Protecting your Tier 4 student immigration status
24 April 2013
24 April: We have added a link to our information about telephone fraud in the section 'Keep copies of your personal documents'.
8 April: We have added the following sections:
- Be aware of what information your Tier 4 sponsor must provide to the UKBA
- What to do if you want to change courses
This information was previously available in this information sheet and also within our Making a Tier 4 (General) application information sheet.
8 April: We have amended the information about ensuring your maintenance funds are available to pay your living costs.
Who is this information sheet for?
It is for anyone who has, or who is applying for, Tier 4 leave. We say "Tier 4 leave" rather than "a Tier 4 visa" because your Tier 4 permission can be in the form of a visa or an entry clearance vignette which you applied for in your home country, or it can be a residence permit vignette in your passport or a Biometrics Residence permit (BRP) card which you applied for in the UK.
Tier 4 has some conditions attached, which are printed on your vignette or BRP. There are also some requirements and obligations related to the immigration rules, and related to your studies and your Tier 4 sponsor. This information sheet explains all of these, plus some general good practice for protecting and maintaining your Tier 4 status.
If you have been granted Tier 4 immigration permission on the basis of the doctorate extension scheme, see our information sheet: Working after studies.
If you have been granted Tier 4 immigration permission on the basis of working as a Student Union or National Union of Students sabbatical officer, see our information sheet: Sabbatical Officers.
Check whether you need to register with the police.
The condition to register with the police is given to students of certain nationalities, who come to the UK for more than six months. You can check the list of countries whose nationals need to register in Appendix 2 of the Immigration Rules[www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/policyandlaw/immigrationlaw/immigrationrules/appendix2/]
If you are required to register, the condition will always be printed on your vignette or BRP. You must register with the police within seven days of arriving in the UK, unless your college or university has made special arrangements for new students to register outside this 7-day deadline. When you register, you will receive a Police Registration Certificate. You need to update the police within 7 days if you change address, extend your Tier 4 leave, change college or university, renew your passport, get married, or if any of the other details on your Police Registration Certificate change.
If you fail to comply with a condition to register with the police or to notify them of changes, the UKBA can refuse future immigration application or remove you from the UK if you do not comply with it properly. You might be barred from returning to the UK for a certain period.
If you think you have been wrongly given the police registration condition, or if you think you should have it but you do not, speak to the international student adviser at your college or university, or contact the UKCISA students' advice line.↑ Back to top
Check your work conditions
Tier 4 students either have a work restriction or a work prohibition. For further information see our Information Sheet Working during your studies
The UK immigration authorities treat work restrictions very seriously. They can refuse your immigration application, or remove you from the UK, if you work too many hours or if you do work which you are not allowed to do, and you might be barred from returning to the UK for a certain period.↑ Back to top
Do not claim 'public funds'
Your immigration conditions prohibit you from accessing 'public funds', which means certain welfare benefits and local authority housing. To find out what counts as 'public funds', see our Information Sheet Welfare Benefits.
Using the National Health Service, sending your child to a state school, being exempt from the Council Tax, and paying "home" fees for study do not count as accessing 'public funds'. There are also some very limited exceptions for students from certain countries who can claim certain welfare benefits without breaching their immigration conditions.
If you claim 'public funds' when you should not, the UK immigration authorities can refuse your immigration application or remove you from the UK. You might be barred from returning to the UK for a certain period.↑ Back to top
Study at the Tier 4 sponsor institution that issued your CAS
When you enter (or re-enter) the UK you must intend to study at the Tier 4 sponsor that has issued your CAS, and whose Tier 4 sponsor license number is on your sticker or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
It is a condition of your Tier 4 leave that you study full-time at the Tier 4 sponsor institution that issued your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), and whose Tier 4 sponsor license number is therefore printed on your vignette or BRP. (Unless your BRP was issued between summer 2010 and September 2011, in which case it will show your CAS number not your Tier 4 sponsor license number).↑ Back to top
Be aware of what information your Tier 4 sponsor must provide to the UKBA
All Tier 4 sponsors have specific duties they must undertake, which are outlined in Annex 2 of the Tier 4 of the Points Based System - Policy Guidance.
