Tier 4 time limits

There are limits placed by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) on how long you can hold a Tier 4 visa. The length of time you can hold a Tier 4 visa depends on your level of study.

Find out how long you can hold a Tier 4 visa, and which courses and levels of study are exempt from the time limit.

Courses below degree level 

If you made your Tier 4 application before 12th November 2015, for courses below degree level, you cannot study in the UK on a course which leads to a qualification below degree-level for more than 3 years in total as a Tier 4 (General student). Limited exceptions apply to this.

If you made your Tier 4 application on or after 12th November 2015 the maximum amount of time you can study below degree level is now 2 years.  

Courses at degree level

For courses at degree level or above, any new Tier 4 application must not lead to you spending more than five years at this level. All the time you have spent in the UK under Tier 4 (or as a pre-Tier 4 student) counts towards the 5 years, except for the short extra time you are given before and after a course.

Please note that unless your CAS was assigned before 10 August 2015 then the short extra time you are given before the course (maximum one month) and after a course (maximum four months) will be included in this five year calculation

Exceptions to the 5-year limit:

  • If you are applying to study a course at a higher education institution (HEI) and the 5-year cap would prevent you from completing a fifth academic year at degree level or above, then the limit is extended to five years and 11 months.
  • If you've successfully completed a UK degree course which was at least four years long, and your Tier 4 application is to study a Master’s degree at a higher education institution (recognised body or institution in receipt of public funding), the limit is six years.
  • If your Tier 4 application is to study a PhD at a higher education institution, there is no limit while you're studying the PhD.
  • If you've already completed a PhD, Postgraduate Research Qualification or Research Masters Degree (as listed in Annex 5 of the Tier 4 Policy Guidance), any new Tier 4 application is subject to an 8-year limit (including courses below degree level).
  • Courses in architecture, medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and science, or music at a conservatoire, are exempt from the limit.
  • If you've completed a UK degree, and your current Tier 4 application is to study certain legal qualifications (CPE, GDL/LPC or BPTC), the legal qualification is exempt from the limit.

UKVI will not grant further leave to someone whose current Tier 4 application means they will exceed these limits, unless there are “compelling and compassionate circumstances”, such as injury or disability.

If you require further information, please visit the UKCISA website.