It is important that you understand your Student visa rights and responsibilities so that you can protect your Student visa status for the duration of your studies.
This guidance is relevant to students who hold either a Tier 4 (General) Student visa or a Student visa.
Your rights and responsibilities
As a Student visa holder, you may:
- Study a full-time course at Ulster University
- 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 Student visa holder, 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 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 Student visa holder, you must:
- Complete your enrolment at Ulster University
- Provide us with copies of your passport and right to study documents. This may include:
- a copy of your stamped visa vignettes,
- a copy of your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
- a share code to allow us to download a copy of your digital immigration permission, 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
- 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 which can be found on your student portal
- 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 Student sponsor, it is Ulster University’s responsibility to ensure that we comply with the conditions of our Student sponsor licence.
As a Student 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/engagement in class, exams and/or meetings with your supervisor (for research students), and your academic progress
- Report changes to your circumstances 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 Student visa 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. This is stated on your CAS and in your joining/enrolment instructions.
If you cannot enrol by this date, we must report this to UKVI. You will not be able to start your studies and your Student visa will be cancelled. You must not try to travel to the UK using your Student 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 Student 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 Student visa to come to the UK.
If you wish to change your course
You are only permitted to change your course 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 permission (i.e. before your current visa expires)
If you previously studied in the UK, your new course must either be related to the previous course for which you were granted a Student visa; or must, in combination with your previous course, support your genuine 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 not be permitted to apply for further permission to stay from within the UK. In this case, you must leave the UK and make a new Student visa application for your new course from outside the UK.
Please contact the Compliance team for advice if you are thinking of changing your course.
If you change your study location or undertake a work placement as part of your course
Normally, Student visa holders are required to carry out their studies on one of our campuses (Belfast, Coleraine or Magee). 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 Student 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 Student visa will be cancelled 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 cancelled Student visa. If you do, you will be refused entry to the UK.
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 Student visa will be shortened. You will be given a new visa end date by UKVI.
You will normally be allowed the usual ‘wrap-up’ period that is granted to Student visa holders 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.
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 Student 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 Student 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 Student visa. This applies to any break from your studies including for illness or pregnancy. We must report this to UKVI and withdraw sponsorship of your Student visa.
Your visa will be cancelled 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 Student 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 cancelled Student 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 Student 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 Student 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/Leave of Absence.
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 Student 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 and tutorials, and on-campus sessions and practicals;
- Submit all coursework by the required deadlines;
- Attend all exams and/or class tests;
- Attend meetings with your tutor/supervisor; and
- Make progress in your studies or research
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 will record and monitor your engagement and any absences.
If you regularly fail to engage with your course or fail to attend your monthly meetings with your PhD supervisor, we may withdraw you from your course and withdraw sponsorship of your Student visa.
We will also withdraw sponsorship if you fail to make sufficient progress with your course/thesis.
If we withdraw sponsorship of your Student visa, your visa will be cancelled 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 cancelled Student visa. If you do so, you will be refused entry to the UK.
If we have concerns about your attendance or academic engagement, we will contact you to ask you to explain your lack of attendance/engagement. We may also ask you to attend a sponsorship at risk meeting.
At your sponsorship at risk meeting, 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, you will be sent an intention to withdraw email. The email provides you with an opportunity to explain and evidence your lack of attendance/engagement. Failure to respond to this email is likely to result in us withdrawing your Student visa 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 Student visa sponsorship and ensure that you continue to have the right to study in the UK. Until you provide us with evidence of your new immigration status, you will continue to be treated as a Student visa holder.
UKVI does not require us to monitor the academic engagement of students with non-Student immigration statuses (e.g. PBS Dependant, Standard Visitor visas, Skilled Worker etc); 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 Student visa holder 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
- 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 Student 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
- you have used deception to secure a visa and enter the UK
Your Student 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 Student visa expires.
If you submit an application to extend your stay in the UK before your Student 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 Student 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 Student 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 Student visa expiring
- You submitted a visa application before your Student 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 International Student Advisory Service 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 Student visa rights and responsibilities and is responsible for issuing your CAS.
Attending your graduation ceremony after your Student visa expires
If your graduation ceremony takes place after your Student 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.
It is not possible to extend your Student visa to cover your graduation ceremony.
If you are a non-visa national, you do not need to apply for a Standard Visitor 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 Student 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 Student 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 Student 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 Student visa was granted. Border Force Officers will want to be satisfied that your circumstances have not changed so much that your Student 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 Student 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 Standard 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 Student 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 Student visa in order to complete your course
You may only apply for further Student permission to complete your course from within the UK under certain circumstances.
You may apply for further Student permission if you have previously had to repeat some of your modules or re-sit some of your examinations, or because you need 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 Student 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 Standard Visitor visa.
Please contact the Compliance Team if you think that you will need more time in the UK to complete your course.
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 Student visa before your current Student visa expires. If you cannot do this, you will have to leave the UK and make a new Student visa application from outside the UK.
You may only apply for a new Student visa from within the UK if your new course starts less than 28 days after your current Student visa expires.