Tier 4 Visa Rights & Responsibilities

What you need to know about the conditions of your visa.


  • Your rights and responsibilities

    As a Tier 4 student, you may:

    • Study a full-time course at Ulster University
    • Study a part-time at Master’s level (RQF level 7) or above
    • Take other studies at Ulster University or another institution provided that your other studies do not interfere with your main course of study.
    • Work (as stated on your BRP)

    As a Tier 4 student, you may not:

    • Work as a self-employed person
    • Engage in business activity (this includes any business activity related to a business that you have in your home country)
    • Work as an entertainer, sportsperson or coach
    • Work more hours than you are entitled to during term-time
    • Study a part-time course at undergraduate level (RQF level 6) or below
    • Study your main course at another institution
    • Stay in the UK after your visa has expired, unless you have made a visa application to extend your stay in the UK.

    As a Tier 4 student, you must:

    • Complete your enrolment at Ulster University
    • Provide us with copies of your passport, visa sticker (vignette), Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or proof of your visa application, if you have applied to extend your visa in the UK
    • Keep us up-to-date with any changes to your passport or visa
    • Register with the Police (if you are required to do so)
    • Attend all your classes (lectures, seminars, tutorials, practicals), submit all your coursework and attend all exams or meetings with your supervisor (for research students)
    • Keep your contact details (address, email and phone number) up-to-date.  You can do this through Banner Self Service and by email to Compliance Team
    • Let your Course Director know if, for any reason, you are absent from class or an exam. Your absence must be authorised by your Course Director and/or the Compliance Team
    • Let your Course Director know immediately if you wish to take a break in your studies (Leave Of Absence) or if you wish to make any changes to your studies
    • Apply for an new Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate each time you make changes to your studies (if applicable)
    • Leave the UK or apply to extend your stay in the UK before your visa expires
  • Ulster University's responsibilities

    As a Tier 4 sponsor, it is Ulster University’s responsibility to ensure that we comply with the conditions of our Tier 4 sponsor licence.  Failing to comply with the conditions of our Tier 4 sponsor license is an offence and could result in our sponsor license being withdrawn.

    As a Tier 4 sponsor, Ulster University must:

    • Maintain an up-to-date file of your contact and visa details
    • Monitor your academic engagement.  To do this, we will monitor your attendance in class, exams and/or meetings with your supervisor (for research students), and your academic progress
    • Report changes to your circumstances within 10 working days to UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI).  This includes:
      • If you fail to enrol and begin your studies
      • If you change your course
      • If you change your study location
      • If you begin a work placement as part of your course
      • If you withdraw from your course
      • If you complete your course earlier than the original expected end date
      • If you take a break from your studies (e.g. Leave of absence)
      • If you fail to engage with your studies and we withdraw your Tier 4 sponsorship
      • If you change your immigration status (e.g. you get a different visa)
      • If you apply for a new visa and it is refused, and you lose the right to study in the UK
    • Report to UKVI if you break any immigration rules
  • If you fail to enrol and begin your studies

    You must enrol at Ulster University by the latest start date of your course as stated on your CAS.  If you cannot arrive by this date, you must contact your Course Director and the Compliance Team to see whether we can arrange a later start date for you.  This cannot be guaranteed.

    If we cannot arrange a later start date, we must report this to UKVI.  You will not be able to start your studies and your Tier 4 visa will be cancelled.  You must not try to travel to the UK using your Tier 4 visa.  If you do so, you will be refused entry to the UK.

    If you defer your studies, we will report this to UKVI and your Tier 4 visa will be cancelled.  We will issue you with another CAS before your new course start date so that you can apply for a new Tier 4 visa to come to the UK.

  • If you wish to change your course

    You are normally allowed to change your course without it affecting your visa if:

    • You will continue to study at Ulster University; and
    • Your new course is at degree level or above; and
    • Your new course is at the same or a higher level; and
    • You will be able to complete your new course within your current period of leave (i.e. before your current visa expires)

    Your new course must be related to the previous course for which you were granted a Tier 4 visa, and it must, in combination with your previous course, support your career aspirations.

    You must apply for a new ATAS certificate if this is required for your new course.

    If your new course is shorter than the previous one, your visa will be shortened to reflect your new course end date.  You will normally be allowed to remain in the UK for up to four months after your course end date.

    If your new course is longer than the previous one, you will have to apply for more time in the UK to complete your studies.  You will probably not be entitled to make your Tier 4 visa application within the UK.

    Please contact the Compliance team for advice if you are thinking of changing your course.

