Find out how changes to your studies may affect your Tier 4 visa and who you contact for more information.
Types of changes
- Transferring to another course
- Adding or removing a year abroad or work placement as part of your course
- Completing your course early
- Studying in a different location
- Resitting an exam or repeating a year
- Extending your PhD
- Becoming a sabbatical officer with the Students’ Union.
If you make any changes, this may affect your time limit on how long you can study in the UK.
The action you need to take depends on the kind of course you’re transferring to and how long the course is.
Changing to a similar course
If your new undergraduate or Masters course is the same level, length and subject group as your previous course, you don’t need to make a new Tier 4 application. However, we need to tell UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) of the change, but this will not affect your current visa.
If you switch to a course which needs ATAS clearance, you must get this clearance before we can approve your course transfer – even if you had it for your old course.
It may be possible to change your PhD course without having to apply for a new Tier 4 visa. If you want to change your PhD, email email@example.com.
Changing your course level
If you started an undergraduate course and you want to progress to an integrated Masters degree, you will need to make a new Tier 4 application before you start your new course.
You should also check if you need ATAS clearance for your integrated Masters. If you do, you’ll need to get this before you apply for your visa.
If you are moving to a lower-level course (such as dropping the Masters element of an integrated Masters or moving from PhD to MPhil), you’ll need to apply for a new visa from outside the UK.
This is because UKVI does not regard moving to a lower-level course as academic progression.
You must get your new visa before you switch course.
If you’re upgrading your level of study, you’ll usually need to apply for a new visa.
Changing to a different course
If you’re changing to a course in a different subject group (for example, moving from an arts subject into a science subject), this will affect your visa. Get advice before you apply for the transfer – email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re changing to a course and cannot complete it within your existing visa (for example, transferring back to the start of the first year), email email@example.com.
This does not apply to adding or removing a year abroad or work placement as part of your course.
If you want to add a placement or study abroad year to your course, you’ll need to apply for a Tier 4 visa to cover the rest of your studies.
There are various options available to you and things to consider, such as the time limit on your studies.
Contact our immigration advisers to discuss what is best for you.
If you want to remove a year abroad or work placement, this is OK. See our guidance on completing your course early below.
Your visa may be curtailed (cancelled) if you finish your course early.
This includes if you are:
- a PhD student and you complete your studies before the end date on your CAS.
- removing a year abroad or work placement from your course.
If you complete your course early we need to tell UKVI. Your visa will then be reduced in length, usually to within four months of your new course end date.
Important: If you leave the UK after we have notified UKVI, you cannot re-enter the UK on your existing visa. This is because of immigration regulations around lapsing leave.
If you’re doing a PhD and you want to temporarily change where you study, you need to let us know.
Tell your supervisor if you’re studying away from campus for fewer than three months.
If you’re going away for longer, up to a maximum of 12 months, fill out a change of study location form.
We use this form to tell UKVI about changes to your study location.
Don’t arrange travel until we have approved your change of study of location application.
You can’t change your study location for periods of primary data collection that require ethical approval or insurance. Instead, you’ll need to apply for fieldwork.
Important: If your visa is due to expire while you’re away from campus, we will need evidence of your departure from the UK (such as passport stamp and boarding pass).
If you do not intend to return to the UK before your visa expires we reserve the right to withdraw your Tier 4 sponsorship.
Update your contact details in Sussex Direct if your term-time address changes.
If you’re carrying out primary data collection away from campus, there will be a specific application process.
We have to tell UKVI about any fieldwork you undertake.
Important: If your study location changes, whether overseas or just away from your normal term-time address, you must still engage with your studies and continue to comply with our Attendance and Engagement Policy for Research Students.
Undergraduate and Masters students
If you’re an undergraduate, you might end up studying at a different university as part of a year abroad. We process this in the same way as doing a placement.
If you’re studying a Masters, you can only do a placement if it’s an integral part of your course.
You need to apply for a placement through the Careers and Employability Centre at Sussex.
