The Tier 4 visa of the new point based system was introduced in March 2009 and specifically designed for foreign students who wish to come to the UK for study purposes. This visa is a direct replacement of the previous UK Student visa and places more emphasis and responsibility on the educational body catering to international students. It is the responsibility of the education providers to ensure that the international students coming to the UK to study at their institution obey all the rules and regulations of the tier 4 visa.

Categories of Student
Students who wish to come to the UK to study are usually categorized into the 3 different areas below. Each category has its own set of criteria that must be fulfilled by the applicant:

  1. General student – Students studying at degree level or higher at a public funded institution. The student must be engaged in a minimum of 15 hours of study per week. Students are permitted to work for 20 hours per week during term time and full time during holidays. Dependents of students are allowed to accompany them.
  2. School student –Students in full time study at an independent school up to the age of 18 years. The working hours for the school students are the same as those of general students. This category does not allow candidates to bring any dependents to the UK.
  3. Study through work student - Students who have come to the UK to gain work experience through a placement. Working hours are the same as the other two categories and dependants are permitted only in cases where the primary applicant has come to the UK for a period more than 12 months.

There are several benefits associated with tier 4 student visas:

  • Overseas students are provided with the opportunity to achieve recognised qualifications from reputed universities and colleges in the UK.
  • Students obtain skills and experiences from worldwide recognised UK educational institutions.
  • Whilst Tier 4 visas cannot be used as a route to permanent settlement or indefinite leave to remain in the UK, it does allow candidates to switch to another visa category after successfully completing their course. This can be done without leaving the UK.
  • If the student’s study course lasts less than 6 months, they are permitted to enter the country under the easier route of UK Tourist visa.
  • Students are able to undertake limited employment and extend their visa if their study course lasts more than 4 years.
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