Applicants must prove their knowledge of the English language when they apply. This usually means passing a secure English language test (SELT). The level of English required depends on what the applicant is studying. Nationals of certain countries will not need to meet this requirement and will be exempt.


Applicants may be able to stay longer to continue studying their course or study a new one.

Applicants must:

  • meet the eligibility requirements of this visa
  • be in the UK

Applicants must apply:

  • within 6 months of receiving a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS)
  • before their existing  visa expires  (no more than 3 months before it expires)

Applicants can use a priority service or a premium service in order to obtain a decision on the same day.


The following applicants can switch into the Tier 4 (General) student visa if they’re in the UK under any of the following visas or schemes:

  • Tier 1 (Post-study work)
  • Tier 2 (General)
  • Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer)
  • Tier 2 (Minister of religion)
  • Tier 4 (Child)
  • student (under the rules in place before 31 March 2009)
  • student re-sitting an examination
  • student nurse
  • students writing up a thesis
  • student union sabbatical officer
  • work permit holder
  • postgraduate doctor or dentist
  • Science and Engineering Graduates Scheme
  • International Graduates Scheme
  • Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme


Family members (Dependents) of Applicants might be able to apply to join or remain with them in the UK if they’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

A dependant is either classified as either:

  • The applicants husband, wife or civil partner
  • The applicants unmarried or same-sex partner
  • The applicants child under 18 years old

The applicant can apply to bring a dependant to the UK if they’re:

  • sponsored by a higher education institution on a course at level 7 on the Ofqual register or above that lasts 1 year or more
  • a new government-sponsored student on a course that lasts longer than 6 months
  • a Doctorate Extension Scheme student


Dependents will also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of their application. Each dependant must have a certain amount of money available to them in addition to the money the applicant must show.

The amount of money required depends on:

  • the length of the course
  • where they’re studying in the UK
  • whether they’ve finished a UK course or are currently studying

Money must have been held in the applicant or dependents bank account for at least 28 days before applying.


Our experienced lawyers can help applicants ensure their applications are complete and valid. They can assist applicants:

  • Make an initial or extension application or application for dependents
  • Challenge decisions by way of Administrative Review or other appeal process

We will assist by:

  • obtaining the complete facts of a case
  • collecting relevant documents
  • advising the best solutions
  • using our expertise to undertake one-to-one interview preparation
  • preparing the application (including completion of forms)
  • preparing covering submissions
  • submitting the application(s) to the relevant authority
  • communicating with the relevant authority until a decision is made
  • advising about rights and entitlements following a decision an application
  • providing follow up support and services


DESCARTES SOLICITORS is recognised as one of the leading multi-practice firms in the UK. Our specialist team can assist applicants with properly making an application ensuring all the required documentation and information is provided.

For advice and assistance with Tier 4 (General) applications please contact our lawyers on 0208 995 3556/0844 556 9901 or e-mail