International student -Time limit on study

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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 intending to study 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/Eng D and have not previously completed a course at this level. The Home Office will not grant you a further student visa if you have completed a PhD and the new grant of leave would lead to spending more than eight years as a student.
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.
What does this mean ?
To help interpret these new rules below are some Cambridge study scenarios that seem achievable within this time limit:
  1. Studying Tripos, having never held a student visa.
  2. Studying an Integrated Masters, having never held a student visa.
  3. Studying one or two year Masters, having never held a student visa.
  4. Studying a PhD/EngD, having never held a student visa.
  5. Studying  after completing a course below degree level in the UK (e.g. A levels, HNC, HND, CertHE, DipHE, Foundation Degrees (eg, FdA, FdSc)).
  6. Studying a three-year Tripos, after studying at degree level and above for less than two years on a student visa.
  7. Progressing to a one-year Masters, after completing a three year undergraduate course (on time), on a student visa.
  8. Progressing to a two-year Masters, after completing a three year undergraduate course (on time), on a student visa.
  9. Progressing to a one-year Masters, after completing a four year undergraduate course (on time), on a student visa.
  10. Progressing to a two-year Masters, after completing a four year undergraduate course (on time), on a student visa.
  11. Progressing to PhD/EngD irrespective of time already spent on a student visa.
  12. Progressing to a second one year Masters if this would be the fifth academic year of study OR the sixth academic year of study where a four year undergraduate degree has been completed.
NB. For scenarios 6, 8, 10 and 12 the student must complete course on time. The Home Office will not grant further leave to continuing students who need an extension to complete a course if this exceeds the time limit.
Below are some study scenarios that do not appear achievable within this new time limit:
  1. Studying a three-year Tripos, after spending more than two years studying at degree level and above on a student visa.
  2. Studying a Tripos lasting more than twelve months, after spending four years or more on a student visa at degree level.
  3. Studying a Masters course lasting more than twelve months having already completed five academic years on a student visa at degree level.
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