Tier 4 Students - draft guidance from UKBA

3 March 2009

The UKBA’s Tier 4 draft policy guidance – for students wishing to study in the UK - has been published on its website.

Tier 4 is the last "Tier” of the points based system to be introduced.  Its implementation is staggered as is indicated in the Tier 4 implementation plan which was published last October.

Tier 4 will become operational at the end of this month (March 2009).  From that date anyone applying for a visa to enter the UK to study or for an their extension of leave to remain in the UK as a student, or to switch from a permitted category must apply not under rule 57 of the immigration rules – but instead under the new (and as yet unpublished) immigration rules relating to Tier 4.  At the time of writing there is no statement of changes in the immigration rules relating to Tier 4.

The draft guidance has some gaps.  It does not, for example, provide information as to the periods of leave to enter or remain in the UK to be expected by successful applicants under Tier 4 who are applying to study at degree level or above.  Neither does it say how much money a student needs (and to cover how many months) in order to obtain the necessary amount of points for maintenance – i.e. to show that he or she will not have recourse to public funds.   Instead it indicates that the policy relating to periods of grant and the particular maintenance requirements are under development and that the final version of the policy will be published on 10-3-2009.

Among other things the draft guidance does however helpfully explain the two subcategories of Tier 4 migrants, the role of sponsoring "education providers” in applications for leave to enter or remain, the immigration categories from which it will shortly be possible to "switch” into leave to remain as a Tier and the points it is necessary to score to succeed in an application.  What follows is a brief summary of these.

Tier 4 (General) Student and Tier 4 (Child) Student

Anyone coming to the UK for education after he or she has reached the age of 16 must apply as a Tier 4 (General) Student.   The other category - Tier 4 (Child) Student – is for those aged between 4 and 15, who must be studying at fee paying independent schools, but is also available for people aged either 16 or 17 who are studying courses at NQF level 3 or above.

What education providers must do

For the time being - education providers must be registered with the UKBA as licensed sponsors and must issue their prospective students with a "visa letter” – which is an unconditional offer of a place on a course of study.  (It must also contain certain specified information).   In the autumn of this year the visa letter is to be replaced by an electronic document to be used in conjunction with the Sponsor Management System.

From which immigration categories are people allowed to switch into Tier 4 (General)?

People who have existing leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Post-study work) migrant; a Tier 2 (General) migrant; a Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) migrant; a Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) migrant; Tier 4 (Child) Student migrant; a Prospective Student; a Student; a Student re-sitting an examination; a Student writing up a thesis; a Student nurse; a Students’ Union Sabbatical Officer; a Work Permit Holder; a Science and Engineering Graduate Scheme participant; an International Graduates’ Scheme participant; or a Fresh Talent: Working Scheme participant can all apply for leave to remain in the UK as a Tier 4 (General) Migrant.


Applicants will require a total of 40 points to succeed in an application for entry clearance or leave to remain as a Tier 4 (General) Migrant.  The visa letter will itself provide 30 points.  The remaining 10 points are for maintenance – although as indicated above the guidance does not say how much money a Tier 4 (General) Migrant needs to have to get those 10 points.

Since Tier 4 is nearly upon us it seems likely that there will be a statement of changes in the immigration rules very soon.  This site will be updated when this is published.

The change from the old system to the new points based system means that applications for extensions of stay in the UK have to be immaculately prepared.  If they are not it can be very difficult to succeed in appeals against adverse decisions. Professional legal advice and assistance is therefore essential.

Gherson is ideally placed to provide assistance to anyone in the UK (as a student, or anyone whose leave to remain is one of the permitted switching categories listed above) and who may need to apply for an extension of stay.  Similarly Gherson can provide expert advice and assistance to anyone wishing to apply for entry clearance to come to the UK to study. 

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