Studying coming to an end, but not ready to leave the UK yet? We can’t really blame you! If you currently hold a Tier 4 (General Student) Visa in the UK, then you can apply for an academic progression visa. The below guidelines will give you a brief explanation about the complete visa extension procedure in the UK through education or by completing another degree.
Check Whether You Can Make Your Application Without Leaving the UK
In order to apply for a visa for a new course from within the UK, it is essential that the start date of the new course should not be more than 28 days after the expiry date of your current visa. If the gap between the start date of your new course and the expiry date of your current visa extends beyond 28 days, then you must apply from your home-country or usual place of residence.
When to Apply
You can submit your Tier 4 visa application minimum 3 months before the start of your new course. If you are continuing the same course, the visa application needs to be submitted 3 months before the expiry of the current visa. Before applying for academic progression, make sure you have the correct documents and enough funds in your bank account to support your visa application.
All international students in the UK are responsible for their own immigration status and are advised to understand the visa procedures thoroughly. Failure to meet the immigration requirements might result in penalties and loss of your visa.
Requirements for Tier 4 Visa Extension
Students already studying in the UK with a Tier 4 visa can normally apply for the extension of their visa only after the successful completion of their course, if they are aiming to pursue a course at a higher academic level. For example, if you have successfully completed an undergraduate course, then you can apply for a visa for your master’s degree. Similarly, if you have successfully completed your master’s course, you can apply for a visa for a DPhil or PhD course.
However, a student cannot switch to another course without completing the original course for which the Tier 4 visa was granted and cannot apply for a visa extension to get more time for the completion of the new course they want to switch to. In order to fulfil the requirements for academic progression while staying in the country, a student needs to provide proof of course completion in the form of degree certificate, a formal written confirmation from the university or a final academic transcript.
For students planning to join a new course at the same academic level, ensure that the course either complements your current course, involves deeper specialisation or supports the career aspirations to meet the requirements for Tier 4 visa extension. If a student wants to apply for a visa extension for the completion of a DPhil course by repeating a section of the course, then academic progression documents might not be required.
Obtaining a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
A Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number is automatically assigned to students starting a new course, up to 4 months prior to the start date of the course. However, it is essential for the students to pay for the necessary deposits and hold an unconditional offer of study to be eligible for CAS. Students applying for visa extension for the continuation of the current course or for the duration of reassessment will also need a new CAS number from the university. Note that a CAS number is valid for a period of 6 months after being issued and is applicable for only one visa application. A new CAS number is required in case of the refusal of a visa application.
Obtaining an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Certificate
Students in the stream of science, engineering and technology might need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate before applying for academic progression. Usually, the CAS states if a student needs to apply for an ATAS certificate and whether it can be obtained with the help of the university. An agreed research statement from the department and a list of modules from the college is mandatory for ATAS application. It is recommended that before applying for a visa extension, a student must check the need for the (ATAS) approval required to study in the UK and apply to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at least 6 months before the visa expiry date.
An ATAS certificate might take up to 20 working days to process, so it is advisable to apply for it immediately after receiving the CAS. A student starting a new course can apply for ATAS certificate while the offer is still conditional. Also, note that the ATAS certificate received for the previous visa application will not be valid even if the course has not changed.
Making a Tier 4 Visa Application
A Tier 4 visa can be applied in different ways based on the type of service. The visa application services can be standard, priority or premium. The charges for each service differ as per its type, and the visa application will also be processed based on the kind of service selected. Check out our handy guide for applying to UK Universities as an International Student.
Using the online application form
A student must apply for a visa extension before the expiry of the current immigration permission. The online application is only submitted after the final online payment and can be filled by creating an online account and registering your details. Once registered, a student can log in to start the application process. An online application can be saved at any point of time and can be accessed later using the account credentials. In order to protect the privacy of the applicant, an incomplete application is automatically deleted after 10 weeks of inactivity. If a student is applying for the Doctorate Extension Scheme, then there is a separate scheme for students applying for additional leave to remain in the UK after the completion of a PhD programme, and is not applicable for doctoral students applying for an extension for the completion of their studies.