If your child is a non-EEA national and you are looking for them to attend an independent fee-paying school in the UK, you will need to know the rules for the Tier 4 child visa.
The following guidance for parents and legal guardians summarises the rules and requirements when making an application for a short-term study visa, as well sa how and when to make an application, and how you can accompany your child to the UK under your own visa.
What is a Tier 4 Child Visa?
Tier 4 of the UK points based system is the primary immigration route for non-EEA or non-Swiss students who wish to undertake a course of studies in the UK, typically on a full-time basis. There are two categories of visa under Tier 4.
The Tier 4 Child Visa is for children aged 4-17 years old coming to the UK to attend an independent fee-paying school.
Students aged over the age of 16 wanting to undertake their post-16 education in the UK should apply under the Tier 4 General Visa.
What are the Tier 4 Child Visa requirements?
For your child to qualify for a Tier 4 Child Visa, they will need to satisfy all of the following requirements:
- They must have the consent of their parent or legal guardian
- They must have an unconditional offer of a place on a suitable course with a licensed Tier 4 sponsor
- They must have sufficient funds to cover their course fees and living costs
The consent requirement
All Tier 4 Child applicants will need to provide the consent of their parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to be allowed to travel to the UK. This will need to be provided in the form of a letter from you as their parent or guardian, not only confirming your relationship to the child but also all of the following:
- You have given your consent to the application
- You agree to the arrangements made for their travel to and reception in the UK
- You agree to their living arrangements in the UK
The letter must confirm if you have legal custody or sole responsibility for the child. If you have sole custody, you must sign the letter. If you do not have sole custody, the letter must confirm that each parent or legal guardian agrees to the contents of the letter, and be signed by both.
The studies requirement
Your child will be required to show that they have been accepted onto a recognised course of study at an approved UK institution, licensed by the UK Home Office under Tier 4 of the points based system.
Your child’s studies should be at or below level 2 of the National Qualifications Framework to qualify. The course of study should also be either:
- Compliant to the National Curriculum, Regulated Qualifications Framework and Independent School Education Inspection Standards, or
- Accepted as being at the same academic level as the National Curriculum or the National Qualification Framework by Ofsted (England), the Education and Training Inspectorate (Northern Ireland), the HM Inspectorate of Education (Scotland) or Estyn (Wales)
The Tier 4 Child Visa can also be used to complete a short preparatory or pre-sessional course before your child undertakes their main course of studies, as long as this is not a foundation course that will prepare them for direct entry to a Higher Education Institution (HEI).
Having been offered a place on a suitable course by an education provider with a Tier 4 licence, your child will be sent a reference number called a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). The CAS reference number must be used to apply for their Tier 4 Child Visa within a period of six months.
The maintenance requirement
Your child must be able to show that they have sufficient funds to pay their course tuition fees and to support themselves during their stay in the UK.
The amount your child will need to show for their tuition and any boarding fees will be set out on their CAS. If your child is not going to be accommodated by their Tier 4 sponsor, the amount for living costs will vary depending on the length of their course, where they will be studying and their living arrangements.
If your child is aged 16 or over and living independently, they must show that they have money for their living costs for each month of their course, up to a maximum of nine months. Your child must be able to show they have:
- £1,265 per month for living costs if they are going to be studying in London for the majority of their study, ie; more than 50% of their study time, or
- £1,015 per month for living costs if they are going to be studying outside London, or anywhere else in the UK, for the majority of their study
However, the maintenance requirement for independent living can be satisfied by showing that you, as their parent or legal guardian, have sufficient funds in your bank account and that you consent to your child using these funds.
If your child is under the age of 12 and you are accompanying them to the UK as their parent or legal guardian, your child will need to show that they have £1,560 for living costs for each month of their course, up to a maximum of nine months.
This will increase if you are accompanying more than one child. For example, for each additional Tier 4 Child student that you are accompanying, they must show that they have £625 per month for living costs.
If your child will be staying with a carer who is a resident British citizen or other UK resident, they will need to show their intended carer has agreed to look after them in the UK for the length of their course. They will also need to show they have at least £570 per month to care for and accommodate them for each month of the course, up to a maximum of nine months.
How do I apply for a Tier 4 Child Visa?
To apply for a Tier 4 Child Visa an application must be made online. You will also need to make an appointment at a visa application centre for your child to enrol their biometric information, ie; a scan of their fingerprints and a digital photo of their face. This will allow them to hold a biometric residence permit in the UK.
If your child is under the age of 16 they will need to be accompanied at this appointment by a parent or legal guardian. Children under the age of 5 do not need to provide their fingerprints but will still need to provide a photograph.
In support of their visa application, your child will also need to provide the following documents:
- A current passport or other valid travel documentation
- Proof that they can pay for their course and support themself
- Proof of parental or other legal guardian consent
- Proof of their relationship with you as their parent or guardian
- Any tuberculosis test results if from a country where testing is required
The application fee for a Tier 4 Child Visa is £348 when applying from outside the UK. There may also be an Immigration Healthcare Surcharge (IHS) payable. This will allow your child to gain access to the NHS during their stay in the UK.
When should I apply for a Tier 4 Child Visa?
The earliest you can apply for a Tier 4 Child Visa is three months prior to the start of your child’s course. A decision will usually be made on this type of application within about three weeks. In some cases you may be able to pay for a faster decision using one of the priority services.
If the visa application is successful, your child can arrive in the UK up to one week before their course starts if it lasts six months or less, or up to one month before if their course lasts more than six months.
The duration of a Tier 4 Child Visa will depend on their age. Applicants under the age of 16 will be allowed to stay in the UK for the length of their course or up to six years, whichever is shorter, whilst this is limited to three years for those aged 16-17. In either case, an additional period of four months will be allowed after your child has completed their course.
In cases where you would like your child to continue with their studies for longer, you may be able to apply for an extension of their visa from within the UK, subject to continuing to meet the eligibility requirements.
If your child has turned 18 during their time in the UK, they will still be able to carry on with their existing course until their permission to stay ends. However, to enrol on a new course they will need to apply under another category of visa, for example, as a Tier 4 General Student.
Can I accompany my child to the UK?
If you are a parent or legal guardian from outside the EEA and Switzerland and you would like to accompany your child to the UK where they are, or will be, attending an independent fee-paying day school, you will need to apply for what’s known as a Parent of a Tier 4 Child Visa.
You can only apply for this type of visa if you meet the following requirements:
- You have enough money to support yourself and any dependants during your stay in the UK
- You maintain a second home outside the UK
- You plan to leave the UK at the end of your visit
- You are able to meet the cost of the return or onward journey
If your application is successful, your visa will usually last for either six or twelve months. After that, you can get extensions for twelve months at a time until your child reaches 12 years of age. If your child is remaining in education in the UK without you, you will need to make arrangements for their ongoing care.
You cannot switch into a different immigration category from this visa when it expires, and nor can you take paid work or study yourself under this visa.
The fee for applying for a Parent of a Tier 4 Child Visa is £516. You may also be liable to pay the IHS to enable you to gain access to healthcare services in the UK during your stay.
DavidsonMorris are leading UK immigration specialists. Our team of immigration lawyers specialise in UK Home Office applications, including Tier 4 visa applications for children and their parents. We can guide you through the process to remove the stress and optimise your prospects of being successful. Contact us for advice on your application.
Tier 4 Child Student Visa FAQs
What is a Tier 4 Child Visa?
A Tier 4 Child Visa is the primary immigration route for non-EEA students under the age of 16 wanting to study in the UK. This route is for students aged between 4-17 coming to the UK to be educated at an independent fee-paying school.
How long does a Tier 4 Child Visa last?
The duration of a Tier 4 Child Visa will depend on the age of the child. For a child under the age of 16, they will be allowed to stay in the UK for the length of their course or up to six years, whichever is shorter, whilst for a child aged between 16-17, the maximum time permitted will be three years.
Can parents accompany UK students?
As the parent or legal guardian of a child under the age of 12 attending an independent fee-paying day school in the UK, you can accompany them under a Parent of a Tier 4 Child Visa, as long as you meet the eligibility criteria. The fee for applying for this visa is £516.
Can parents get indefinite leave to remain in UK?
You can accompany your child to the UK under a Parent of a Tier 4 Child Visa if they are attending an independent fee-paying school, but you will not be allowed to stay in the UK on an indefinite basis. You can apply to extend your visa for twelve months at a time but only until your child reaches 12 years of age.