Advice and Counselling Service

Advice and Counselling Service menu

Time limit cap on studies with Tier 4 leave

Time limit ('cap') on studies with Tier 4 leave

Before issuing your CAS, Queen Mary University of London will check all your previous Tier 4 immigration permission granted for degree level studies, including periods of leave granted before and after your course. 

5 year cap for studies at degree level

The Tier 4 General rules place a maximum time limit of 5 years study in the UK at degree level (RQF level 6) and above. This is known as the 5 year cap.

However, in practice, you can normally spend up to a maximum of 5 years and 11 months studying at degree level with Tier 4 immigration permission, as the rules allow you to complete a fifth year of study if your studies are at a Higher Education Provider (QMUL)

What counts towards the 5 year cap?

Any old-style student visa for degree-level studies that was issued before Tier 4 existed is also counted towards the cap. The limit of time spent in the UK with Tier 4 leave counts, even if you are applying for your new Tier 4 visa from outside the UK.

Any period of time where you hold an existing Tier General 4 visa which has not been curtailed or supeceded by another Tier 4 General visa will also count.

What doesn't count towards the 5 year cap?

Any period of time with Tier 4 (General) immigration permission you have held before reaching the age of 18 will not be counted towards the maximum time permitted.

Time spent in the UK with a Tier 4 General visa issued for studies below degree level (below RQF level 6) will not count towards the 5 year cap

Some specific courses are exempt from the time limit, including Medicine and Dentistry, as long as you are applying to start or continue the programme. You can check which other courses are exempt in the Home Office's Tier 4 policy guidance.  If you have already completed (or abandoned) a programme that was exempt when you were studying it, it will be counted.

Studies at doctoral level (RQF level 8) are also exempt, but see below.

Six year cap

The 5-year cap is extended to 6 years if you have successfully completed a 4-year degree course and you are now progressing to a Masters. The 4-year degree must have had a standard length of four years not, for example, a 3-year course with a repeat year. It can be a course with a year in industry or a year abroad.

As with the 5 year cap, the 6 year cap in practice can allow you to study with Tier 4 General immigration permission up to 6 years and 11 months in the cases where you need a bit longer in order to complete a sixth year of studies.

Going above the 5 year cap (or 6 year cap)

If you take longer than expected to complete your course, for example because you need to retake part of your course or do resits, and to do so would take you over the five year limit, you can only extend your immigration permission if you had very compelling circumstances, such as injury, disability, or other compelling reasons. You can get further advice from Welfare Adviser or another regulated immigration adviser before you apply.

Studies at doctorate level (RQF level 8) 

A first UK PhD, MRes, or one of the other Postgraduate Research Qualifications listed in Annex 3 of the Tier 4 Policy Guidance are exempt from the cap.

However, if you have already completed a Postgraduate Research Qualification, you can only apply for further Tier 4 immigration permission if the new course will bring the total number of years to eight or less. For a full list of acceptable PG research qualifications please see Annex 3 of the Tier 4 Policy Guidance.

Law, regulations and policies can change quickly. The information on our website is given in good faith and has been carefully checked but QMUL cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. QMUL is not responsible for the content or reliability of the linked websites which are provided for further information.

Return to top