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UKVI guidance

The Points Based Managed Migration System (PBS) was launched by the UK Government on 31st March 2009.  The system was planned with a phased introduction, but due to the change of Government and political will has altered dramatically from the original policy.

The PBS System was originally designed for migrants coming to the UK in one of the work categories.  Its main purposes have been widely publicised as being to protect the UK’s national security and to reduce the UK’s net migration figures.

Any migrant that is coming into the UK under PBS needs to have a Sponsor that is registered with the UK Visa & Immigration either as a registered employer or as a Tier 4 Sponsor for educational institutions.  The University of St Andrews applied for, and holds licences as an employer and a Tier 4 Sponsor.  Both of these categories have individual requirements that the University has a duty to carry out in order to maintain these licences.  Failure to maintain a licence would mean that the University would not be able to have international employees or recruit, or retain, International Students.

All students that do not hold EEA nationality (European Economic Area) that are coming to the UK to undertake a course of study that is more than six month s in duration must apply under Tier 4 of this 5 tier system.   In general terms the only international students that do not have to apply for a Tier 4 visa are those that come to the University for one semester only, or those that are coming for supervisory visits


What is a Tier 4 Student?

Tier 4 covers all non-EEA national students that are coming to the UK to study a course that is more than 6 months in duration.  To make an application under this immigration category students must be:

  • Be studying  or intending to study a full-time  course that leads to an approved qualification
  • They must remain full-time unless they are leaving the UK
  • They must remain compliant within the immigration rules
  • They must hold a Confirmation of Acceptance to Study (CAS) that was issued by the University of St Andrews

Students that come to the UK to undertake a course that is less than 6 months in duration can come to the UK as a ‘Student Visitor’, if they then decide to complete the full year or their degree in St Andrews then they will need to apply for a Tier 4 Visa.

How long will a student visa last?

Entry Clearance Caseworkers have strict instructions on the length of stay they can issue to students; the decision is determined by the end date of the students’ course and is as follows;

Length of courseLength of stay

Less than 6 months

The full length of the course plus 7 days after the end date noted on the CAS

6-11 months

The length of the course plus two months following the end date noted on the CAS

12 months or more

The length of the course plus four months following the end date noted on the CAS

What is a CAS?

A CAS is the shortened term for a Confirmation of Acceptance to Study that is issued to all new students that fit into the Tier 4 criteria by Admissions once their offer of a place at the University becomes unconditional, or is issued by Student Services for a student that requires extra time to complete a current course of study.  It is a virtual document that is applied for electronically to the UK Visa & Immigration and is in the form of a unique 14 digit number. 

When the student is making an application to UKVI the information provided by the University on the CAS and the student in the application is compared to assist the Visa officials in their decision making.

University Responsibilities as a sponsor for students

As a Tier 4 Sponsor, the University of St Andrews is expected to ensure that we and our students are compliant with the points-based system policy guidance and the immigration rules. If we fail to comply we are at risk of losing our Tier 4 Sponsor Licence and will not be able to register International Students, and those that are currently studying with us will need to find another university or return to their home country. We have to take our duties under this legislation very seriously.

Our responsibilities are to;

  • Retain copies of all documents pertinent to a students’ immigration status in the UK, such as passports, visa/biometric ID cards, police registration certificates and ATAS certificates
  • Ensure that entry into new courses represents academic progression
  • Keep up-to-date contact details for all Tier 4 students
  • Make sure that we only admit students that hold either a Tier 4 visa under our sponsor licence or a visa in another immigration category that allows the migrant to study
  • Report to the UKBA on failure to enrol
  • Monitor attendance and report any unauthorised absences to the UKVI
  • Report any changes in a student’s status such as
    • leave of absence
    • termination of studies
    • withdrawal from studies
    • changes in course length
    • changes of course title
    • periods of study abroad or placements away from the University
    • late submission of course work/dissertation
    • re-submisson of course work/dissertation
    • unauthorised absences
    • deferring a course
    • transferring to another course or university

