The Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) provides an opportunity for students who have almost finished their PhD or other doctorate qualification to apply for an additional 12 months in which to look for and start work in the UK. You can only apply in the UK, and you must have current Tier 4 immigration permission.
The DES is a category of Tier 4, so you are still sponsored by Queen Mary University of London under this scheme. You must meet the Tier 4 requirements in place at the time that you make your application.
Your immigration permission would be issued for an additional 12 months from the expected end date on your new CAS.
Your eligible family members can come to the UK or stay in the UK as your dependants.
When do I apply?
You can apply for the Doctorate Extension Scheme up to 60 days before your award date. Your award date is the date that your PhD is expected to be formally confirmed by Queen Mary as completed to the standard required for the award of a PhD. This date might be different from the end date stated in your original CAS, as the completion date for a PhD is often difficult to determine far in advance.
You must apply before you are awarded. The Research Degrees Office (RDO) can estimate your expected end date once you have received the examiners' report following your viva. You can inform the RDO that you wish to apply for the DES before this, but they will not be able to estimate the award date until this point. If you complete your corrections in a different time scale, for example if you are given 9 months to complete major corrections, but actually complete them in 4 months, then your award date will be different to the estimated award date. Even if you pass with no corrections, there will still be time before you are awarded, so you will still be eligible to apply. It would be a good idea to prepare the documents for your Tier 4 (DES) application in advance so that you are ready to apply once you are within 60 days of your award date.
You will need to request a new CAS for the DES. You can apply for DES any time within the 60 days immediately before your award date. The CAS cannot be assigned after the university has confirmed that your PhD has been awarded.
You must apply for the DES before your current Tier 4 immigration permission expires. You can only apply for the DES in the UK.
If your current Tier 4 permission finishes too early for you to make a DES application, you will need to make a regular Tier 4 application first, then make a DES application later when you are within 60 days of your expected award date.
How do I apply?
This is a Tier 4 application, so you should follow the process for applying for Tier 4 immigration in the UK and provide all the required supporting documents. When you make the Tier 4 DES application, you must show that you have held maintenance funds of £2,530. You must show that you have held the required funds for a consecutive 28 day period (finishing on the date of the closing balance of the statement you provide). Please carefully read our guidance about how you can show evidence of your funds.
If you have been financially sponsored by a government or international scholarship agency during your studies, or within 12 months of making this application if the sponsorship has now stopped, you must provide the unconditional written consent of your financial sponsor for you to apply under Tier 4 DES. You can find more details about this requirement here.
When you are completing the online Tier 4 (General) Student immigration application form, in the "Course details" section, you should select RQF8 as the level of qualification. You will then be asked to confirm if you are applying under the scheme.
Warning: as a CAS cannot be assigned after your doctorate has been awarded, you are likely to have just one opportunity to apply under the DES. It is, therefore, very important that you make sure that your immigration application is completed correctly and your supporting documents meet the requirements. You will not get a chance to correct any mistakes after you have applied. Please read our guide to applying for Tier 4 before applying.
Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)
As part of your Tier 4 DES application, you will normally need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. This costs £300 per year.
English language assessment
In most cases your CAS will state "Higher Education Institution (HEI) sponsor has made assessment". If this is the case, when answering the question "If you are studying at a higher education institution, have they assessed that you meet the English language requirement, or that you are a 'gifted student'?" (if asked), you should select "Yes".
What happens if my actual completion date is later than my expected end date?
If, after your CAS has been assigned, you find out that you are likely to receive confirmation of your award later than the expected end date on the CAS, you can still apply under the scheme as long as you do this before the expected end date and before your current Tier 4 leave expires. However, you will not be able to work without restriction until your award is confirmed. As your Tier 4 sponsor, Queen Mary is required to report your actual completion date to the Home Office. You will not be able to apply to extend your immigration permission under this scheme, so you will not be able to spend the full 12-month period working without restriction. Depending on the length of delay before your award is confirmed, you might instead consider applying under Tier 4 as a student, and, after that, make an application under the Doctorate Extension Scheme. You cannot apply after the expected end date, so you will probably need a new CAS. You should discuss this as early as possible with the Research Degrees Office to check if they are able to assign a new CAS.
What happens if I apply under this scheme but my doctorate is not awarded?
As your Tier 4 sponsor, Queen Mary is required to let the Home Office know when you complete your course and is also obliged to notify the Home Office if you fail your course, do not complete it or if you are awarded a qualification that is lower than a doctorate.
If you fail your course or do not complete it, or if you are awarded a lower qualification, your application will be refused if you are still awaiting a decision. You might want to consider withdrawing the application first. If you have already been granted immigration permission under the scheme, the Home Office will cutail (cut short) your immigration permission. You should seek advice from the Advice and Counselling Service if you think this will happen to you.
Do I need ATAS clearance?
No. However, if your course end date has been extended by three calendar months or more, you will need to apply for a new ATAS certificate to comply with the conditions of your current immigration permission (you must do this irrespective of any DES application you might make).
Most work is permitted under the DES. You can start working almost without restriction once you have received confirmation of your award (this can be before or after the expected end date on your CAS), even whilst your DES application is still pending. Until you are awarded, you should work in line with your Tier 4 (General) conditions.
Work as a Doctor or Dentist in training or sportsperson or coach is not permitted under the conditions of your DES immigration permission.
You are allowed to be self-employed or run a business - if you plan to do this, also check if you meet the requirements of the Start-up Category.
What are my obligations to my Tier 4 sponsor?
You will be contacted by the Immigration Compliance Team at Queen Mary four times during the 12 month validity of your immigration permission. Please ensure that your personal email address is correct on your student record before you are awarded. You should reply to these emails. The contact arrangements will be explained to you in more detail when you are issued with a CAS. If you fail to respond, this would be reported to UK Visas and Immigration, and you could expect your Tier 4 DES immigration permission to be curtailed (cut short).
There is no requirement for you to stay in London.
You can switch from Tier 4 DES to Tier 2, so you may want to use your time on the DES to look for a Tier 2 sponsor. If you are planning to start your own business, you could also switch to the Start-up category.
There are other options, carefully check the requirements of the category for which you wish to apply, to ensure that you meet the requirements, and to check if you can apply in the UK.
If you have Tier 4 DES immigration permission, you can only apply for Settlement (Indefinite Leave to Remain) in the UK if you meet the requirements under the long residence (10 year) rule. You can apply for Settlement earlier from Tier 2, so you may consider switching to Tier 2 sooner if you plan to stay in the UK in the future.
If you want further advice about applying for Settlement or other immigration categories in the UK, you can get legal advice by contacting an immigration adviser. Make sure that the immigration adviser you choose is authorised to provide immigration advice and services by the Office for the Immigration Services Commissioner or other regulatory body.
You can find other regulated advisers through: