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International Students


Some Tier 4 students can have family with them in the UK as their dependants. The following provides guidance on which students are eligible to bring dependants, who can come as a dependant and how to apply for the visa.

Am I eligible to bring Tier 4 dependants?

The Home Office only permits a student applying for an initial grant of leave under Tier 4 to bring dependant family members if their course is at postgraduate level and at least 12 months long OR they are a new government sponsored student on a course that is 6 months or longer.

If you do not fulfil these requirements, your family could come to the UK as a visitor. You can normally stay in the UK as a visitor for up to 6 months. The Home Office provides further information on what you can and can't do as a visitor to the UK. Nationals from certain countries, i.e. a visa national, are required to make a Standard Visitor Visa application before travelling to the UK. If you are not a visa national, you may obtain entry at the UK border as a visitor.

Who can come to the UK as a Tier 4 dependant

A dependant is either:

  • Your husband, wife or civil partner (you must submit a marriage certificate or civil partnership document) If you are newly married it is recommended that your dependant submits additional official documentation to prove that you have been in a subsisting relationship
  • Your unmarried or same-sex partner (you must be able to submit official documentation such as rent agreements or joint bills  to prove to the UKVI that you have lived together in a relationship similar to marriage or civil partnership for a period of at least 2 years)
  • Your child under 18 years old. (you must provide a birth certificate which includes the names of both parents)

If your partner is not coming to the UK with you, but you wish to bring your child/children as your dependants, the Home Office only allows this in exceptional circumstances. In the dependant visa application you will have to evidence the 'serious and compelling' reasons why the child should be with you in the UK and that you have made suitable arrangements for the child's care. Examples of 'serious and compelling' reasons include having sole custody of the child due to divorce or the death of your partner. It is recommended that you contact the International Student Office if you are considering this option

When and how to apply for a Tier 4 dependant visa

This depends on whether your family member already has immigration permission that allows them to switch into a dependant visa from inside the UK. Family members in the UK as visitors cannot switch into Tier 4 from inside the country and will need to go overseas in order to obtain a Tier 4 visa. Babies born in the UK are able to apply for entry clearance from within the UK

The process of applying for Tier 4 dependant leave and the requirements depends on where the family member is applying from.

For applications made from outside of the UK please read our dependant entry clearance guidance

For applications made from inside the UK please read our dependant leave to remain guidance

If your course is a Masters of 13 months or less, you will apply for your visa under a Tier 4 pilot scheme. If your dependant is applying for their visa at the same time as you, ensure you are aware of the benefits of this scheme.

After you have applied for a Tier 4 dependant visa

If you apply for your visa from overseas and assuming that your application is successful, a 30 day permit will be issued in your passport which will enable you to travel to the UK.

You will then be required to collect your actual visa, in the form of a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), within 10 days of arriving in the UK. You can collect your BRP from the University or Post Office. If you want your family member who is starting a course at Cambridge to collect your BRP on your behalf, they will need to bring your passport with them.


Already here as a Tier 4 dependant?

If you are in the UK as a dependant of another person with immigration permission, then your right to be here remains whilst that person's permission holds.

If that person's circumstances change, for example their permission expires or they permanently leave the UK or your relationship ends, this will affect your permission to remain in the UK.

Sources of further information


Home Office

Contact us

The University's International Student Office provides a visa advice service and can assist with queries in relation to Tier 4 dependant visa applications. However, it is the applicant's responsibility to make sure they understand and meet the UK immigration requirements.