report to the UKVI if we become aware of any breaches of the immigration rules

Migrants Responsibilities

  • Respond to all requests to present in person passport, visa and other documents for scanning
  • Keep the University updated with any changes to documents for example
    • new passport
    • visa extensions
    • changes of immigration status
  • Register for course of study within the matriculation period at the beginning of each academic year
  • Attend lectures and tutorials and complete all compulsory elements of the course on time
  • Self-certificate for any absences and keep the School or Department up to date on any issues that impact on studies
  • Follow University procedures if planning to take a Leave of Absence or intending to withdraw from studies
  • Leave the UK within 60 days of taking a Leave of Absence or withdrawing from study
  • Comply with the restrictions on working hours (20 hours during term-time)
  • Keep up to date with the immigration rules and be aware of expiry dates of visas and passports
  • Make sure that all documentation and financial circumstances meet the immigration rules at the time of application
  • Maintain up-to-date term time contact details (via e-Vision)and inform the University immediately of any change in these details

Reporting students for non-engagement

Students that cease to engage with the University either temporarily or permanently are reported to the UK Visa & Immigration by Registry and their student visas will be curtailed.  If the student intends to return to the University at a later date, after a Leave of Absence for instance, then they will need to be issued with a new CAS to assist them in making a new visa application.


Students that are re-engaging are required to apply for a new visa and should be directed to Student Services who will correspond with the student and issue a new CAS as soon as their academic record is updated.

Monitoring of Students

Where practicable the monitoring of students is done centrally using procedures that are already established in the academic calendar.  The first point is Matriculation at the start of semester one each year, the third is exams and compulsory assessments at the end of semester 2.  A third contact point has been created at the beginning of semester 2 by creating a census point where all International Students are asked to attend to have their passport and visas checked to ensure that they have conditions that allow them to study in the UK.

However, as Research students are not included in the exam diet, they will be requested to provide their documents at matriculation and at the census, and their annual review will be used as the third contact point.  If they are absent from St Andrews it is vital that any communication that they have with the University is recorded, for example email contact with their supervisor.

International Students and Employment

If a student has a Tier 4 visa, they are permitted to work (paid or un-paid) under student restrictions which will be clearly stated on their visa or biometrics card. Normally it is 10 or 20 hours per week during term-time and full-time hours during university vacation periods. Student should check their visa or biometrics card for the hours they are permitted to work to ensure they are complying with UKVI regulations. 


If a student applies for a new course of study at the University and has previously studied in the UK we have to verify that the new course represents progression in 100% of cases. The new course should normally be above the level of the previous course.  However, the University can support a student studying at the same level if the new course complements the previous course or can be described as a ‘deeper specialisation’ in a given area, eg a student has graduated with MLitt Management and then applies for a further MLitt in Human Resource Management; using the students personal statement we could certify that we would consider this to be progression, but it would need to be considered carefully on a case by case basis.

5 year limit - for Courses below PHD Level only

The 5 year limit has complicated issues further.  Any student, pre-Tier 4 included, can only stay in the UK for a maximum of 5 years to complete an undergraduate degree.  If a student progresses from an undergraduate to a Masters Programme this limit is increased to 6 years.  Any time spent out of the UK on a LOA can be deducted from this limit and it is therefore vital that any International student that is considering a LOA is told categorically that they must leave the UK for the duration of their leave.  Vacation periods cannot be deducted.

Careful consideration needs to be given to students that have taken longer than the norm to complete their degree programme or that are currently on an undergraduate programme that is 5 years in duration and apply for a deletion of semester or a LOA and they indicate an intention to remain in the UK, such student should be referred to the International Student Advisers in Student Services for advice.  All previous study in the UK is counted towards this 5 year cap, not just that undertaken at the University of St Andrews.


  • There are some undergraduate courses that are left out of the 5 year limit; Medicine is exempt from these conditions

"Visiting Scholars" or "Visiting Researchers"

There is currently no provision in the immigration rules for a student to come to the UK if they are not going to be a fully registered student at the University.  If a student is coming to the UK to undertake a short period of research this will be considered as work; Human Resources will be able to advise on an application being made under Tier 5 (Temporary Work).

