10 Temporary concessions for UK Tier-4 visa applicants
Important updates for Tier-4 visa applicants outlined by our UK destination expert Ruchika Behera
The UK Home Office has set out temporary policy concessions for Tier-4 study visa applicants in response to the COVID-19 outbreak till the situation normalises. I’ll discuss here some concessions which would allow you, as a student, to keep your study abroad program alive.
1. CAS issuance
Your UK university (also called Tier-4 Sponsor) can issue your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies) statement even if you’re unable to obtain your final results and/or passing certificate on time. In order to avail a CAS on the basis of temporary concession, you might need to get a letter from your previous/current education provider mentioning your expected final grades and the reason for delay in your final results announcement. On the basis of this letter, your Tier-4 Sponsor would be able to assess your profile for CAS issuance and release your CAS for going ahead with your online enrolment, distance classes and Tier-4 Visa application.
2. Validity of CAS which has already been issued
If your CAS, which had already been issued, has expired now or your course start date has changed, you can still apply for your visa with the same CAS, but you must have the permission from your Tier-4 Sponsor before using this CAS for your visa application.
In case your course start date has changed, you can ask your Sponsor to update the new course start date (if known) in the Sponsor notes field. This information on your CAS will be then considered as normal when your case is being decided.
If your CAS has expired or you have used it previously for obtaining a visa but were unable to travel because of COVID-19, the Home Office will consider this case on an exceptional basis. Your application will only be accepted if you’re able to provide sufficient reasons that you couldn’t previously use it in an application or travel to the UK was due to COVID-19.
3. Starting your classes online
With restrictions everywhere and non-availability of enough resources, the Home Office acknowledges that all students who hold a CAS or a visa might not be able to travel to their respective destinations on time, before their course commencement date.
Thus, distance learning is allowed for new students in the 2020-21 academic year who have an intention to transition to face-to-face learning as soon as circumstances allow. With the UK universities’ world-class digital infrastructure, you can be sure that your distance studies will be at par and it won’t affect the quality of teaching.
4. Applying for your visa
While your Tier-4 Sponsor has allowed you to start your studies online, you need to keep them informed of your travel plans. You need a CAS before you can enrol but you need to apply and have a valid visa as well before travelling to the UK.
In most areas, where local restrictions allow, UK Visa Application Centres (VACs) have resumed services, while Priority and Super Priority services can be availed only in a few locations. These services, if available, can be purchased when booking your appointment.
In case you wish to study your course wholly online, or if the course demands distance learning, then you do not need a Tier-4 Sponsorship, i.e. no CAS or no need to apply for a visa as you won’t be travelling to the UK.
5. Original documents
Being a Tier-4 visa applicant, you’re required to present some original documents as set out in Appendix D for the Home Office to assess your credibility and give an outcome to your application. If you can’t obtain or submit these documents in person, digital copies are accepted which are duly attested by the authorised signatory.
6. English Language requirements
While many English language testing centres have resumed services now, it still gets difficult for a student to obtain a SELT (Secure English Language Test) score on time. Keeping this in mind, many Tier-4 Sponsors have started to accept a wide range of alternative English test scores to assess your English language ability for issuing CAS. It could be some online English Language Exams approved by your Sponsor, or your previously held academic/professional qualification, which helps assess your English language qualification.
7. Attendance monitoring
Students who are commencing their classes from distance or are unable to attend face-to-face teaching, or are absent from studies, including online studies, due to COVID-19, can have a sigh of relief as your Sponsorship will not be withdrawn as long as you keep your university updated about your latest situation. But if you stop attending your online classes for other reasons, then you’ll be subject to the normal attendance monitoring policy and the Sponsor is entitled to withdraw Sponsorship immediately if you stop engaging with their distance learning module, whether overseas or in the UK.
8. Working hours
If your Tier-4 sponsor has suspended all study on their course as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, then you’ll will be considered to be in vacation time and thus permitted to work on a full-time basis during this time. Where a Tier-4 Sponsor is providing tuition by distance learning, the students will be considered to be within term-time and will be limited to the term-time work hours stated on their visa.
Tier-4 students with work rights who are employed by an NHS trust (in professions stated below), will not be restricted to 20 hours work per week during term time and may work without limit on the number of hours permitted in the awake of COVID 19:
9. Graduate Immigration Route (Stay back)
Last year, the UK Government launched the much-awaited Graduate Immigration Route (GIR) which enables an international student to stay back in the country for up to two years after completion of their course on which they received their Tier-4 visa.
It was initially decided that students need to be in the UK to be eligible for GIR. However, if students are required to either continue their ongoing studies or start a new course by blended or distance learning due to COVID-19, they’d still be eligible to switch into the Graduate route if they enter the UK before 6th April 2021 and complete the final semester of their studies in the UK.
Know more: Graduation Immigration Route
10. Visa vignette validity period
Students whose 30-day passport vignette to travel to the UK has expired, or is about to expire, can request a replacement vignette with revised validity dates free of charge until the end of 2020 provided they still are within their period of leave issued for their course initially. Now, the UKVI is issuing the passport vignette with 90 days’ validity for students to plan out their travel plans with ease. Earlier it was for 30 days.
Students will not be penalised for being unable to collect their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) while coronavirus measures are in place. This entire process is expected to be in place by the end of 2020.
The sole purpose of getting these concessions into effect is to tell international students that you’re welcomed in the UK more than ever. Don’t let this pandemic stop you from achieving your yearlong dream and getting one step closer to your career goals.
I strongly recommend you to get in touch with an international education expert for any doubts you may have regarding the process.
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Ruchika Behera is an international education expert with IDP, specialising in study destinations – the UK and Ireland. A certified career and visa counsellor, she has helped many students for various study levels and subjects and has also travelled to colleges across India delivering seminars to guide students. She’s also been a key speaker in various webinars organised on overseas education.
She holds over five years of experience in the education field (both study in India and abroad) and has completed her bachelor’s in Science from the University of Delhi.