New Student immigration route from 5 October 2020

Here you will find information on the new Student route which forms part of the new Points-Based Immigration System. This new Student route has replaced the current Tier 4 route.

There have been some key changes to the student visa application process and documentary requirements which may impact you if you are applying for a Student visa from outside UK, or looking to extend your visa from inside UK.



On 10 September 2020, the Government released details of the requirements that applicants must meet in order to apply under these new rules. The details are contained in a document called the Statement of changes to the Immigration Rules (HC 707, 10 September 2020).

What has changed?

The Immigration rules changed on 5 October 2020, bringing the 'new points-based system' Student route into force. This may affect:

  • Non-European students who are currently in the process of preparing for a student visa application (including applying with dependants) to study a course at GCU;
  • Students who currently hold a Tier 4 student visa and intend to study a further course in the UK upon completion of their current course, as well as their dependants;
  • Students from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, who have not lived in the UK before and intend to first arrive in the UK from 1 January 2021 to study a course which is longer than 6 months.

Definition of a ‘partner’

The definition of a ‘partner’ has been expanded for those permitted to bring dependent partners to the UK. A ‘partner’ now includes a fiancé, or proposed civil partner, which is a new development.

Update on 18 September 2020 – The Home Office has confirmed that a two-year period of cohabitation prior to application will also apply to fiancés and proposed civil partners.

Maintenance (now known as Finance)

If you, your dependent partner, or dependent child have been living in the UK for 12 months or more at the time of your application in the UK, you will satisfy the financial requirements. This means that you will not need to submit any financial evidence with your application.

Students applying under the new route from either inside or outside the UK as Student Union Sabbatical Officers or as a doctor or dentist in training on a recognised foundation programme, will also be exempt from meeting the financial requirements.

The UKVI is now accepting a wider range of financial evidence. If you have prepared your financial evidence according to the previous requirements, they will still meet the new requirements (provided they are dated no more than 31 days before your visa application). However, if you are relying on a Student Loan Letter, the letter must now confirm the lender meets the requirement of providing the loan.


If you are starting a new postgraduate course and you are from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea or USA, you no longer need to obtain ATAS.

Application window

Students applying under the new Student route from outside the UK, now have up to 6 months to do so prior to the start of their course rather than 3 months.

Time limits

Time limits for those studying at postgraduate level have been removed.  (If you are starting a postgraduate course at RQF level 7 or above, the 5-year, 6-year and 8-year study limits have been removed.)

Qualification Evidence

If you are starting an undergraduate or postgraduate course at RQF 6 or above, there is no longer a requirement to submit academic qualification with your visa application.

Low risk applicants

Nationals from the EU, EEA and Switzerland have been added to the list of ‘low risk’ nationals. Students from these countries are not required to submit evidence to show that they meet the financial requirements or provide their academic qualifications used to obtain an offer of study. The Home Office however retain the right to request sight of these documents.

English language

New ways of satisfying the English language requirement have been introduced. This can now be satisfied if:

  • This requirement was met successfully in a previous application made either outside or inside the UK.
  • You have obtained either a GCSE, A Level or Scottish equivalent in English language or literature following education at a UK school whilst below the age of 18.
  • Students who are nationals of Malta will be classed as being from a majority English speaking country. Such students can rely on their nationality, and students of other nationalities can submit academic qualifications taught at an institution in Malta.

Switching in the UK

The new route has greatly increased the number of people who will be able to apply as a Student, Child student or Student dependant in the UK. Instead of listing categories of people who can apply in the UK, it sets out who may not apply in the UK without having their application rejected as invalid.

On the date of application, Students and their dependants must not have immigration permission as: a Visitor, Short-term student, Parent of a Child Student, Seasonal Worker, Domestic Worker in a Private Household, outside the Immigration Rules or on immigration bail.

Child students must not be in the UK as a Visitor, Short-term student, with permission outside the Immigration rules or on immigration bail.

Anyone else can apply in the UK, though academic progress is still a requirement for a Student applicant who has previously had Tier 4 or Student immigration permission.

For further information, please visit the GOV Statement of Change or information available on UKCISA website.