  • If you change your study location

    Normally, Tier 4 students are required to carry out their studies on one of our campuses (Belfast, Coleraine, Magee or Jordanstown).  However, there may be a time when you have to study away from the university or undertake a work placement as part of your course.  If you move to another location to study or start a work placement, we will report this to UKVI.

    This will apply to you if:

    • you return home to complete part of your studies and we continue to sponsor you during that time
    • you undertake a period of study abroad as part of your course at Ulster University
    • you undertake a period of research at another institution
    • you undertake a work placement as part of your course at Ulster University

    Your Tier 4 visa will not normally be affected by this change, and your visa expiry date will remain the same.  We will continue to monitor your academic engagement while you are at your new study location.

  • If you withdraw from your course

    If you decide that you no longer wish to study at Ulster University and you withdraw from your course, we must report this to UKVI within 10 working days.  Your Tier 4 visa will be curtailed (shortened) and you will be given 60 days to leave the UK or apply for a different visa to stay.  Once you have left the UK, you must not try to return using your curtailed Tier 4 visa.  If you do, you will be refused entry to the UK.

    You will also lose the right to work from the date that you withdraw from your course. You must not work after you have withdrawn or you will be in serious breach of the immigration rules.

    You should send us evidence (e.g. exit/entry stamps in your passport) that you have left the UK and returned to your home country.

  • If you complete your course early

    If you complete your course earlier than expected, we will report this to UKVI and your Tier 4 visa will be curtailed (shortened).  You will be given a new visa end date.

    You will normally be allowed the usual ‘wrap-up’ period that is granted to Tier 4 students at the end of their course.  This is likely to be 2 or 4 months, depending upon the length of your course.  You may work during this ‘wrap-up’ period.

    Important: If you leave the UK after we have reported your early course completion to UKVI your Tier 4 visa will lapse.  You must not try to re-enter the UK using your curtailed Tier 4 visa, even if it looks as if it is still valid.  If you do try to re-enter the UK, you will be refused entry.  If you need to return to the UK, you must apply for new immigration permission.

  • If you take a break from your studies (including Leave Of Absence)

    A break of less than 60 days

    If you take a break from your studies for less than 60 days, we may be able to continue to sponsor your Tier 4 visa provided that you will be able to resume your studies immediately after the break, and we are confident that you will be able to successfully complete your course before your current visa expires.  In this case, your Tier 4 visa will not be affected.

    A break of more than 60 days

    If you take a break from your studies or take leave of absence for more than 60 days, Ulster University cannot normally continue to sponsor your Tier 4 visa. This applies to any break from your studies including for illness or pregnancy.  We must report this to UKVI and withdraw sponsorship.

    Your visa will be curtailed (shortened) and you will be given 60 days to leave the UK or apply for a different visa to stay.  You will need to apply for a new Tier 4 visa in order to return to the UK to continue your studies.  Once you have left the UK, you must not try to return using your curtailed Tier 4 visa.  If you do, you will be refused entry to the UK.

    In exceptional circumstances, such as serious illness or injury, we may be able to continue to sponsor your Tier 4 visa for a break from your studies of more than 60 days. However, we can only do this if you will be able to resume your studies immediately after the break, and we are confident that you will be able to successfully complete your course before your current visa expires.  In this case, your Tier 4 visa will not be affected.

    Please contact your Course Director and the Compliance Team for further advice if, for any reason, you think that you will need to interrupt your studies.

    Important: You must not work in the UK during an interruption of your studies.

  • If you do not engage with your studies (academic engagement)

    It is essential that you engage fully with your studies at all times. If you do not engage with your studies, we must withdraw sponsorship of your Tier 4 visa.

    Undergraduate and Master’s students

    If you are an undergraduate or Master’s student, this means that you must:

    • attend all your classes, including lectures, seminars, tutorials and practicals
    • attend all exams
    • submit all coursework by the required deadlines
    • make sufficient progress with your studies

    We must monitor your academic progress and keep records of your attendance and any absences.

    You will have two ‘contact points’ each week. These are usually seminars or tutorials.  If you fail to attend 10 consecutive contact points without authorisation from your Course Director and/or Compliance Team, we will withdraw sponsorship of your Tier 4 visa.

    We will also withdraw sponsorship if you fail to attend your classes for 4 weeks in aggregate in one semester, if you fail to make sufficient progress with your studies, or if your overall attendance and engagement is poor.

    If we withdraw sponsorship of your Tier 4 visa, your visa will be curtailed (shortened) and you will be given 60 days to leave the UK or apply for a different visa to stay.  Once you have left the UK, you must not try to return using your curtailed Tier 4 visa.  If you do, you will be refused entry to the UK.

