From 31/03/2009, anybody wishing to come to the UK for studies as an adult must apply for a student visa under the Tier 4 (General) category.
The Tier 4 (General) category is for adult students who want to come to or remain in the UK for their post-16 education. If you are 16 or 17 years old and you want to study a course at or above National Qualification Framework level 3, you can apply under this category or under Tier 4 (Child). In this instant, you should discuss and agree this with your approved education provider (known as a 'Tier 4 sponsor'). But if you want to study English as a foreign language, you must apply as a Tier 4 (General) student. Part 6A of the Immigration Rules (paragraphs 245ZT to 245ZY) contains full details of the Tier 4 (General) category's requirements.
As a Tier 4 (General) student, you must have 40 points according to the Home Office points’ assessment. You can score:
- 30 points for having a valid confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS), which you get for studying a course at an acceptable level with an approved education provider (also known as a 'Tier 4 sponsor'), and for having acceptable English language skills; and
- 10 points for having enough money (also known as maintenance or funds) to cover your course fees and living costs.
Due to recent changes since the 6th April 2011, only students who are undertaking a post graduate course (NQF 7 and above) at a University which is of more than 12 months duration, or if they are a Government sponsored student can bring their dependents (husband/wife children under 18) to join them.
If you have previously studied in the UK as a Tier 4 (General) or under the student rules that were in force before 31 March 2009, your Tier 4 Sponsor will not assign a CAS to you on or after 4 July 2011 unless:
- Your new course represents academic progress from your previous study; or
- You are re-sitting examinations or repeating modules; or
- You are making a first application to move to a new institution to complete a course that you started elsewhere.
In practice you can be assigned a CAS to study for a new qualification at a higher academic level than your previous UK course, or to study for a qualification that complements or enhances your previous studies at the same level. The length of leave granted as a Tier 4 (General) for initial and extension applications, will vary according to the length of course you wish to undertake.