Important: Make sure you fill out a form supplied by Careers before you start any placement.
If you have not successfully passed a module, you may be offered the opportunity to resit one or more assessments.
Any visa restrictions around this depend if you’re studying an undergraduate or Masters course at Sussex.
If you’re doing a PhD, find out about extending your PhD.
If you need to resit an assessment, you can normally do this before you go into your next year. This does not affect your Tier 4 visa status.
If you fail your resit, we may offer you to:
- repeat the academic year and pay for it, or
- have to temporarily withdraw from your studies and return to resit assessments the following year.
If you temporarily withdraw before your final year, your visa is cancelled and you must leave the UK.
You will need to apply for a new Tier 4 visa in your home country before you return to Sussex.
If your exams take place in the:
- semester 1 or semester 2 assessment periods, you will need to apply for a short-term study visa from outside of the UK to take the exams. You’ll need a letter from us outlining your current student status and details of your resit. Submit this with your visa application. You then return home after the exams and apply for a new Tier 4 visa in your home country before resuming your studies at Sussex.
- summer vacation assessment period, you apply for a new Tier 4 visa in your home country to return for the exams. This Tier 4 visa will also cover the remainder of your course.
If you are a final-year student and you need to come to Sussex to resit an assessment (such as an exam), but you can’t do this within your current visa, you must leave the UK and return on a short-term study visa.
If you do not need to be at the University to do the assessment (such as an essay submission), you may be able to submit it from abroad. Check with your School office.
You can normally stay in the UK up to your current visa expiry date (under “continuation” status) if you have to resit an assessment.
If you don’t need to attend the University for your assessment (such as an essay submission), you may be able to submit it from abroad. Check with your School office.
If you need to come to Sussex to resit an assessment (such as an exam), but you can’t do this within your current visa, you must leave the UK and return on a short-term study visa. You’ll need a letter from us outlining your current student status and details of your resit. Submit this with your visa application.
Repeating a year
If you need to repeat a year of your course, you may or may not need a new visa. This depends on what year you are repeating.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out what to do.
Tip: There is a time limit on studying with a Tier 4 visa, depending on your level of study.
Your aim should be to complete your PhD within four years.
In exceptional circumstances you can ask for an extension to your course and, where necessary, an extension to your Tier 4 visa.
Exceptional circumstances include:
- personal circumstances
- maternity, paternity or adoption.
If you get an extension
If you want to stay in the UK during your extension, you’ll normally need a new visa.
Start the process at least three months before your visa expiry date to avoid any issues.
Extending your visa after submitting your thesis
We will not normally issue a CAS if you have already submitted your thesis and need to extend your visa.
The exception to this is if you’re applying for the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES).
If you have submitted your thesis and are not applying for a DES visa, you must leave the UK before your visa expires.
If you need to return for your viva, apply for a short-term study visa. You don’t need to be on campus to submit corrections – you can do this from outside the UK.
Important: If you receive official financial sponsorship, or have done within the past 12 months, you need consent letters from your sponsor for a visa extension.
Completing your PhD overseas
Many people decide to complete their PhD outside the UK – for example, in their home country.
This is fine but you will need to return to the UK on a short-term study visa for your viva. Email email@example.com once your viva date is set so we can give you the documents you need to apply for a visa.
You may also wish to come back for your graduation ceremony.
If your circumstances change, and you wish to return to study full-time in the UK, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can take a year out from your studies to be a Students’ Union officer.
If you’re an undergraduate, your sabbatical normally happens between years of study, for example, between academic years 2 and 3.
You can also do a one- or two-year sabbatical at the end of your course.
If you’re a postgraduate student, you may need to break your studies mid-year to do a sabbatical.
If you’re a PhD student, email email@example.com to check how this might affect your course.
In any case, we will continue to sponsor you under your Tier 4 visa.
You don’t need a new Tier 4 visa to do a sabbatical year, you just need to apply for a new visa to complete your course.
Find out more about becoming a full-time Students’ Union officer.
If you want visa advice, contact us.