FAQs issued by Home Office - Oct 2020

Please note the below FAQs have been released by the Home Office in October 2020. 

How does the new Student route differ from the current Tier 4 route for international students?

The Student route will streamline and simplify the current requirements and application process for international students studying in the UK.

Improvements include:

  • Allowing greater ability to apply for further leave as a Student in the UK, including study at any student sponsor type and at any level;

  • Giving prospective students overseas the option to apply up to six months in advance of their course start date;

  • Removing study time limits for all students on postgraduate courses;

  • Removing the maintenance requirements for students who have already been in the UK for 12 months with valid leave, for those on recognised

    foundation programmes as doctors and dentists, and for students applying as student union sabbatical officers;

  • Expanding ‘light touch’ documentary evidence requirements to EEA nationals;

  • Giving higher education providers with a track record of compliance the ability to confirm students academic ability without the need for previous

    qualifications to be submitted alongside an application;

  • Bringing in a new ‘academic engagement’ policy to replace attendance monitoring for students at degree level and above;

  • From the summer of 2021, introducing the new Graduate route for those who successfully complete a degree in the UK allowing them to work

    or look for work for up to two years (three years for PhD graduates) after their studies.

What happens to applicants who have made an application / been issued a CAS before the new route goes live?

  • Applicants who have a valid Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) issued before 5 October at 0900 under the Tier 4 route will be able to use

    it for an application under the Student route.

  • All live applications made before 5 October at 0900 will be considered under the rules in effect at the time of application.

  • Students with a CAS issued before the launch of the route will not be in any way disadvantaged if they make an application after the new rules come

    into effect. 

Can international students work under the Student Route?

As with the previous Tier 4 route, depending on the level of study and the sponsoring institution, a student may be able to take up part time work in

the UK alongside their studies. Different restrictions apply regarding what type of employment is permitted. Students will be notified of the work conditions that apply to them when they receive notice of their application being granted.

What about EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who have already started studying?

EEA/Swiss students who are already studying in the UK, or plan to come to the UK to study by 31 December 2020 should apply under the

EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) before 30 June 2021.

What about EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who have started studying by distance learning and will come to the UK in the future?
EEA/Swiss students starting courses through distance learning must apply under the Student route if they are coming to the UK from 1 January 2021 

What will the application process be like for EU/EEA/Swiss nationals?

  • EEA and Swiss nationals will be able to use the new ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app which will use a chip in their passport to verify an

    applicant’s identity. If the chip is broken, or someone is unable to use the app then they will be directed to a Visa Application Centre to register

    biometrics instead.

  • Those able to use the UK Immigration ID check app when applying will receive electronic notification of UKVI’s decision. This will set out the

    full conditions of their immigration status.

  • They will also be able to check their immigration status and its conditions at any time using the ‘view and prove’ service on GOV.UK. This online

    service will provide a secure record of someone’s immigration status which is held digitally by the Home Office and is available to them at all times.

  • The ‘view and prove’ service can also be used to share and evidence of someone’s rights in the UK – such as the right to work or study – by

    giving organisations or people, such as employers or universities access to the relevant information about their immigration status. 

Will EU/EEA/Swiss citizens need to apply for a visa for short term study?

  • EU/EEA and Swiss students can continue to visit the UK for up to 6 months, without applying for a visa and may participate in short

    term study. All nonrecreational study must be undertaken at an accredited institution. Recreational courses undertaken for leisure, that last no longer

    than 30 days and which do not lead to any formal qualifications, will not need to be undertaken at an accredited institution.

  • The 6-11 month short term study route is distinct from the main student route and requires applicants of all nationalities to obtain a visa

    before travelling to the UK. This route is specifically for people taking English language courses, and it does not require sponsorship and does not permit work. 


When will the new route take effect for EEA nationals?

For EEA nationals, the new Student route will take effect for applications made in the UK on or after 1 January 2021. EEA nationals outside the UK can apply under this new route from 5 October 2020, for entry to the UK from 1 January 2021.

When will the new route take effect for non-EEA nationals?

For all other nationals other than EEA nationals, this new route went live from 9.00 am on 5 October 2020.