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Tier 4 Restrictions

Time Limit for Study at Degree Level and Above in UK
A student will only be issued with a Tier 4 (General) visa if it does not result in the student exceeding the time limit specified by UK Visas & Immigration for courses at degree level and above. This rule will take into account all previous time that a student has spent studying at degree level or above in the UK as a Tier 4 (General) student, or on a Student visa under the rules in place before March 2009. If you have any queries about this, please email us at

Only the length of any courses of study in the UK will count towards the limit, and not the dates of your UK visas. The length of your course will be calculated on the time between your course start and end dates (this will include holiday periods and could include any periods of temporary withdrawal or leave of absence). 

The time you spend studying in the UK at degree level must not exceed 5 years in total (including your previous course and the course you intend to study). This limit applies even if you need extra time to complete your course.

Exceptions to this Rule
There will be an exemption from the 5 year limit for the following courses: 

  • Architecture
  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Law (where the student has completed a course at degree level in the UK and is progressing to the Common Professional Examination, the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course, or the Bar Professional Training course)
  • Vetinary medicine and science
  • Music at a music college that is a member of Conservatoires UK (CUK)

Students studying an undergraduate degree of at least 4 years
Students who wish to study a Master's course at a Higher Education Institution (such as Queen's University) after having successfully completed an undergraduate programme that was at least 4 years long will be permitted to stay for 6 years. This does not apply to students who took longer than expected to complete their course; for example, due to repeating a module.

Students studying at Doctoral level
Students who are studying for a PhD are exempt from the limit. However, once you have completed your PhD you will not be permitted to apply for any more time in the UK as a student under Tier 4 if it will result in you spending more than 8 years in the UK.

University Requirements
As a Tier 4 sponsor, the University is required to ensure that Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) are only issued to students who qualify for Tier 4. We will therefore require all students to confirm whether they have previously studied in the UK. If you have previously studied in the UK, you must send full details of your previous UK courses and scanned copies of all of your previous UK visas when requested to allow us to make an accurate assessment of whether you are eligible to apply for a Tier 4 visa.

Academic Progression

Requirement for New Course to Represent Academic Progression
This requirement applies to students who are applying for a new Tier 4 (General) visa and who have previously studied in the UK as a Tier 4 student or Student under the immigration rules in place before March 2009. If you have never studied before in the UK, this requirement does not apply to you.

In order to be able to qualify to apply for a Tier 4 visa your new course must represent academic progression from your previous UK course(s). If your new course is at a higher level than your previous course (e.g. if you were studying at undergraduate level and your new course is a Master's degree), this will represent academic progression. If your new course is at the same level as your previous course it is unlikely that you will be able to get a Tier 4 visa to study the new course unless there is a strong argument why this is academic progression in your case.

The University will make the final assessment as to whether the course for which you have applied represents academic progression. In order to make this assessment, the University will require you to provide details of all previous study in the UK and scanned copies of all your previous UK visas. 

English Language Assessment

For most students, details of entry qualifications will also include evidence of your English language ability. The University is required to assess students’ English language competency and must follow UK Visas & Immigration guidance on this matter.

For those students entering degree level study (NQF Level 6 or above), your English language level must be at level B2 or above on the CEFR and Queen’s University will have chosen how to assess your English language level. You may not be required to submit any additional evidence with your visa application, but should ensure you include evidence of all qualifications listed on your CAS. If your CAS states that no further evidence is required (perhaps due to the fact you are a national of a majority English-speaking country) then you will not have to provide any evidence of your English language ability, other than those qualifications listed on the CAS.

For those students entering pre-degree level studies (NQF 3,4,5) or a pre-sessional course your English language ability must be at B1 or above and this must have been assessed using a Secure English Language Test (SELT). Details of this qualification will be stated on your CAS. You will need to ensure you include the relevant certificate with your visa application; otherwise your application will be refused. If you are unsure about this, please contact prior to submitting your visa application.

Visas & Immigration

V&I Webpage

International Student Support

ISS Webpage