Your Tier 4 sponsor must provide information to the UKBA about you in certain instances. This is referred to as 'reporting', and applies if you have Tier 4 immigration permission that you applied for on or after 5th October 2009. Your sponsor must also meet these duties if you are doing a work placement that is part of your course or if you are studying at a partner institution that was named on your Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS), for example, the place where you are doing a pre-sessional course.
If you applied for your Tier 4 immigration permission before 5th October 2009 using a visa letter then your sponsor is not obliged to report to the UKBA, but may choose to do so.
If your institution does not inform the UKBA of something that it should, it could lose its licence to recruit and sponsor students under Tier 4.
If your institution submits a report to the UKBA about you, then you need to be aware of what can happen next. We have listed some examples of what your institution may need to report below.
If you do not enrol or will be enrolling late
If you do not enrol as expected, your Tier 4 sponsor must report this to the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Therefore, if you know you will need to enrol late, it is very important to check with your sponsor whether this is acceptable, and to check what will be your final deadline for enrolling. If you miss the final deadline for enrolling then your immigration permission will be curtailed.
Maintain attendance on your course and submit work on time
Your college or university is required by the UKBA to identify when students they are sponsoring under Tier 4 have stopped studying. Therefore, your sponsor will monitor your attendance and participation on your course. They will explain to you what attendance and participation is required, and how this is recorded. If you miss a certain number of these expected contacts or attendances, which results in you being withdrawn from your course, then your sponsor is required to report this to the UKBA. 'Expected contacts' will vary between institutions and different types of courses within an institution, but may include:
- attending lessons, lectures, tutorials, seminars or meetings with your personal tutor/supervisor;
- submitting coursework, or, attending tests or examinations.
Therefore, if you know you will miss a required attendance or deadline, for example, because you are ill, contact your tutor or department straightaway to inform them. Ask whether they need to see some evidence, such as a letter from a doctor. If there are any other reasons why you cannot attend your course for a short time, (for example, a family bereavement, or religious festival), speak to your tutor or department as soon as you are aware of this.
If you are a postgraduate student with Tier 4 immigration permission and are writing up a dissertation or thesis, or are waiting to complete a viva, your institution is still required to monitor your expected contacts throughout this period, so make sure that you are fully aware of what these are.
Deferring, postponing or taking a break from your studies
If you become ill during your studies, or are unable to attend or complete work due to other personal circumstances, then it might be agreed that you can miss a certain number of classes or assignments and then continue on your course.
However, if your break means that you cannot complete your course as planned within your current Tier 4 leave, then you may need to defer or postpone your studies. It is really important that you establish how much of your course you can miss as soon as possible, so you know whether you must defer your studies. If the length of your absence is unclear at the outset, maintain regular contact with your tutor, supervisor, student adviser or other appropriate staff member, during your absence, so that you and your institution can make a decision about whether you will need to defer your studies.
If a decision is made to defer your studies, then you will need to leave the UK immediately. If you will be resuming your studies more than two months after you have left your course, then your immigration permission may be curtailed, and you may need to apply for new entry clearance in order to return to the UK.
If it is not physically possible to leave the UK during your deferral, even though your Tier 4 leave will be curtailed, speak to your international student adviser, who will need to refer you for specialised immigration advice.
Leaving your course and institution
If you decide to leave your course early you must tell your institution. If you are returning home or going to study at a different institution, you need to let your current institution know so that they can notify the UKBA. It will then be clear to everyone whether or not you are still studying in the UK.
Completing your studies early
If you complete your course earlier than the course end date originally specified on your CAS then your institution will need to inform the UKBA about this. You are advised to check whether this has been done as you will need to establish if your immigration permission is likely to be curtailed.
Obtaining immigration permission in a different category
If you obtain immigration permission in a category other than Tier 4 then you need to tell your institution because they will need to inform the UKBA that they are not sponsoring you any more under Tier 4. Your institution will also need to advise whether you are entitled to study with your new immigration permission and may need evidence of it for their records. If you have been granted immigration permission for a limited period then your institution will need to be aware of this and you must update them if you make any applications to extend your immigration permission.
