Can Tier 2 Dependant Visa Holders Study in the UK?
If you are currently in the UK as a dependant of a Tier 2 visa holder, you will most likely be aware that you are subject to some restrictions imposed by the Home Office. Thankfully, the Tier 2 dependant visa is relatively flexible and provides a great deal of options not available on many other visa types. One of the biggest advantages of this visa is that holders are free to work with any employer (with the exception of working as a Doctor or Dentist in training or as a sportsperson or coach). Individuals with a Tier 2 dependant visa can also study, again subject to some specific restrictions which should be understood before applying for a course.
What are the restrictions on the study as a Tier 2 dependant visa holder?
Unlike many other visa types, the restrictions on Tier 2 dependent visas are fairly limited, including when it comes to study. Paragraphs 74 and 75 of the ‘restrictions on study’ section, in the ‘Skilled Workers and Students (Dependants) - Policy Guidance’ document, state:
“74. If you are 18 or over at the time of your application, or will turn 18 during your leave you need to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if you wish to undertake study or research which is one of the following:
- a Doctorate or Master’s degree by research in one of the disciplines listed in paragraph 1 of Appendix 6 of the Immigration Rules, or
- a taught Master’s degree or other post-graduate qualification in one of the disciplines listed in paragraph 2 of Appendix 6 of the Immigration Rules, or
- a period of study or research in one of the disciplines listed in paragraphs 1 or 2 of Appendix 6 of the Immigration Rules at an institution of higher education where this forms part of an overseas postgraduate qualification.
75. If you are unsure whether this applies to the course of study you wish to take please go to www.gov.uk/find-out-if-you-require-an-atas-certificate”.
This means that as a Tier 2 dependant visa holder, you will be able to study, but may need to provide an ATAS certificate in very limited circumstances.
Related Article: Read also ‘How to Swtich From A Student Visa To A Work Visa in the UK at end of course study’
What is an ATAS certificate?
Under the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS), international students from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) who are studying or researching in particular subjects which are considered ‘sensitive’, will need to acquire an ATAS certificate before they are permitted to commence their course.
The Government website states, “The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) requires all international students who are subject to UK immigration control, who are intending to study at post-graduate level in certain sensitive subjects, knowledge of which could be used in programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery, to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate before they can study in the UK”.
As such, ATAS certificates are only required for a very limited number of students specialising in weapon research and development. They are typically only required at the post-graduate level, or if an undergraduate course leads into an integrated masters level course.
Will I pay international or domestic study fees?
The Home Office does not determine the fees charged by UK educational establishments, but there are two sets of regulations which apply: The Education (Fees and Awards) (England) Regulations 2007, which provide guidance for post-graduate courses; and The Higher Education (Fee Limit Condition) (England) Regulations 2017 for undergraduate courses.
Essentially, there are three broad student fee bands that apply; home (UK), EU, and international. To qualify as a ‘home (UK) student’ and hence pay lower fees, you will need to:
- be settled in the UK on the first day of the first academic year of the course (i.e. there is no immigration restriction on the length of your stay), and;
- be ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK (i.e. your main home is in the UK, and you are choosing to live in the UK), and have been for the full three years before the first day of the academic year.
- Show that the main reason for you being in the UK was not to receive full-time education.
As Tier 2 dependant visa holders will be subject to immigration control, they may not qualify as a home student. Another option to be classed as a home student, and hence pay the lower domestic fee rate, is the long-residence route – meaning they must have been in the UK for seven years, be ordinarily resident in the UK now and for the past three years, and that three year period cannot have been “wholly or mainly for the purpose of receiving full-time education”.
Given that university fees for international students can be as high as £18,000 per year, there is much to be gained from paying only home student fees where it is possible to do so. This is also a complex and heavily regulated area that can be difficult to navigate. If you are a Tier 2 dependant visa holder and would like to study, and are unsure if you should pay full overseas rates, or home student rates, speak to an experienced immigration solicitor. Doing so may save you tens of thousands of pounds, and may make the difference between being able to study or not.
In any event, it is advisable not to sign an agreement with a learning establishment agreeing to pay overseas rates, and only to do so if you have explored all possible options and are able to commit financially to making the required payments.
The UK is renowned for its educational establishments and quality of education. Having the opportunity to study as a Tier 2 dependant visa holder will provide you with great opportunities not only to learn but to expand your career (or even start a new career). We wish you the best of luck with your studies in the UK.