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Time limit cap on studies with Tier 4 and Student permission

Time limit ('cap') on studies with Tier 4 and Student permission

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

Student Route

If you apply for your visa under the new Student Route on 5 October 2020 or later, there is no limit for time spent studying with Student permission at postgraduate level (RQF level 7) and above. 

Studies at Undergraduate level, RQF level 6, is still subject to the 5 year time limit, and the information below refers to studies at these levels. 

5 year cap for studies at degree level

There is a maximum time limit of 5 years study in the UK at degree level (RQF level 6). This is known as the 5 year cap. 

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 and Student permission counts, even if you are applying for your new visa from outside the UK.

Any period of time where you hold an existing Tier 4 or Student visa which has not been curtailed or superseded by another visa will also count.

What doesn't count towards the 5 year cap?

Any period of time with Tier 4 (General) or Student 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 or Student 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 paragraph ST19.3 of Appenidix ST of the Immigration Rules.  If you have already completed (or abandoned) a programme that was exempt when you were studying it, it will be counted. 

Please note that the Law Senior Status course at Queen Mary is not an exempted course and will be counted in calculating the time limit.

Going above the 5 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.


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.

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