If you have previously studied at degree level in the UK, there are additional factors you need to consider before applying for a new Tier 4 visa to study at Cambridge. The Home Office limits the amount of time a student can study under Tier 4 and also requires students to demonstrate they are progressing academically when they wish to study a further course in the UK.
Any student who requires a Tier 4 visa for their proposed studies is required to demonstrate academic progression for their new visa application. To demonstrate academic progression, a new course must normally be above the level of the previous course studied on a Tier 4 visa. The University must confirm this in the student's Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).
A new course at the same level as the previous course can be considered to represent academic progression if the new course is related to the previous course OR the previous course and new course combined support the student's career aspirations. If the University makes you an offer of admission and you have previously studied in the UK at the same level, your CAS should include a justification of how this represents academic progression in order for you to fulfil the academic progression requirement.
A new course at a lower level is not considered to represent academic progression and students would be required to apply for new Tier 4 entry clearance from outside the UK. Similarly if you have not successfully completed the course for which you were last granted Tier 4 leave, you will not be able to demonstrate academic progression and will be required to apply for Tier 4 entry clearance from outside the UK to undertake the new course at Cambridge.
The Home Office limits the time you can spend studying in the UK on a student visa. This includes leave granted under a Tier 4 visa, and/or a pre-Tier 4 student visa (hereon in referred to as 'student visa').
In general, you are limited to a maximum of five years in the UK studying at undergraduate and/or Masters level. The Home Office allows you more time if:
- your undergraduate degree course was four or five years long and you want to study a Master's degree. The maximum period is increased to six years;
- you are studying Architecture, Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Medicine and Science, Music at a Conservatoire or Law (conversion course, Legal Practice course, or Bar course);
- you are undertaking a PhD, postgraduate research qualification or Research Masters Degree. The Home Office will not, however, grant you a further student visa if you have completed a PhD, postgraduate research qualification or Research Masters Degree and the new grant of leave would lead to spending more than eight years in the UK on a student visa. The eight year time limit does not apply to students who have completed a postgraduate research qualification or a Research Masters Degree at NQF 7 lasting 13 months or less.
To calculate the time limit, the Home Office counts the proposed period of leave together with any current leave and any previous leave held on a student visa. This includes leave granted where the student has subsequently left the UK.
If the length of the new course would lead to the applicant having spent more than the maximum period permitted in the category, the visa application will be refused unless the course can be completed within 11 months of the time limit being reached and is to complete a fifth academic year (at degree level or above) OR a sixth academic year if the student is subject to the six-year time limit as they have studied a four-year undergraduate degree.
These rules apply to applicants, offer holders, continuing and current students.
Before applying to the University, you must consider the time you have already spent in the UK on a student visa. Whilst the University may make you an academic offer, if the University knows that you cannot start or complete your studies within the maximum time limit set by the the Home Office, it will not issue you with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). This is required to make a valid Tier 4 student visa application.