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Time limits on UK study

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What is the maximum amount of time I can study in the UK?

This page provides more information about each of the study caps and attempts to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

On 6 April 2012, the UKVI (Home Office UK Visas & Immigration) introduced limits as to how long a student would be permitted to stay in the UK studying on a student visa at various levels (study cap). This was last revised on 5 October 2020 where study cap for postgraduate courses are removed.

If, after reading the information below, you are still concerned that you may not be eligible for a CAS because of the time limits on UK study, and would like to make an enquiry before you make an application/ accept an offer to study at Warwick, please check our visa pages and make a self-assessment in the first instance. Your Admissions team will assess your 'study cap' formally as part of the CAS assignment process. For students who have already started their course at Warwick, please contact the Immigration Service.

If you want to calculate the duration of your UK study we suggest that you use the 'calculate time between two dates' function on the time and date website.

  • 2-year-cap: for sub-degree level courses such as Warwick International Foundation programme, Diploma courses and English language courses.
  • 5-year cap: for studying at degree level (RQF level 6, typically a Bachelor's degree)
  • Leave granted before your 18th birthday is not counted towards any study cap.
  • There is no study cap for postgraduate level courses (where the aimed qualification is at RQF level 7 or 8).
Please click on the relevant section below to expand the guidance.
  • If you are aged 18 or over, you cannot spend more than two years in the UK on a Student Visa studying below degree level courses. If the grant of leave for a proposed course of study would lead to you to spending over two years (24 months) studying below degree level on a Student Visa since the age of 18, your visa application will be refused.

    What counts as 'below degree level' study?

    Any course which leads to a qualification below Bachelor's level (Level 6) or equivalent of the RQF (Regulated Qualification Framework, this is previously known as NQF). This includes, for example, any Foundation programme where the exit qualification is below RQF level 6, an English language course, or a Diploma course.

    How will the UKVI calculate this study cap?

    The UKVI will consider how much leave you have already received to study courses on Student Visa since the age of 18, and add the length of leave that you will receive if your visa application for the course you wish to pursue is granted. They will base their calculation on the 'valid from' date and the 'valid until' date of each period of leave since the age of 18.

    Study undertaken on any other UK visa which permits study, such as a Points Based System Dependant visa, or Short Term Student Visa, will not be included in the study calculation. However, periods of leave granted but not spent studying (for example, if you withdrew before completion) will be included until the date your visa was curtailed (if it was ever curtailed).

    The UKVI will count time in months, with individual days rounded upwards or downwards to the nearest month. Dates falling on the middle day of the month will be rounded downwards. If you have two visas with an overlapping period, the overlapping period will not be double-counted.

    Example:

    You have previously studied an English language course with a Student visa valid from 10 September 2020 to 10 August 2021. You turned 18 years old on 1 January 2021. You now want to study the Warwick IFP (International Foundation Programme) with a course start date of 26 September 2021 and course end date of 3 July 2022.

    Calculation: if your visa for the Warwick IFP programme is granted, your leave would begin from 26 August 2021 and expire on 3 September 2022 (course duration 9 months + 1 month added before + 2 months added after the course). This is a total of 12 months. You have previously held a Student visa for 7 months since the age of 18 (rounded down for the month of August 2021). This is below the two year time limit.

  • The five year limit applies to all degree level study (RQF Level 6, typically a Bachelor's degree) undertaken in the UK on either a Tier 4 (General), Student Visa or on an old-style Student Visa (this is the student visa issued before 31 March 2009).

    This does not apply to students on integrated undergraduate Master's degree (for example, MEng) as the exit qualification is at postgraduate level.

    If you are making a Student Visa application to enter or remain in the UK and if that permission were granted it would result in you having spent more than five years studying at degree level in the UK, your application will be refused, unless you qualify for one of the exceptions as detailed below.

    What counts as a 'degree level' course?