Do not break the conditions of your permission to stay
If your sponsor has any suspicions that you are breaking the conditions of your permission to stay, for example, by working more hours than you are allowed to, then they are obliged to inform the UKBA. This could result in your current immigration permission being curtailed or future applications being refused. See our information about your conditions of stay, such as registration with the police, working and claiming public funds.
Consequences for you – curtailment (cancellation) of your immigration permission
If your sponsor reports to the UKBA that you have not enrolled as expected, and you are already in the UK but you have not applied to switch to a different Tier 4 sponsor, the UKBA will curtail (cancel) your Tier 4 leave with immediate effect. If this happens, the UKBA will write to you and give you 10 days to appeal the curtailment. If you do not appeal, we advise you arrange to leave the UK as soon as possible.
The UKBA may also curtail your Tier 4 leave if your sponsor reports any of the following to the UKBA:
- that you have been withdrawn from the course due to missing expected contacts,
- that you are deferring, postponing or taking a break from your studies for more than two months,
- that you are leaving your course and the UK, or are changing institution,
- that you have completed your course early,
- that you are suspected of breaking the conditions of your immigration permission.
If any of the above apply, your immigration permission may be cancelled, but not with immediate effect. If you have more than 60 days immigration permission left then this will be reduced to 60 days. If you have less than 60 days immigration permission then it is likely that the length of your leave will be left as it is. You will not have a right of appeal if a decision to curtail your immigration permission is made but you are still left with a period of leave. You must either leave the UK within this period before your leave expires, or make an application to remain in the UK on another basis.
Good communication with your personal tutor, supervisor or department is essential throughout your course, and we also recommend that you access your institution or student union advice service as required. That way you will be fully aware if any changes to your circumstances mean that a report to the UKBA is required, and what the consequences will be for you. It is also necessary for your institution to be aware of all your relevant circumstances in order to decide on the correct course of action.↑ Back to top
What to do if you want to change courses
Changing courses within your institution
It may be possible to change courses at your current institution. As well as academic considerations, your institution will also need to take into account any Tier 4 requirements, such as academic progression and the time limits on specific levels of study, which may prevent this from being possible.
If you do change courses, your Tier 4 sponsor will inform the UKBA about this.
If your new course is shorter than the course for which your current Tier 4 immigration permission was granted, you will need to inform the UKBA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your new course is longer than the course for which your current Tier 4 immigration permission was granted, you will need to apply for further Tier 4 immigration permission. You can make this application at any time before your current immigration permission expires, but the UKBA advises that you make it as soon as possible. You will need to ensure that you meet all the Tier 4 requirements, which are explained in our information sheet: Making a Tier 4 (General) Application.
There is some limited flexibility to switch to a different Tier 4 sponsor, but you must apply for permission from the UKBA first. How exactly you should do this depends on when you applied for your current Tier 4 leave. Remember that this whole information sheet is only for those with Tier 4 leave: if you have an old-style student visa that you applied for before 31 March 2009, you therefore have pre-Tier 4 student leave, and there is no requirement for you to apply for permission to change to a different college or university.
If you applied for your current Tier 4 leave before 5 October 2009
You can apply for permission to change sponsor on form Tier 4 (PTS). The application fee is £160. You can start the new course before you receive a decision from the UKBA: you must simply show the new sponsor evidence that you have applied to switch to their sponsorship.
A Tier 4 (PTS) application does not extend your stay; it only switches your sponsor. If you will also need to extend your stay in order to complete the course with the new sponsor, you can make a full Tier 4 application now if you wish. If you do not do this, you will need to make two separate applications: a Tier 4 (PTS) application only to change sponsor, then later a Tier 4 application to extend your stay.
If you applied for your current Tier 4 leave on or after 5 October 2009
You must make a full Tier 4 immigration application before you start the new course. If your new course is with a Highly Trusted Sponsor, you can start the new course before you receive a decision from the UKBA. If your new college or university is not a Highly Trusted Sponsor, you cannot start the new course until the UKBA has given you new immigration permission to study at the new institution.
