Tier 4 Visas: Students

The tier 4 student visa was introduced in 2009 for applicants that are paying for education in the United Kingdom. The UK education sector generates a lot of revenue through overseas students, making this one of the most important types of visas the government issues.

However, there have been some allegations that this entry route is abused by certain applicants who overstay in the country illegally. To counter that, educational institutes have begun paying more attention to overseas students to ensure that they don’t abuse the system.

Tier 4 visas are non-immigrant visas, and do not give applicants the opportunity to apply for naturalization or citizenship.

Tier 4 visas are distributed into two subcategories: General Student Visas, and Child Student Visas.

General Students

This category is for students that are 16 years of age, or older, and are at degree level 7 in a higher education institution, or are studying for more than 15 daytime hours a week.

Child Students

The Tier 4 Child Student visa category allows children to study full time in the United Kingdom at an independent school up to a maximum age of 18.


  • Allowed to work for 20 hours a week during terms, and full-time during holiday periods
  • Allowed to work as a student union sabbatical officer
  • Opportunity to gain recognised qualifications from UK government approved universities and educational institutes
  • Opportunity to switch to other visa tiers upon successful completion of studies, without leaving the UK
  • Extensions for courses that are longer than 4 years
  • Dependents of General Student visa holders are granted a visa for the same duration as the principal applicant


Tier 4 General Student visa holders may be able to bring their dependents to the United Kingdom, depending on the specific case.

However, there are no provisions for the dependents of Tier 4 Child Student visa holders.


Tier 4 General Visas require a qualified educational institute such as a university to sponsor the applicant. Along with that, applicants must also fulfil the 40 points requirement as per the new points based system.

Here is a breakup of the points required:

  • Valid sponsorship from a Tier 4 recognized educational institute – 30 points
  • Minimum maintenance funds – 10 points

Sponsorship from a Tier 4 Educational Institute:

Applicants will be awarded 30 points if they have a valid certificate of sponsorship from a recognized Tier 4 educational institute. Universities and colleges have to acquire a license to accommodate international students in the United Kingdom.

Maintenance Funds:

Applicants are awarded 10 points if they meet the minimum funds requirement to ensure they won’t need support from public funds.

Other Requirements:

  • National Qualification Framework equivalent qualifications
  • Documented and proven track record of studies, prior to entering the United Kingdom


Tier 4 General Student Visas are generally issued for durations up to 4 years for graduate courses, and 3 years for undergraduate courses. However, applicants can apply for a visa extension if their course will take longer than 4 years, to complete the course.

Child Student visa applicants can stay in the United Kingdom for a maximum duration of time the child asks for, the full length of the course they are registered for, or the maximum time the applicant can be allowed, that is 6 years if they are below 16, and only 2 years if they are aged 16 or 17.

FAQs Tier 4 visa

  1. What is a Tier 4 visa?
    The Tier 4 is a points-based visa designed for overseas students so that they can study in the United Kingdom.
  2. What are the Tier 4 Visa categories?
    There are 2 types of visas under Tier 4: General Students, and Child Students.
  3. How are points awarded for Tier 4 visa?
    The breakup of points for Tier 4 visas are as follows:

    • Sponsorship from a licensed Tier 4 educational institute – 30 points
    • Minimum maintenance fees to cover course fees and expenses – 10 points
  4. What is a licensed sponsor?
    A licensed sponsor is a recognized Tier 4 university or educational institute that the student is enrolled with. Only licensed, tier 4 sponsors can accommodate overseas students.
  5. What are the education provider’s responsibilities?
    Educational institutions can only teach overseas students if they are a licensed Tier 4 institute. To do so, they must demonstrate to the UK government that they are accredited, bona fide establishments. The educational institutes are responsible for making their Tier 4 students abide by the immigration laws.
  6. How many hours can a student work?
    A student can work a maximum of 20 hours a week during terms and full-time during holidays. Students can work full-time if their work placement is a part of their study program.
  7. Can I take my dependents along with me?
    Tier 4 General Student visa holders can bring married partners with them, who will also have the same visa duration as the principal applicant.
  8. Can a student switch to another visa category while in the UK?
    A student can switch to another points-based visa category after completing the course and acquiring the necessary qualifications. Depending on the eligibility, the Tier 4 visa holder can then apply for a Tier 1, or Tier 2 visa.