Protecting your Tier 4 status

Last modified: 27 September 2016

This section 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:

  • an entry clearance vignette/sticker, which you applied for in your home country; or
  • a residence permit vignette in your passport, or a Biometrics Residence permit (BRP) card, which you were issued in the UK.

Tier 4 leave is issued with some immigration conditions, which are normally printed (in an abbreviated form) on your vignette or BRP, however they can also appear in the letter that accompanies your leave. There are also requirements and obligations related to the Immigration Rules, and related to your studies and your Tier 4 sponsor. This section explains all of these, plus some general good practice for protecting and maintaining your Tier 4 status.

Tier 4 conditions

Last modified: 08 June 2016
Your Tier 4 immigration permission will be subject to certain conditions.  It is very important that you abide by these conditions as failure to do so can have serious consequences for both your current permission to be in the UK and for any future immigration applications you may make.  Since April 2015 the Home Office's Tier 4 policy guidance says that you must inform them if you have been given incorrect conditions (paragraph 22).  Likewise, your Tier 4 sponsor is obliged to let the Home Office know if they become aware that you have been granted incorrect conditions.

Sponsor duties

Last modified: 04 December 2015

All Tier 4 sponsors have specific duties they must undertake, which are outlined in document 2 of the Home Office's guidance for Tier 4 sponsors.

Your Tier 4 sponsor must provide some information to the Home Office about you. This is referred to as 'reporting', and applies if you have Tier 4 immigration permission that you applied for on or after 5 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 5 October 2009 using a visa letter then your sponsor is not obliged to report to the Home Office, but they may choose to do so, for example in order to treat all Tier 4 students equally.

If your institution does not inform the Home Office of something that it should, it could lose its license to recruit and sponsor students under Tier 4.

If your institution submits a report to the Home Office  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.

Changing Tier 4 sponsor

Last modified: 04 December 2015

There is some limited flexibility to switch to a different Tier 4 sponsor, but you must apply for permission from the Home Office  first, (unless your new course is supplementary to the course for which your visa was granted).  It is important that you take the necessary steps before you start your new course; failure to do so is a breach of your immigration conditions and may lead to the Home Office curtailing your current Tier 4 leave and/or refusing any future immigration applications that you make.

You must make a full Tier 4 immigration application before you start the new course. The only exception is for those who applied for their current leave before 5 October 2009: see the panels for information.

If your new course is at an institution that has Tier 4 Sponsor status you can start the new course before you receive a decision from the Home Office . However if your new college or university is a Probationary Sponsor, you cannot start the new course until the Home Office 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 Making a new Tier 4 application


Last modified: 02 October 2015

Overstaying means allowing your visa or BRP to expire and staying in the UK. Overstaying is a criminal offence.  There is no "grace period" within which you can lawfully overstay.

If you submit a valid application for further leave to remain before your visa or BRP expires then you will not be an overstayer while your application is being decided; instead your previous immigration permission and the conditions attached to it will continue while your application is pending.

If you overstay for more than 28 days you will not be allowed to apply for further leave to remain from within the UK. If you overstay by more than 90 days you will normally be barred from coming back to the UK for at least 12 months.

Although the Immigration Rules allow an overstayer to make a Tier 4 application in the UK (as long as you have not overstayed by more than 28 days), your Tier 4 sponsor may not issue you a CAS in order for you to do so, and/or they may withdraw any unused CAS that you were issued before you became on overstayer.  If you are in this situation, get advice from your Tier 4 sponsor about their policy on issuing CAS to overstayers.

If you make a visa application in the UK while you are an overstayer you will continue to be an overstayer while your application is being decided and your Tier 4 sponsor may not allow you to continue your studies.  If this is your situation, get specific advice from your sponsor institution about their policy on allowing overstayers to study.

Overstaying will have serious consequences for any future immigrations applications that you make, including applications for countries other than the UK. You must tell the truth in immigration applications and declare any periods of overstay if asked about them.  If you are found to have used deception in an immigration application you are likely to be barred from the UK for ten years.

If you need more time in the UK to complete your studies see our information on Making a Tier 4 application for information about submitting a Tier 4 application before your current leave expires.