New Update from the Home Office Concerning COVID-19 Guidelines for Tier 4 International Students

New updated COVID-19 Guidance for Tier 4 Students

On Friday 29th May 2020, the Home Office updated their guidelines for Tier 4 sponsors and students.

Home Office guidelines will once again be updated by the 31st July 2020. URBC suggests that you familiarise yourself with our FAQs that were done with Bindmans LLP, concerning your legal rights as Tier 4 students.

Home Office statements are italicised. We urge all students on Tier 4 visas to familiarise yourself with these new guidelines in order to protect yourself. Full document can be found here.

Student absences related to Covid-19


2.6 We will not take enforcement action against sponsors who continue to sponsor students who are absent from their studies due to Covid-19.

2.7 Sponsors do not need to report student absences related to Covid-19. This can include absences due to illness, their need to isolate or inability to travel due to travel restrictions.

2.8 Sponsors must maintain records of students who are absent for this reason.

2.9 Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship if a student is unable to attend for more than 60 days due to Covid-19 but intends to resume their studies.

2.10 If a student has permanently withdrawn from their studies, or deferred their studies for reasons unrelated to Covid-19, sponsors must report this as usual.

Distance learning

2.11 Tier 4 sponsors can continue to sponsor existing Tier 4 students who are continuing their studies through distance learning, whether they are in the UK or another country.

2.12 Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship for new students who have been issued a Tier 4 visa but are undertaking distance learning because they have been unable to travel to the UK, or are in the UK but have not yet been able to attend their studies in person due to Covid-19.

2.13 Where a student is continuing to study via distance learning, whether within the UK or abroad, sponsors do not need to report this as a change of student circumstances.

2.14 New international students who have not yet applied for a visa but want to start a course by distance learning do not require sponsorship under Tier 4. This is because they do not need to travel to the UK. Sponsors do not need to tell the Home Office when students have moved to distance learning. These arrangements will apply until 31 July, when they will be reviewed.

2.15 Students accessing courses below degree level via distance learning are not required to meet the 15 hours study per week to be considered full-time, if the sponsor is unable to provide sufficient tuition during this period. Sponsors should make efforts to provide the stipulated number of hours of teaching where possible.

Online monitoring is being used to record attendance monitoring of Tier 4 students

2.17: Where a student is studying by distance learning, where possible sponsors should use expected online contact points such as logging into online learning portals, attending virtual lectures and tutorials, and online submission of coursework to monitor attendance. We will not take action against sponsors who are unable to monitor online contact points due to practical or technical limitations. As stated in paragraph 2.4 – 2.8, sponsors are not required to withdraw sponsorship when students are absent from studies, including online studies, due to Covid-19. If a student has stopped attending their online studies for other reasons, the normal attendance monitoring policy applies to online learning.


Extending a Tier 4 visa

3.4 Students whose leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020, who would otherwise be unable to extend in country, will be able to exceptionally apply for further leave within the UK. This includes students studying at providers who would otherwise be required to apply from their home country for further leave, such as students at non Higher Education Providers with a track record of compliance.

3.5 To be granted further leave to complete an existing course, or to begin a new course students must still meet all other requirements of Tier 4, including academic progression (unless the concessions set out in paragraph 3.6 or 3.7 apply) and maintenance requirements. Students must normally allow no more than 28 days before their studies commence, but we will exercise discretion on this requirement if: • the student had to apply before 31 July because their current leave would expire on or before that date, and • the start date of the new course named on the CAS is no later than 1 October 2020.

3.6 Students who are unable to complete their course of study within the current 14 period of leave due to Covid-19 will be able to apply in country to complete that course. Students who need to repeat a year, retake a module, or resit an exam are exempt from demonstrating academic progression as would normally be the case for those applying in the UK. Further to this exemption, students who otherwise need more time to complete a course as a result of Covid-19 will be exempt from demonstrating academic progression, e.g. where a sponsor suspends studies for the duration of any social distancing measures.

3.7 Students whose leave expires between 24 January and 31 July and would normally be unable to demonstrate academic progression because their new course at the same level as the previous one, but who cannot travel overseas to make an application due to Covid-19, will be exempted from the academic progression requirement if the sponsor confirms on the CAS that the previous course and the new course in combination support the applicant’s genuine career aspirations. This concession will apply to courses with a start date before 01 October.

3.8 Students applying to study a new course can commence study at the institution from the date of the application. Students must obtain a valid ATAS certificate before they commence their studies, if one is required for their course of studies. The sponsor must end their sponsorship and teaching of the student if the Home Office ultimately refuses the application.

Registering with the Police

3.9 Tier 4 students who are required to register with the police as a condition of a grant of leave, or who need to notify the police of a change of circumstances, do not need to attend a police station during the period in which the Government advises people not to leave home unless it is essential to do so. This policy applies from 21 March while social distancing restrictions are in place. Such students must register with the police or update their information once social distancing measures are lifted.

3.10 Students who have already registered with the police and are making a new application in the UK should submit their Police Registration Certificate along with any other documents in support of their application as normal.

Again, we urge all students on Tier 4 visas to familiarise yourself with these new Home Office guidelines. Full document can be found here.


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