If you need to make a Tier 4 application, it is very important that you can meet all the requirements and can make the application before you move to the new institution. See our information sheet: Making a Tier 4 (General) Application.↑ Back to top
Ensure that your maintenance funds are available to pay your living costs
When you applied for Tier 4 leave, you confirmed that you had enough money to pay for your tuition fees, and fund your living costs, at the monthly amount set by the UKBA. You confirmed that this money was available to you for up to 9 months, or up to 2 months in some circumstances. If your Tier 4 application was made on or after 4 July 2011 then you may have confirmed in a specific declaration that this money is available to you for paying your living costs, and that it will remain available to you, unless you have spent it on your living costs.
If the UKBA has concerns regarding your ability to maintain and accommodate yourself, further checks may be carried out to confirm that the funds continue to be available or that they have been spent to fund course fees or living expenses. This might arise when you arrive in the UK after you have been granted entry clearance, or when you make a further application for immigration permission. If you use this money for other purposes, then you may have to explain this, and how you intend to cover your living expenses whilst in the UK. If the UKBA suspects that you intend to work beyond your permitted hours or claim public funds in order to support yourself then your application or entry to the UK may be refused. If the money was never genuinely available to you for the purposes of study then it is possible that you will be refused further leave to remain or entry to the UK on the grounds that you have used deception in your previous application. If you think that this matter might be an issue for your in a future immigration application then seek advice from your student advice service.↑ Back to top
Open a UK bank account that sends you paper statements by post.
Most banks offer an environmentally friendly "green" option where you do not receive any paper statements by post. This reduces unnecessary paper usage and waste, reduces demand on the postal service, and is a popular option in the UK where many people now monitor their bank account online, not through paper statements.
However, if you extend your stay in the UK, you will need to collate evidence that you have enough money to pay for your living costs (and for your tuition fees, if it is a Tier 4 extension), in the correct format. The easiest way to meet these requirements is with postal statements from a UK account. Make sure your bank knows that you want statements by post, and keep all your bank statements, do not throw any away.
See also Opening a bank account
Make a note in your diary four months before your current immigration permission runs out.
Your deadline for sending an in-time application to extend your stay in the UK is the final day of your current leave. However, we advise that you start thinking about it four months before. You will need some time to check what requirements you need to meet, and what documents you will need to show. Planning four months in advance will give you enough time to get your bank account in order, so that you meet the requirements about holding a certain amount of money in your bank account for a specific period. For a Tier 4 application, this is 28 days, but for some other types of application, it is 90 days.
Keep copies of your personal documents
Make copies now of
- the whole of your passport, except for the blank pages
- the front and back of your BRP, if you have one. These are issued to those who make a Tier 4 (General) application in the UK, and to some other people.
- your police registration certificate, if you have one.
And remember to take fresh copies whenever any changes are made to any of these documents. If you lose any of these documents, it will help when you try to replace them.
Ensure that you protect your personal documents and information. If you are contacted by someone who you do not know, or by someone claiming to be a representative of your bank, or an official organisation, such as the UKBA, remember that it could be a scam. Criminals use all kinds of ways to trick you into paying them money, or giving them valuable information about yourself. Your bank will tell you what information it would not ever request from you by phone or email, so make sure that you are aware of this. Be wary of providing personal information to anyone who contacts you by phone, text message or email. See our guidance on dealing with telephone fraud for more information.↑ Back to top
Keep all correspondence with UK immigration authorities
- Make copies of everything you give to the UK immigration authorities when you make an immigration application (every page of the form, and every document you provide along with it)
- Keep the receipts from Royal Mail showing the date you post anything to the UK immigration authorities (you should always use special delivery or recorded delivery)
- Keep any letters you receive from the UK immigration authorities, and the envelopes that they sent them in (so you have proof of the date they sent them), or any receipts they give you
- Keep all the paperwork and documents you have that evidence each of your journeys to and from the UK (photocopies of the tickets; letters or documents relating to the bookings; the ticket stubs that are given back to you by the travel operator – or even better, the whole ticket)
You may need to refer to these on a future occasion, so keep them forever.↑ Back to top
If you have a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), keep it up to date
If any of the following details about you change, you need to fill in a BRP(RC) form as soon as possible, and pay for a new card:
- date of birth
- significant change to your facial appearance (so that it would be difficult to recognise you from the photograph in your current identity card)
If you lose your BRP, or it is stolen, you have to report this to the UK immigration authorities as soon as possible, and pay for a new card.
