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Student visas come within Tier 4 of the points-based system of entry to the UK which was implemented in 2008 (Tiers 1, 2 and 5 relate to working and conducting business in the UK – Tier 3 was designed for low-skilled workers but never activated).
An adult student is known as a Tier 4 (General) Student. This covers any person coming to the UK for post 16 age education.
A child student is known as a Tier 4 (Child) Student. This covers children coming to the UK for education who are aged between 4 and 17. Children aged between 4 and 15 in this category can only be educated at an independent fee-paying school.
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Special considerations apply to students aged 16 or 17.
They can apply as an adult or child student to study a course at Level 3 of the National Qualification Framework (NQF). However, if the course is longer than 2 years, it is recommended that the application is made as an adult. Those wanting to study a course below NQF Level 3 must apply as a child student. Those wanting to study for an English language qualification at the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) Level A2 or above must apply as an adult student.
Students can only come to the UK to study at a Home Office approved education provider. These are institutions that have been issued with a sponsorship licence from the Home Office. The sponsor must keep copies of all students’ passports, keep up to date contact details for all students and inform the Home Office if a student has any unauthorised absences, does not enrol on his course or stops his studies.
The course must meet the Home Offices’ minimum academic requirement and must lead to an approved qualification. The minimum academic requirement is that the course must be a full-time course of study, as either:
A full-time course of study that leads to a UK recognised bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree, postgraduate diploma or postgraduate certificate;
An overseas course of degree level study that is recognised as being equivalent to a UK Higher Education course and is being provided by an overseas Higher Education Institution; or
A full-time course of study involving a minimum of 15 hours per week organised daytime study and, except in the case of pre-sessional course, lead to a qualification below bachelor’s degree level.
Approved qualifications are as follows:
- Level 3 or the same as or above on the NQF;
- Short-term study abroad programmes in the UK as part of a qualification at an overseas higher education institution, as long as the qualification is confirmed as the same as a UK degree level by the National
- Academic Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC);
- An English language course at Level B2 or above on the CEFRL;
- A recognised foundation programme for postgraduate doctors or dentists.
An applicant needs to score 40 points in order to qualify for a student visa.
An offer of a place on a course is known as The Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). It is issued by the educational institution to whom the student has applied for a course of study if the student meets all their requirements. This is worth 30 points. The CAS is valid for only six months and expires if not used to apply for entry clearance or leave to remain within six months of it being issued. In order to claim the 30 points, the applicant must supply supporting documentary evidence such as the qualification certificates and references that were used to obtain the offer of a place on the course by the sponsor.
An applicant must score a minimum of 10 Maintenance points by showing that he has sufficient money available to support himself whilst enrolled on the course. The amount of maintenance funds required depends on the length of the course and its location. The maintenance must be held as cash funds. Shares, bonds, pension funds and similar savings accounts are not acceptable. In order to claim the 10 points, the applicant must supply supporting documentary evidence to show that the funds have been available to him for a consecutive period of at least 28 days ending no more than 31 days before the date of application. Applicants bringing family members with them will have to prove that additional maintenance funds are available.
Eligible family members are the student’s spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner and children under 18. Not all Tier 4 (General) Students can bring their family members to the UK. The only students that can bring family members are:
- Students sponsored by a higher education institution on a course at NQF Level 7 or above that lasts 12 months or more; or
- Government sponsored students on a course that is longer than 6 months.
- A student may wish to extend their student visa by taking another course. If so, the student will need to meet the same requirements as he did when obtaining his initial entry clearance and show academic progression from their previous course.
The following migrants already in the UK can switch from their current visa category and apply for leave to remain as a Tier 4 (General) Student, namely a:
- Tier 2 General Migrant;
- Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Migrant;
- Tier 2 Minister of Religion;
- Tier 4 Child Student.
A Tier 4 (General) Student can switch to other categories whilst in the UK. The most usual routes are into the category of a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrant, Tier 1 (Investor) Migrant, Tier 2 Migrant, or the spouse, or civil partner or the same-sex partner of a person with indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
At Saxon Solicitors, we have a detailed understanding of the evidence that is required to successfully obtain a student visa, student visa extension or to switch from or into the student visa category.