    From 5 October 2020, 'Degree level' is defined in the UK Immigration Rules as a course which leads to a recognised UK degree at Bachelor's level, or an equivalent qualification at level 6 of the RQF (Regulated Qualification Framework, previously known as NQF).

    How will the Home Office calculate the duration of my study?

    The UKVI will consider how much leave you have already received to study a 'degree level' course on a Tier 4 (General) , pre-Tier 4 Student or Student Route visa and add the length of leave that you will receive if your visa application for the course you wish to pursue is granted. They will base their calculation on the 'valid from' date and the 'valid until' date of each period of leave.

    When calculating the 5-year study period caseworkers will not include any time spent in the UK as a Tier 4 (Child) Student, or any time spent in the UK as a Tier 4 (General) Student aged 16 or 17 years.

    Study undertaken on any other UK visa which permits study, such as a Points Based System Dependant visa, or Short Term Student Visa, will not be included in the study calculation. However, periods of leave granted but not spent studying (for example, if you withdrew before completion) will be included until the date your visa was curtailed (if it was ever curtailed).

    The UKVI will count time in months, with individual days rounded upwards or downwards to the nearest month. Dates falling on the middle day of the month will be rounded downwards. If you have two visas with an overlapping period, the overlapping period will not be double-counted.

    Moreover, the UKVI has introduced a concession policy which means if the 5-year-cap would prevent you from completing a fifth academic year at degree level or above, then the limit is extended to five years and 11 months (i.e., 71 months).

    Example:

    You have completed the first year of an undergraduate course elsewhere and decided this is not for you. Now you want to start afresh and apply to study a four-year Bachelor’s degree at Warwick which incorporates a year of work placement.

    Your visa would have exceeded 5 years because you typically get an additional 4 months after the end of your course, but due to the 11-month concession it is likely that you will be eligible for a CAS to study the new course at Warwick if you haven't taken a gap year between the two courses.

    Are there any exceptions to the 5 year study limit?

    Yes, there are a number of exceptions.

    • A number of courses are exempt from this study limit if you are applying to study it, for example, Architecture; Medicine; Dentistry; Veterinary Medicine and Science; Music and certain law conversion courses. The only course which is offered by Warwick and is exempt is the MBChB course. Note: if you have previously been granted leave to study one of these 'exempt' courses, and your current application is for a different course that is not exempt, then the time you were previously granted will be counted towards the time limit.
    I took temporary withdrawal/left my course early, will the period not studying still be included in my study cap calculation?

    Periods of temporary withdrawal or periods where you held a valid Tier 4 / Student visa but did not study (for example, if you completed your course early by 1 year), will still count towards the 5-year-cap until your visa was subsequently curtailed. However, if there are exceptional compelling and compassionate circumstances that either prevented you from completing the course within the time given or caused you to prematurely leave your course (for example, serious illness or disability) then you should get in touch with the Immigration Service for individual advice.

    If you did take temporary withdrawal from your studies or completed your degree early, your Higher Education Provider (university) is obliged to report this to the UKVI as part of their sponsorship duties. This report will usually trigger curtailment action from the UKVI to shorten the visa issued for the study period, however, this has not been actioned consistently. If you are concerned that you may not be able to pursue a course at Warwick because you are not sure if your previous visa was curtailed, you can get in touch with the Immigration Service and give consent for us to request a 'Curtailment and Immigration History check' from the UKVI on your behalf.

    What if I have exceeded 5 years of study in the UK and need more time to complete my course?

    If you are concerned that the five year study limit may mean that you are unable to complete your current course of study you should contact the Immigration Service for individual advice. If there are compelling and compassionate circumstances that either prevented you from completing the course within the time given or caused you to prematurely leave your course (for example, serious illness or disability), and there is strong evidence of this, it may be possible for the University to assign a CAS exceptionally to support your visa application.

    You should be aware that the decision to grant further leave to enter or remain in the UK rests with the UKVI. Even if the University has decided to exceptionally assign a CAS this does not guarantee that your visa application will be successful.