New Student immigration route Oct 2020

Here you will find information on the new Student route which is to form part of the new Points-Based Immigration System. This new Student route is to replace the current Tier 4 route.


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).

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.

For all other nationals, this new route is to take effect from 9.00 am on 5 October 2020.

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 is to take effect from 9.00 am on 5 October 2020.

What has changed?

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.


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.


Nationals from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA, join nationals from the UK, EU, EEA and Switzerland who are exempt from obtaining ATAS clearance for postgraduate study in relevant subjects. 

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. 

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.
Key facts
  • From 5 October 2020, the Student route will replace the Tier 4 route.

  • The Student route, which falls under the UK's new points-based immigration system, improves on the previous Tier 4 route making for a more streamlined experience for both sponsoring institutions and students.

  • Visas that have been issued through the Tier 4 route are still valid and those eligible will still be able to apply for the Graduate Route when it opens in summer 2021.

  • The Graduate Route will be available to international students who have completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance and who have a valid Tier 4 visa at the time of application.

  • More information about the UK’s new points-based immigration system can be found here. Further guidance for EEA students, who from 1 January 201 will need to comply with the new system can be found here

  • EEA citizens resident in the UK before 31 December should apply to the EU settlement scheme.

FAQs - NEW - (under review)

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.