Academic Visitors

The immigration rules that define who is considered an Academic Visitor are very specific and applications under this immigration route should only be made by migrants that are coming to the UK for a maximum period of 12 months and who are employed at an overseas institution as an Academic.  It is not suitable for Visiting Researchers who are registered as students at an overseas institution.

PHD Students

Research students are also covered under the requirements of Tier 4; the University and the student have the same responsibilities as detailed above.  It is, however, recognised by UKVI that PHD students are very different in their study style. 

Monitoring of these students will be done centrally where possible, however very often individual arrangements are made between a Supervisor and a Student, it is important that these arrangements are notified to Postgraduate Registry so that the student’s record can be updated accordingly.

Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme

Since 6 April 2013 a new work visa route has been introduced for students studying a PhD or other doctorate level qualification. This new 12 month work visa route is part of the Points Based System (PBS) and is called the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES). In order to qualify for this new visa students must:

  • Be on a Tier 4 (General) visa or a Student visa
  • Be studying a PhD or other doctorate level qualification 
  • Apply up to 60 days before the course end date/date of approved 
  • Meet the financial requirement (maintenance)
  • Apply from inside the UK
  • Have a valid Tier 4 (General) visa or Student visa at the time of application (cannot apply if visa has expired) 

The student will need to contact the Postgraduate Research Team in Registry to request a CAS under DES; they will be asked to complete a contract to agree to abide by the conditions of their stay, such as updating their personal details with new addresses and responding to communications from the University.

The School will be asked to confirm in writing by email to the Postgraduate Research Team that the student has been in good standing during his/her studies and that it is expected that the student will complete their course and be recommended for the award of PHD.

Course End Date

UK Visas and Immigration have recognised that some flexibility needs to be incorporated into the Scheme to allow for slippage etc, therefore they have allowed institutions to set new end dates for students that wish to apply under this category.

Visas that Expire before thesis submission

If the student’s current visa expires before the date they are due to submit their thesis they will need to make a new Tier 4 Student visa application and then apply for DES once they have completed their Viva. 

Visas that expire after thesis submission but before Viva

In this circumstance the student has a choice, apply under Tier 4 General to remain as a student until they have the result of the Viva or make an application under DES.   If they apply under DES before the Viva date and they are given a period of corrections they will forfeit the correction time from the 12 month grant of leave under DES.

Visas that expire after the viva date

After the students’ viva is complete and they know whether or not they have a period of corrections they should be advised to meet with the International Student Adviser who will discuss with them their options.  If there are no corrections or typographical corrections only then the student will be assigned a CAS with an end date of one month after their viva date, this will be the start date of their visa under DES.  If there is a period of corrections, depending on the extent, the student can choose whether to apply under DES or Tier 4 General.

How to apply

Student should contact the International Student Advisers; email to make an appointment. 

Academic Extensions

It is important that students are organised and aware of the expiry date of their visa. A student that has submitted a thesis cannot apply to extend their Tier 4 General visa even if their visa expires before the date of their Viva.  Therefore if the students’ visa expiry date and the date of submission are very close together the student should consider how realistic an on time submission is and whether it would be appropriate to request a short academic extension.  A new visa would be issued based on the full course length.

ATAS - Applied Technologies Approval Scheme.

This scheme is operated by the Foreign Commonwealth Office and is specifically designed to ensure that those applying for postgraduate study in certain sensitive subjects do not acquire knowledge that could potentially be used in WMD programmes.  Research students, particularly in Science based subjects, will probably require an ATAS Certificate.

Students make an application on line and need to include a fairly detailed (one paragraph) description of their area of research; the student will need to discuss this with their Supervisor as they will be contacted to confirm this information and it must be consistent.  The application will take around 20 working days to be considered and must be complete before an application can be made to extend the students visa.


International Student Advisers

Student Services
The Advice & Support Centre

79 North Street
St Andrews
KY16 9AL
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: 01334 46 2020

See also