Guidance for Postgraduate Research Students

Postgraduate Research students (PGR students) are engaged on programmes which have a very different structure, so Tier 4 rules are often applied differently to taught or masters by research students. Most students PGR students will receive a CAS to apply for a visa to cover their period of candidature, plus any writing up (pending submission period). This is usually enough time for students to complete their programmes, but occasionally, due to academic circumstances, it may be necessary to make a Tier 4 application either in the UK or in your home country. The University has policy and guidance as to when further Tier 4 sponsorship will be offered in these circumstances and when discretion can be applied. The University policy governing the immigration sponsorship, and registration, of non-EEA students sets out the circumstances applicable to Tier 4 sponsorship with further guidance available from the Postgraduate Research Student Support webpages.

Can I apply for my visa in the UK?

Time limits for Tier 4 students studying at degree level or above

Students may only spend a limited number of years in the UK on a Tier 4 visa. When calculating the permitted time spent in the UK, UKVI take in to consideration all of the time spent in the UK on the visa, not just the time spent studying.

The time limits for Tier 4 students studying at degree level can be found on the UKCISA website.

Students applying for a Tier 4 visa to study a masters by research are subject to the same time limits as all students studying at degree level.

Students applying for a Tier 4 visa to study a PhD are not subject to Tier 4 time limits, unless they have previously been awarded a masters degree by research or PhD under Tier 4. This is specified under Annex 4 of the Tier 4 Policy Guidance.

Under these circumstances, a PhD student may not make a further Tier 4 application if their new visa would result in them spending more than 8 years in the UK.

If you have any concerns that applying for a new programme or extending your time on your current programme at degree level might not be possible under Tier 4 due to time limits, please contact the Visa Support Team.

Requirements for making a Tier 4 application in the UK

There are very specific requirements for students making a Tier 4 application in the UK.

Students holding offers for Newcastle University who are already in the UK and students already studying at Newcastle University may make a Tier 4 application with the assistance of the Visa Support Team, if they meet all appropriate Tier 4 requirements.

Students holding an offer for Newcastle University, who currently have a Tier 4 visa for study at a Private Provider, may not make a Tier 4 application in the UK. You can check whether your current institution is a ‘private provider’ by looking at the list of Tier 4 Sponsors.
This list is updated regularly.

Specific requirements for continuing PhD Students making a Tier 4 application in the UK

PhD students currently registered at Newcastle University or moving to Newcastle University from a different Tier 4 sponsor may make an application for a further Tier 4 visa in the UK, if ‘they are applying to complete the PhD or other doctoral qualification for which they were last given Tier 4… the UK or overseas (including where they are completing the qualification at a new sponsor.’

This means that you cannot make a Tier 4 application in the UK to move from a masters by research degree to a PhD unless the masters by research degree has been awarded and you are within Tier 4 time limits.

Moving from a PhD to masters degree by research of more than 12 months

Students who need to move from PhD to MPhil may be able to do so without having to return home to make an application for a new Tier 4 visa, depending on the conditions of the visa that the student was granted for the PhD programme. Students moving from PhD to MPhil should always ask the Visa Support Team for further advice.

Moving to a new programme at Newcastle University

If you have completed a programme at Newcastle University and you are moving to a new programme here, you can register for your new programme on your existing visa. You must, however, make a Tier 4 application within 6 weeks of registering on your new programme, or before your visa expires, whichever is soonest.

English language requirements

Tier 4 General has specific English language requirements for students studying at degree level. Please refer to the list of acceptable English language evidence for Tier 4 sponsorship.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

A number of PhD programmes in the Faculty of Medical Sciences and the Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering will require ATAS clearance. If you are making a Tier 4 application for a programme which requires an ATAS certificate, please see further information on how to do so on the UKCISA website.

ATAS and changes to your programme of study

An ATAS certificate is issued for a specific programme and is valid for the stated length of the programme, plus 3 months.

If there are any changes to your programme, if your programme end date is delayed by more than 3 calendar months or you need to apply for a new Tier 4 visa, you will need to apply for fresh ATAS clearance. You should ensure that you have obtained your ATAS certificate before you request your new CAS.

Tier 4 Sponsorship for PhD students nearing the end of their programmes

In most cases, the Tier 4 visa issued for a PhD programme will offer you sufficient time in the UK to complete your studies. However, if find that you need further time under Tier 4 to complete your programme you should be aware that the procedures involved in issuing a new CAS may be lengthy. You should familiarise yourself with the timescales involved.

How can the Visa Support Team help you?

The Visa Support Team can assist you with your Tier 4 application in the UK. Please see our webpages for further information.

I am a Postgraduate Research student. Can I work in the UK during my studies?

Tier 4 students studying at degree level should be granted a visa which states that they are permitted to work up to 20 hours per week during term-time. You should check that your visa gives you this permission. If it does not, please contact the Visa Support Team.

PhD students do not follow regular term-time patterns, but do get an annual leave allowance.

If you wish to work more than 20 hours per week, you must ensure that you have an annual leave request approved by your academic unit. You may require written confirmation of your annual leave for your employer.

You may work full-time after the completion of your programme for up to 4 months or the end of your Tier 4, whichever is soonest. For a PhD student, the end of the programme is the submission of your hardbound thesis. If you have a Tier 4 visa, you may not work more than 20 hours per week, unless you have authorised annual leave, if:

  • You are pending submission
  • Under examination
  • Pending re-submission

If you are unsure about your working conditions under Tier 4, contact the Visa Support Team.

Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme

Please see our guidance for Tier 4 sponsorship under the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme.

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