For the BRP(RC) form, and further information about how to report other changes to the UKBA, visit the UKBA's website [www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/while-in-uk/do-i-need-brp/responsibilities/].
The UK immigration authorities can fine you up to £1,000, or shorten your permission to be in the UK, if you do not keep your identity card up-to-date.
Remember to report a change of address to the UK immigration authorities
If there is ever a problem with your institution's Tier 4 licence, or if the institution closes, or if there are any other issues or problems with your Tier 4 visa, the UKBA will write to you. It is therefore important that you keep the UKBA informed of your current address.
You may have given a temporary address, or the the institution's address, when you applied for entry clearance in your home country, in which case you must report a change of address to the UKBA once you have a proper UK postal address.
Likewise, any correspondence address that you use when making a Tier 4 application in the UK will become your permanent contact address in the UKBA's records, until you make another application. Therefore if you are using the correspondence address just for return of your Tier 4 application, you should report a change of address after the outcome of your application.
If the UKBA only has your institution's address, and not your personal address, this may mean you do not receive important correspondence from the UKBA. For example, your college may close, or the institution may not have information or structures in place to forward the letter to you promptly or correctly.
You can report a change of address to the UKBA using their online form [https://contact-ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/contact/changeAddress/update-my-details/].
The guidance on the UKBA website is currently unclear about when this form may be used. The UKBA has confirmed to us that you can use this form if you applied for entry clearance abroad or leave to remain in the UK. Your permission to stay may be shown on a vignette (sticker) in your passport, or on a BRP. You can use the form at any time, whether you have an application pending or not. Your dependants can also use this form.
You must also report your change of address to:
- your Tier 4 sponsor, who is obliged to hold current contact details for you
- the police, if you have a Police Registration Certificate. See above under Check whether you need to register with the police
- your official financial sponsor, if you have one
- your home country's Embassy or High Commission, if they require it.
For practical purposes, we advise that you also inform your bank, your doctor's surgery, your insurance companies and your driving licence issuer (and also, if you own a vehicle in the UK, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority/Agency).↑ Back to top
Do not get into trouble with the police, or commit driving offences.
Being convicted of a criminal offence may have serious consequences for your current immigration position and you will have to declare any criminal convictions if you make another immigration application. Applications for entry clearance or further leave to remain in the UK can be refused on the basis of a person's criminal history. Your current permission to stay can also be curtailed in some circumstances.
Be aware that certain punishments other than a prison sentence, such as fines, police cautions and being disqualified from driving, count as non custodial sentences for immigration purposes, and can also be treated very seriously.
You are advised to seek legal advice as soon as possible if you are in trouble with the police. We recommend that you seek legal advice from an immigration specialist, as well as from a criminal law solicitor, in order to establish what the consequences may be for your immigration status if, for example, you are convicted of an offence or accept a caution. If you are about to make an application to extend your immigration permission, or if you have already made an application, and are waiting for a decision, you will need to seek advice about what information you may need to pass on to UKBA. Your International Student Adviser may be able to advise you or help you to access more specialist advice.
For more information about UK driving regulations, see our Information Sheet:
Driving in the United Kingdom: a guide for international students.
UK Council for International Student Affairs
Telephone advice line: Mon-Fri 1300-1600 hours (UK time)
Tel (from within the UK): 02 03131 3576
Tel (from outside the UK): +44 20 3131 3576
We regret that we cannot advise personal callers at our offices. Please use the telephone advice line or write to us at: UKCISA, 9-17 St Albans Place, London N1 0NX, UK.
This information sheet may be printed and reproduced provided it is copied unaltered and in its entirety, including UKCISA's logo, disclaimer, copyright statement and the reference to UKCISA's website as a source of further updates, and provided that no charge is made to any persons for copies. NO PART OF IT MAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES.
The information in this Information Sheet is given in good faith and has been carefully checked. UKCISA, however, accepts no legal responsibility for its accuracy.