Tier 4 – Guidance for International students inside/ outside the UK during coronavirus

Across the globe, measures are being taken to combat the spread of coronavirus. This is causing mass disruption to inbound and outbound UK travel, in particular to students who are currently on temporary leave in the UK or who are in the process of applying to come to the UK.

UK Visa Partners have been receiving an increasing number of enquiries from Tier 4 sponsors concerned about various issues arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. We therefore set out below a guide to the current Frequently Asked Questions from both Tier 4 sponsors and students.

1.What should I do if I’m not able to travel to the UK to start my course?

Tier 4 students are not normally permitted to undertake distance learning courses. However, due to the current exceptional circumstances, we will not consider it a breach of sponsor duties to offer distance learning to existing Tier 4 students in the UK or who have chosen to return overseas but wish to continue their current studies. Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship in these circumstances. If a student has permanently withdrawn from, or formally deferred, their studies, the usual reporting requirements apply.

1) If you are a new  international students who have been issued a Tier 4 visa but have been unable to travel to the UK are permitted to undertake distance learning and sponsorship does not need to be withdrawn.

2) If you are a new international students who have not yet applied for a visa but wish to commence a course by distance learning do not need to travel to the UK to do so and therefore do not require sponsorship under Tier 4.

3) If you are currently studying in the UK but wish back to your country are permitted to undertake distance learning and sponsorship does not need to be withdrawn.

2.Can I apply for a Tier 4 student visa within the UK?

You can apply in the UK under the same or a different immigration category if you would normally have to leave the UK to make the new application. For example, if you are here with a short-term student visa you will be able to apply in the UK under Tier 4. You make this application online and pay the fee for an application made in the UK. If you have any concerns, please contact us.

3.How can I take my English test

Many UKVI-approved English language test centres are closed. They are working on developing alternative online test formats. The Home Office is considering whether it will approve alternative ways of assessing English language. If you wish to take a IELTS test, you can check the update on their global test info on here https://www.ielts.org/news/2020/covid19-information-for-our-global-test-taker-community

4.Does my university will withdrawn my sponsonship If I have have already left the UK?

If you need to leave the UK earlier than expected, you must tell your education provider. It is very important that they know what you are doing – if you cannot see anyone, send an email or call them. Your Tier 4 sponsor should not report your departure to the Home Office if you let them know that you intend to return to the UK to continue your study. Even if you have already left, tell them now that you are not withdrawing from your course, if that is the case.

As your Tier 4 sponsor should not have reported your early departure, you will be able to return to the UK to resume study, as long as you are able to travel back before your immigration permission expires. 

If you think or know that your Tier 4 sponsor has reported you to the the Home Office, you can ask them in writing to withdraw the report. This means that you will be able to return to the UK on your existing immigration permission and so they will be acting in line with the latest Home Office guidance 

5. What if I catch the coronavirus?

NHS treatment for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is free of charge for everyone. If you have paid the immigration health surcharge and your immigration permission has not expired, you continue to be entitled to free NHS treatment for other illnesses and conditions. If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you can use it to receive free NHS treatment, at least until 31 December 2020.So don’t worry.

6. What shall I do if I’m unable to leave the UK as planned, but my contract for accommodation will probably come to an end too soon?

If you are unable to leave the UK as planned, your contract for accommodation will probably come to an end too soon. The Government has issued guidance stating that students living in a hall of residence should be allowed to remain, if possible, or that your accommodation provider should work with its local authority and letting agents to help you find alternative accommodation. It states that no students should be made homeless and makes special reference to international students. Accommodation provided by education providers is also exempt from immigration checks, which is particularly helpful if your immigration permission has expired because you cannot leave the UK.

You might be staying in private accommodation. Private landlords may be less willing to extend your contract, particularly if you no longer have immigration permission (the Government has not stated that it will suspend the ‘hostile or compliant environment’ during this time) or a new tenant is due to move in.. However, the UK Government has announced that landlords should not evict tenants and, if you cannot pay your rent, the landlord might be able to take a break from paying their mortgage, if they have one.

You might want to end your tenancy early or cancel it. Shelter England and Shelter Scotland provide information about how to deal with this situation and when you might be able to get a refund. Some providers of student accommodation, for example Unite Students, are offering to let you end your contract early without penalty, as long as you let them know by their deadline (10 April). Check details of your own student accommodation provider in case they are making a similar offer, or you can persuade them to do that.

If you are living in student halls of residence and are worried about your own health or the health of students that you live with, contact staff at your accommodation to inform them that you are unwell, you may also contact COVID-19 help line.

Phone: 0800 046 8687

Email: DfE.coronavirushelpline@education.gov.uk

The helpline is open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. 

UK Visa Partners will keep eyes on the latest news and policy related to COVID-19, if you want to apply for a Tier 4 visa, or if you have any further questions, please don’t hestitate to contact us!

Stay safe and take care!

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