    You will also lose the right to work from the date that we withdraw sponsorship of your Tier 4 visa. You must not work after your sponsorship has been withdrawn or you will be in serious breach of the immigration rules.

    Research students  

    If you are a research student, this means that you must:

    • attend all meetings with your supervisor
    • make sufficient progress with your thesis at different stages.

    We must monitor your academic progress and keep records of your attendance and any absences.

    You will have regular ‘contact points’.  If you fail to attend 10 consecutive contact points without authorisation from your supervisor, we will withdraw sponsorship of your Tier 4 visa.

    We will also withdraw sponsorship if you fail to make sufficient progress with your thesis or if your overall attendance and engagement is poor.

    If we withdraw sponsorship of your Tier 4 visa, your visa will be curtailed (shortened) and you will be given 60 days to leave the UK or apply for a different visa to stay.  Once you have left the UK, you must not try to return using your curtailed Tier 4 visa.  If you do, you will be refused entry to the UK.

    You will also lose the right to work from the date that we withdraw sponsorship of your Tier 4 visa. You must not work after your sponsorship has been withdrawn or you will be in serious breach of the immigration rules.

  • Attendance monitoring interviews

    If we have concerns about your attendance or academic engagement, we will ask you to attend an attendance monitoring interview.

    We will discuss your attendance/academic engagement with you and decide how you can improve this.  If you need any help or support, we will refer you to Ulster University’s support services.

    If, following the meeting you do not improve your attendance/academic engagement, we will have a second attendance monitoring interview with you.  This is very serious and any further issues with your attendance or engagement will result in us withdrawing your Tier 4 sponsorship.

  • If you change your immigration status

    You must tell us immediately if you change your immigration status while you are studying with us so that we can cancel your Tier 4 visa sponsorship and ensure that you continue to have the right to study in the UK.

    We are not required to monitor the academic engagement of students with non-Tier 4 immigration statuses (e.g. Tier 4 dependant, Short-term Study visa, Tier 2, (DES) Doctoral Extension Scheme); however, we must keep a copy of your new visa and/or evidence of your new immigration status.

  • If you break the immigration rules

    We have a duty to report immediately to UKVI if we become aware that a Tier 4 student has broken the immigration rules.  If you do break the immigration rules, your visa will be curtailed immediately and you will be required to leave the UK.  You are likely to be prohibited from returning to the UK for a period of time and future UK visa applications may be refused.

    You will break the immigration rules if:

    • you work more hours than you are allowed (link to working in the UK)
    • you work in a prohibited category (e.g. as a self-employed person, as an entertainer, sportsperson or coach)
    • you stay in the UK without immigration permission after your Tier 4 visa has expired (‘overstaying’)
    • you do not update your Police Registration Certificate (if applicable) when you change your address or get a new visa
    • you are not a genuine student
  • Overstaying

    Your Tier 4 visa will have an end (expiry) date.  You may legally stay in the UK until that date.  It is your responsibility to leave the UK or apply to extend your stay in the UK before your Tier 4 visa expires.

    If you submit an application to extend your stay in the UK before your Tier 4 visa expires, you may continue to stay legally in the UK until you receive a decision about your visa application.

    If you do not leave the UK or apply to extend your stay in the UK before your Tier 4 visa expires, you will be considered an ‘overstayer’.  Overstaying is a criminal offence and is taken very seriously. There is no ‘grace period’ within which you can lawfully overstay after your visa expires.

    If you are an overstayer, you will have no legal permission to be in the UK until you get a new visa. This means that:

    • you will not be entitled to study at Ulster University
    • you will not be entitled to work

    Overstaying will have serious consequences for any future immigration applications that you make. If you overstay by more than 30 days, you will normally be prohibited from coming back to the UK for at least 12 months from the date you leave the UK.

    Overstaying in the UK could also affect applications you make for entry to countries other than the UK. You must tell the truth in immigration applications and declare any periods of overstay if asked about them. If you are found to have used deception in an immigration application you are likely to be barred from the UK for ten years.

    You can only apply for a Tier 4 visa within the UK as an overstayer in limited, exceptional circumstances:

    • You can prove that you were unable to apply for a new visa in time for reasons beyond your control (e.g. if you were in hospital with a serious illness).  In this case, you must submit your visa application within 14 days of your Tier 4 visa expiring
    • You submitted a visa application before your Tier 4 visa expired, but your visa application was refused.  In this case, you must submit your visa application within a specific number of days depending upon whether you submit an application for an administrative review of your refusal decision.

    If you have overstayed your visa, you must contact the Compliance Team immediately.

  • Getting further advice

    Immigration law in the UK is complex and it is important that you are fully aware of your rights and responsibilities.

