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Switching from Tier 4 Main Applicant to Dependant

Last year, nearly 342,000 students from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) came to the UK. Around 120,000 of these were from China, and 26,000 from India. In some cases, international students may decide to switch from holding their own Tier 4 visa, to becoming a dependant. There are several scenarios in which this might happen; for example, if two international students enter into a relationship in the course of their studies, one may go on to post-graduate study, and the other may cease their studies and apply to become their dependant. In this article, we will discuss whether it is possible to switch from becoming a Tier 4 visa main applicant to a dependant visa holder, and the implications of doing so.

Can I switch from a Tier 4 visa as the main applicant to a Tier 4 dependant visa?

Under the immigration rules, it is possible for a Tier 4 visa holder to subsequently apply for a dependant visa, but only under specific circumstances.

Firstly, to apply for a Tier 4 dependant visa, you will need to be the husband, wife, civil partner, unmarried partner, or same-sex partner of the main Tier 4 applicant. If you are applying as the partner of the main applicant but you are not married, or in a civil partnership with them, you will need to provide evidence that you have been living in a relationship akin to marriage/civil partnership for a period of at least two years.

Furthermore, according to the immigration rules for dependant visas, “If you are the family member of a Tier 4 (General) applicant, whether or not you can apply for the PBS Dependant category in the UK depends on the type of permission to stay that you have and type of course the Tier 4 (General) student is studying or will be studying”.

The guidance goes on to state that as a Tier 4 dependant visa applicant, your partner (the Tier 4 main applicant) must be:

  • a government-sponsored student who is applying for, or who has been granted, entry clearance or leave to remain to undertake a course of study longer than six months;

OR

  • applying for, or has been granted entry clearance or leave to remain in order to undertake a course of study at post-graduate level for nine months or longer, and is sponsored by a sponsor who is a Recognised Body or a body in receipt of funding as a higher education institution from either:
    • I. the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland;
    • II. the Higher Education Funding Council for England;
    • III. the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales; or
    • IV. the Scottish Funding Council

OR

  • applying for, or has been granted leave to remain as a Tier 4 (General) Student on the doctorate extension scheme;

OR

  • applying for entry clearance, leave to enter, or leave to remain, to undertake a course of study that is longer than six months and either:
    • has entry clearance, leave to enter, or leave to remain as a Tier 4 (General) Student or as a student to undertake a course of study longer than six months; or
    • last had entry clearance, leave to enter, or leave to remain within the three months preceding the application as a Tier 4 (General) Student or as a student to undertake a course of study longer than six months;
    • and you (as a dependant family member) must either:
      • have entry clearance, leave to enter, or leave to remain as a family member of Tier 4 (General) Student or a student with entry clearance, leave to enter, or leave to remain, to undertake a course of study longer than six months; or
      • have last had entry clearance, leave to enter, or leave to remain within the three months preceding the application as the family member of Tier 4 (General) Student or as a student to undertake a course of study longer than six months; and
    • the Tier 4 (General) applicant Migrant and you (the family member) must be

applying at the same time.

This latter requirement is particularly relevant as if the main Tier 4 visa applicant is applying for an undergraduate course of six months or more, the dependant must already have (or had within the last three months) clearance as a dependant, or be (or have been in the last three months) a Tier 4 (general) student on a course of longer than six months.

Applicants for a Tier 4 dependant visa in the UK also cannot have been in their last leave either a visitor, short-term student, parent of a Tier 4 (child) student, or “on temporary admission, temporary release or Immigration Bail in circumstances in which temporary admission or temporary release would previously have been granted”.

Satisfying the Maintenance Requirements

As a dependant of a Tier 4 student visa holder, one of the most onerous requirements is the need to provide evidence to the Home Office of sufficient maintenance funds of £845 per month if you are based in London or £680 if based outside of London. This is for the duration of the student’s leave up to a maximum of nine months. One exception to this is if the Tier 4 migrant has official financial sponsorship or a government sponsor. This maintenance requirement applies to the main visa applicant and any dependant children, although the amount required by the main applicant is higher. So, for example, if the main application includes a dependant partner and child, the total amount would be £26,595 (2 dependants x £845 x 9 months = £15,210 + 1 main applicant x £1265 x 9 months = £11,385)

Final words

Switching from a Tier 4 study visa to a Tier 4 dependant visa is possible provided that the eligibility and maintenance requirements outlined above are met. If you are unsure if you can apply for a dependant visa, or if there are better options based on your circumstances and future plans, speak to immigration Solicitors in good time before your existing visa expires. You may be surprised at the options and immigration routes available to you.

Read article:

Switching from Tier 4 study visa to Tier 2 work visa guidance for international students

How to bring a dependant to join you in the UK

Immigration advice for international students in the UK – COVID-19

Reduction in overseas students revealed in immigration statistics – COVID-19

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