Sep 10 2020

Tier 4 Visa Route to be Replaced by New Student Routes

United Kingdom

At a Glance

  • The Home Office has released a statement of changes to be laid before Parliament which outlines the intent to close the Tier 4 visa route and replace it with ‘Student’ and ‘Child Student’ routes.
  • The statement of changes sets out the aim to simply the student route with the incorporation of European Economic Area students, and specific changes to the entry requirements for this route.

The situation

The Home Office has released a statement of changes to be laid before Parliament which outlines the intent to close the Tier 4 visa route and replace it with ‘Student’ and ‘Child Student’ routes.

A closer look

Change Impact

Filing deadlines. The new Student route is due to be implemented on October 5, 2020.

  • Students considering their options under the existing immigration rules may wish to ensure they file their visa application before the new route is implemented on this date.

  • European Economic Area (EEA) nationals are entitled to free movement until January 1, 2021, however those seeking to travel before December 31, 2020, or those currently in the United Kingdom, may wish to take advantage of the current EU Settlement Scheme, which is open to all EEA nationals in the United Kingdom before December 31, 2020 with a closing date of June 30, 2021.

Points criteria. Applicants must meet the minimum points criteria in order to be awarded Student/Student Child status.

  • 70 points must be awarded in total under the points-based system:

    • Sponsorship: 50 Points

    • Financial requirement: 10 points

    • English language requirement: 10 points

Documentary requirements. As a result of the re-branded student route, there will be some changes to the documentation that students are required to provide in support of their student visa applications.

  • The Home Office are adapting the immigration rules for students to ensure that students are only required to provide the necessary English language documentation once.

  • Students who have gained a General Certificate of Secondary Education or A-Level / Scottish Highers in English while at a school in the United Kingdom will be able to rely on this to prove their English language ability for future Tier 4 visa applications.

  • Malta and Ireland will be added to the majority English speaking countries list.

  • Appendix ATAS has been inserted and sets out the current Academic Technology Approval Scheme requirements.

Maintenance. Students will no longer be required to demonstrate maintenance funds if they have met the maintenance rules for their current visa and have been supporting themselves in the United Kingdom for more than 12 months.

  • Students applying for leave as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer or studying a recognised Foundation programme will not be required to demonstrate maintenance funds given that they will be earning an income during their visa validity.

  • Students will now be able to rely on electronic bank statements allowing more flexibility and no longer requiring students to obtain their physical bank statement.

  • A wider range of acceptable accounts for maintenance purposes will be implemented which should provide students will more options to meet the maintenance requirements.

  • Appendix H of the immigration rules which allows for maintenance and academic documentation to not be required from the outset will be amended to include European countries.

Academic qualifications and Study Limits. 

  • Students of Higher Education Providers with a track record of compliance will not be routinely required to provide academic qualifications used to obtain their offer with the sponsoring institution.

  • The eight-year study limit for post-graduate students will be removed, meaning there will be no time limit on how long post-graduate students can spend on a Student visa in the United Kingdom.



Through this change, the UK government seeks to create a simplified global visa system which applies equally to all students, including EEA nationals.


This change will have a limited impact on those students currently studying in the United Kingdom, with slightly simplified documentation requirements to be met. However, the route will apply to all EEA students from January 1, 2021 when free movement ends.

EEA students who apply for the student visa route from within the United Kingdom before January 1, 2021 will have their visa application rejected given that they are still entitled to free movement.

Applications filed from outside of the United Kingdom by EEA nationals prior to January 1, 2021 are permitted, but when approved will be valid only from January 1, 2021.

Looking ahead

Fragomen expects that the government will release further clarification on the Student visa route before its implementation on October 6, 2020, which is likely to clarify some of the uncertainties surrounding the route.

Fragomen will release further details on any relevant developments.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to [email protected]