    It is illegal in the UK to give immigration advice unless you are fully trained and regulated.  It is important that you seek professional advice before making any changes to your studies.  Please do not take advice from your friends.

    The Global Mobility and Experience team provides a fully trained and regulated immigration advice service and staff are permitted to give immigration advice.  The Compliance team can provide advice on your Tier 4 rights and responsibilities and is responsible for issuing your CAS.

  • Attending your graduation ceremony after your Tier 4 visa expires

    If your graduation ceremony takes place after your Tier 4 visa expires, you must leave the UK and apply for permission to return as a Standard Visitor. It is not possible to apply for a Standard Visitor visa from inside the UK.

    The Standard Visitor route should only be used after you have been awarded your degree, as it restricts study activity.  A Standard Visitor visa is not appropriate if you are returning to the UK to work on your dissertation or to re-sit exams.

    It is not possible to extend your Tier 4 visa to cover your graduation ceremony.

    If you are a non-visa national, you do not need to apply for this visa in advance, but you must leave the UK in order to re-enter as a visitor. You may request permission to enter the UK as a visitor when you arrive in the UK and pass through immigration control.

  • Your Tier 4 visa 'wrap-up' period

    You will be granted a 'wrap-up' period at the end of your course.  This is to allow you to remain in the UK to sort out your affairs, attend your graduation ceremony and apply for further immigration permission to remain in the UK (if this is applicable for you).

    If your course is more than 12 months long, you should be granted a 4-month wrap-up period.  If your course is less than 12 months long, you should be granted a 2-month wrap-up period.  This should be reflected in end date of your Tier 4 visa.

  • Returning to the UK during your 'wrap-up' period

    Re-entering the UK during your wrap-up period

    As you will have a valid Tier 4 visa during your 'wrap-up' period, you are allowed to re-enter the UK if you have travelled abroad.

    Please be aware that Border Force Officers may ask you why are coming back to the UK if you have already completed your course. This is because Border Force Officers must assess your intention to confirm that you are returning for the same general purpose for which your Tier 4 visa was granted. Border Force Officers will want to be satisfied that your circumstances have not changed so much that your Tier 4 visa is no longer valid.  In the vast majority of cases, this does not cause significant problems or even further questions.

    However, it is important to let you know what may happen and to advise you what you can do to reduce the risk of being refused re-entry to the UK during your wrap-up period.

    Re-entering the UK after your course had ended but before your results are released

    If you need to travel after the end date of your course, you should take information about the date you might expect your results to be released and the date of your graduation ceremony.

    If your are questioned by a Border Force Officer when you return to the UK, you can explain that you are awaiting the results of your course and that you intend to stay on for your graduation.

    Re-entering the UK for your graduation ceremony after your results have been released

    Although most students are able to enter the UK without any significant problems, we do not advise you to return to the UK on your Tier 4 visa just to attend your graduation ceremony. This is because it is difficult for you to explain that you are returning for a study-related purpose.

    Border Force Officers usually expect that people in this situation will have applied for a visitor visa to attend their graduation ceremony, particularly if it appears that you have already fully left the UK and relocated to your home country.  We, therefore, advise you to apply for a Visitor visa before you return for your graduation ceremony.

    If you do decide to try to re-enter the UK on your Tier 4 visa, you should arrive prepared to show evidence of a flight ticket out of the UK, or be able to explain that you still have issues to attend to in packing your belongings and ending contracts and accounts.

    Re-entering the UK after your graduation ceremony

    We strongly recommend people not to do this. By this stage, it would be reasonable for a Border Force Officer to expect that if you had any further purpose in the UK, such as studies or work, that you would have made the relevant application to do so.

  • If you need to extend your Tier 4 visa in order to complete your course

    You may need to apply for another Tier 4 visa if you need extra time to complete your course.  This may be because you have previously had to repeat some of your modules or re-sit some of your examinations, or because you have to resubmit coursework or re-sit examinations and you need to be at Ulster University to prepare for this.

    If you need to re-sit examinations after your Tier 4 visa expires but you do not need to be at Ulster University to prepare for your re-sits, it may be more appropriate for you to apply to return to the UK on a Short-Term Student visa. The Compliance team will be able to issue a letter to you confirming your re-sit examination dates.

    Please contact the Compliance Team can advise you.

  • If you would like to study a new course at Ulster University

    If you have successfully completed your course and you have been accepted to study a new course with us, you must apply for a new Tier 4 visa before your current Tier 4 visa expires, or you will have to leave the UK and make a new Tier 4 visa application from outside the UK.

    You may only apply for a new Tier 4 visa from within the UK if your new course starts less than 28 days after your current Tier 4 visa expires.