Student Immigration Service

Time limits on study and academic progression

If you have previously studied in the UK with a Tier 4 visa, there are additional factors you need to consider before submitting your application.

Time limits

Courses below degree level

You are permitted to study courses below degree level in the UK using a Tier 4 visa for up to two years.

Courses at degree level and above

You are permitted to study courses at degree level and above using a Tier 4 visa for no more than 5 years UNLESS:

  • You are studying an exempted subject
  • You are studying a masters degree after completing an undergraduate programme which was 4 or 5 years in length  

    • In this case you must complete all studies within 6 years
  • You are studying a research programme, such as a PhD 
    • If it is your first research programme, there will be no time limit on your studies
    • If you have already completed a research degree using a Tier 4 visa, you must complete all of your studies (including previous courses) within 8 years (unless your previous programme was a research Masters of less than 13 months)

Find out more about exemptions in the Tier 4 Policy Guidance

The time will normally be calculated from the start date of your first visa, until four months (or 6 months if you qualify for the Tier 4 Pilot Scheme) after you expect to complete your new programme. Any time during which you did not hold a valid Tier 4 visa will be discounted.

Learn about the Tier 4 Pilot Scheme

You must be able to complete your new programme within the limits unless:

  • The time limits will prevent you from studying a fifth academic year of study, in which case you must be able to complete the new programme within 5 years and 11 months, OR
  • You have completed a 4 or 5 year undergraduate programme, and wish to study a masters degree, and the time limits would prevent you from studying a sixth academic year
    • In this case you must be able to complete your studies within 6 years and 11 months

Academic Progression

Academic progression is an important part of the Tier 4 visa application, and it will dictate whether you can make your visa application in the UK.

If you make your Tier 4 visa application from inside the UK, your new period of studies must represent academic progression from your studies in the UK to date.

Academic progression means that:

  • You have successfully completed (i.e. achieved the award for) the most recent programme of study in the UK for which you were given a Tier 4 visa
  • Your new course is:
    • At a higher level than your previous programme, OR
    • Complementary study at the same level
      • This means it must be a specialisation of your previous studies, or a new programme which, combined with previous studies, will allow you to achieve your career goals

You do not need to show academic progression if:

  • You are making a Tier 4 application from outside the UK
  • You are applying to resit an exam or repeat a course, or you have previously resat an exam or repeated a course, and you need extra time to complete your programme
  • You wish to undergo a period of study abroad or a work placement, or you have already done so, and you need extra time to complete your programme
  • You are applying for more time to complete your PhD for which you were last granted a Tier 4 visa (including at a new sponsor)
  • You are applying to undertake a role as a Sabbatical Officer
  • You are applying under the Doctorate Extension Scheme

Students who are applying to move to a higher level on certain integrated programmes do not need to have successfully completed their most recent programme to demonstrate academic progression. You can find more information about this in our fact sheet below.

The University will assess whether you meet the academic progression requirements before we issue you with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies.