Immigration information for postgraduate research students

International students in the libraryThe University holds the status of Tier 4 Sponsor and, as such, is obliged to monitor and report on the status of any of its research students who hold a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa. Full-time Doctoral Researchers based at the University are expected to be physically present at the University.

All students are strongly advised to familiarise themselves with the University's Tier 4 Institutional Policy   

The following information is very important for all students who needed a visa to enter the UK and study at the University (for example, a Tier 4 [General] Student Visa) so please take the time to read it through carefully. Please note that supervisors are not experts in Tier 4 immigration matters. At the end of this document you will find the contact details of various specialists in the immigration area, it is highly recommended that you contact these specialists for further information or to ask questions.

 

Period of CAS sponsorship

Students who started prior to October 2014 may have received a CAS from the University for a period of up to 4 years. A further CAS may be requested – see Visa extensions prior to thesis submission below.

Students starting from October 2014 onwards will normally receive a CAS of 4 years 7 months in duration. This CAS is to cover a period of up to 4 years for thesis submission and a further period of up to 7 months for the viva and minor corrections to take place. All students must submit their thesis within 4 years. No further CAS will be issued to students.

Students are asked to note that start and end dates of a student’s registration cannot be altered if they arrive late as the start dates on the University’s records must match that stated on the CAS.

Reporting of any periods of research spent away from the University (including fieldwork and split-programme)

The University is required to make a Change of Circumstance report to the Home Office when a University-sponsored Tier 4 student changes their study location for a temporary period as agreed by the student’s Supervisors/School/Department. This activity reporting is required because if the University continues to sponsor a student’s Tier 4 (General) Student Visa we continue to hold monitoring responsibilities, even when the student is not physically located at the University of Reading.

Important points to note:

  • Complete a ‘Reporting of any period of research spent away from the University’ form (available below). This must be signed by your supervisor and brought/scanned to the Doctoral Research Office before leaving the UK.
  • This report is not to be used for holiday (refer to heading 4 for holiday procedures). 
  • Sponsored students must check that their sponsor approves of such a period away and must provide written evidence of approval.
  • Students must note that failure to return to the University by the approved date will result in automatic and immediate termination of visa sponsorship.
  • The Change of Circumstances report notifies the Home Office of the temporary change of location of student’s study programme. This report will benefit the student when they leave the UK and when they attempt to re-enter the UK to return to the University as it explains their movements. 
  • If a student with a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa will be conducting research away for a significant period of time (e.g. more than 50% of the first three years of registration) then the University will take the decision to cease sponsorship of the student’s Tier 4 (General) Student Visa until such time as the student is due to return physically to the University. When the student wishes to return then the University will provide support for a further visa application of the appropriate type.

Process for notification/reporting:

1. Approval from the supervisor: Students must discuss and agree any periods of study away from the University with their supervisor in advance of leaving the University. All periods of study away from the University must be reported to the Home Office. Contact must be maintained between the student and the supervisors when the student is away because the student will continue to hold their University of Reading sponsored Tier 4 (General) Student Visa.

2. Approval from the sponsor:  If they are sponsored, they are required to get a letter of approval from their sponsor prior to leaving the UK.

3. Completion of form: Schools/Departments are required to fully complete the ‘Reporting of any periods of research spent away from the University’ form. Once completed, the form must be returned to the Doctoral Research Office a minimum of 10 working days before the student intends to leave the University.

4. Reporting to the Home Office: Upon receipt of the form the Doctoral Research Office will report the details to the Home Office with the key piece of information being the dates of the period during which the student will not be in the UK and the location of the research.

5. Request a statement letter from the Doctoral Research Office: Students must request a statement letter one month before returning to the UK to show when they re-enter the country. 

Undertaking Work/Employment in the UK

Students on a Tier 4 (General) visa are typically permitted to work up to 20 hours part-time per week although students should check their own visa for any further restrictions. Students are permitted to work full-time during periods of annual leave which amounts to no more than 8 weeks per year; this period includes 15 days of Bank Holidays/University Closure Days and weekends (see 4 below). Please note that voluntary work and internships are categorised as work/employment by the Home Office. It is not necessary for students to have a National Insurance number unless they undertake employment in the UK.

Holidays to your home country or another country

Up to 8 weeks holiday is permitted during each academic year of registration, including 15 Bank Holidays and University Closure Days, excluding weekends. Holiday can be taken either in the UK or in another country. Students are required to seek permission from their supervisor and to complete the Postgraduate Research Student (PGR) Holiday Request Form for each period of holiday requested so that the details can be recorded. We accept that some students continue to work on their PhD during bank holidays i.e. Christmas and Easter and, if this is the case, we will allow them to take the holiday at a different time, but students in this position must work on their PhD during these closure dates. Students are asked to note the following key points before completing the form:

Students are asked to note the following key points before completing the form:

  • Students must ensure that they have a sufficient balance of holiday remaining for the current academic year before submitting a new holiday request.
  • Students cannot take more than 8 weeks holiday in any one academic year.
  • Students must not make any bookings before the request for holiday has been approved 
  • Students must complete the form at least 2 weeks prior to the start date of the requested holiday. Students must allow sufficient time for the form to be processed.

Students travelling outside of the UK are advised to request a letter from the Doctoral Research Office – at least one week in advance of travelling - to confirm that they are a current student of the University, for them to show to the immigration authorities when exiting and re-entering the UK. Students who are approaching the end of their current Tier 4 (General) visa or who are close to having their degree awarded are strongly advised not to travel outside of the UK before discussing their intentions with the Doctoral Research Office. Students exceeding the agreed period of holiday per year will have their visa sponsorship immediately terminated.

Holiday between thesis submission and viva Students may take a holiday during the period of time between thesis submission and the date of their viva. They should monitor their e-mail account regularly in case there are any important messages sent to them during this period.

Holidays during the period of Minor Amendments (Corrections) We would not expect students with Minor Amendments to be taking holiday during the period of amendments.

Suspension of studies

At some point during your studies, you may need to consider suspending your studies for a specific period of time. You might suspend for a variety of reasons including academic, financial, medical, personal, immigration, family or other.

If you wish to consider applying for a period of suspension, you are advised to discuss your situation with your Supervisors/Director of Postgraduate Research Studies, as well as staff in the Doctoral Research Office (contact details below). Please note that students who choose to return to their home country in order to make a visa application (when the application could have been made in the UK) cannot request a suspension for this purpose. Where this occurs then the student must use their annual leave entitlement to account for this period. The immigration rules state that to be in the UK as a Tier 4 (General) student you need to be “engaged” in full-time study. Since a period of suspension means you are not studying full-time, there are visa implications which you need to be aware of. As a Tier 4 Sponsor, the University of Reading must report to the Home Office if you have suspended your studies.

Suspensions of up to 60 days in duration

Suspensions will be reported to the Home Office but only one period of up to 60 days suspension will be permitted during the whole degree programme. A suspension of up to 60 days will not result in your visa being curtailed as the University will continue to sponsor your Tier 4 (General) Student Visa. Please note that if your suspension is extended for a further period beyond the initial 60 days , or you do not return on time*, then the University will, at that point, report to the Home Office that it is no longer sponsoring your Tier 4 (General) Student Visa. You will then receive a Curtailment Letter from the Home Office requiring you to leave the UK by a specified date. Please see the section below on ‘Resuming your studies after a period of suspension’.

*Please note that if you are suspended for medical reasons then you will need to provide evidence of your fitness to return to your studies from your doctor prior to the end of your suspension. This evidence needs to be provided to the Doctoral Research Office a minimum of 14 days prior to the end date of your suspension in order to allow the University Medical Practice to verify fitness to study. If you do not resume your studies after a suspension of 60 days then the University will automatically report to the Home Office that it is no longer sponsoring your Tier 4 (General) Student Visa. Please see the section below on ‘Resuming your studies after a period of suspension’.

Please note that you are required to maintain regular contact with your Department/School during this period of suspension as part of the University’s sponsorship of your Tier 4 (General) Student Visa. You should therefore update your Department/School on your status a minimum of once per month during your suspension. If you fail to do this then the University may be obliged to report this loss of regular contact to the Home Office which may bring the University’s sponsorship of your visa to an end prematurely.

Students suspending for up to 60 days will have their Latest Submission Date extended by the equivalent period but should not assume that their period of visa sponsorship will also be extended. This may be possible but it will depend upon the dates on the visa currently held by the student and the total period of visa sponsorship granted at that point. Staff in the Doctoral Research Office (contact details below) will discuss this with the student if applicable.

Suspensions of more than 60 days in duration

Suspensions of more than 60 days mean that you will not be engaged in your studies for a significant period of time. Therefore, the University will report to the Home Office that it is no longer sponsoring your Tier 4 (General) Student Visa and you will receive a Curtailment Letter from the Home Office requiring you to leave the UK by a specified date. Please see the section below on ‘Resuming your studies after a period of suspension’.

Resuming your studies after a period of suspension

The University is committed to supporting you in the completion of your degree programme and will endeavour to facilitate your return to the University in order for you to do so. At least 6 weeks prior to the official end date of your suspension, please contact the Doctoral Research Office by e-mail (contact details below) to advise of your return date, request another CAS to support a new visa application or alternatively to discuss other options.

Important Points to Note:

  • Immigration Advice – Immigration advice is available throughout your period of suspension and can be accessed either from inside or outside the UK. Help with checking/assisting with the completion of a visa application form can be requested by contacting the International Student Advisory Team (contact details below).
  • Students suspended on medical grounds – Where the University has reported that it is no longer sponsoring a student’s Tier 4 (General) Student Visa, it may be the case that a student believes that they should not fly due to medical/other reasons. Where a student has such concerns they should take advice, before applying for a suspension, from the International Student Advisory Team (contact details below).
  • Students in University accommodation - Students residing in University accommodation may be asked to leave their accommodation during a period of suspension. All students in University accommodation are advised to check the implications of suspending their programme on their accommodation situation by enquiring at the Student Services Helpdesk (Carrington Building) before they formally apply for a suspension.
  • Doctoral Extension Scheme - Please note that if you intend to apply for a visa under the Doctoral Extension Scheme (DES) in future, you are required to hold a current Tier 4 (General) Student Visa and be present in the UK at the point when you apply for the DES. Students wishing to apply for the DES are strongly advised to aim to submit their thesis at the 3.5 year point in order to allow for all the necessary arrangements to be made within the period of their current Tier 4 visa sponsorship.  

Suspension for maternity reasons

Maternity suspension of up to 60 days

Students wishing to suspend their studies for maternity reasons are asked to note that, in keeping with the policy on suspensions, the University will only continue to sponsor their Tier 4 (General) Student Visa for a maternity suspension of up to 60 days. Students will be required to provide medical evidence confirming that they are pregnant – this is normally via a MATB1 Form provided by a doctor.

The University will continue to sponsor your Tier 4 (General) Student Visa during this 60 day period. After the end of the 60 day period you are expected to return to your full-time studies and continue as normal.

Students will be required to maintain regular contact with their School/Department during a maternity suspension as required under Tier 4 attendance monitoring arrangements.

Students suspending for more than 60 days will have their Latest Submission Date extended by the equivalent period but should not assume that their period of visa sponsorship will also be extended. This may be possible but it will depend upon the dates on the visa currently held by the student and the total period of visa sponsorship granted at that point. Staff in the Doctoral Research Office (contact details below) will discuss this with the student if applicable.

Please see the section below on ‘Resuming your studies after a period of suspension’.

Maternity suspension of more than 60 days

This affects students who wish to suspend for more than 60 days or extend their initial 60 day maternity period.

Suspensions of more than 60 days means that you will not be engaged in your studies for a significant period of time. Therefore, the University will report to the Home Office that it is no longer sponsoring your Tier 4 (General) Student Visa. A report made to the Home Office may prompt the issuance of a Curtailment Letter limiting your Tier 4 (General) Student Visa and you will receive a Curtailment Letter from the Home Office requiring you to leave the UK by a specified date. Please see the section below on ‘Resuming your studies after a period of suspension’.

Pregnant students who feel that international travel would be detrimental to their personal safety or the safety of their baby should contact the International Student Advisory Team (contact details below). Students are normally able to apply for up to 12 months suspension for reasons of maternity but would not continue to hold Tier 4 (General) Student Visa for this period.

Resuming your studies after a period of suspension

The University is committed to supporting you in the completion of your degree programme and will endeavour to facilitate your return to the University in order for you to do so. At least one month prior to the official end date of your suspension, please contact the Doctoral Research Office (contact details below) by e-mail to advise your return date, request another CAS to support a new visa application, if required, or alternatively to discuss other options.

Important information regarding babies born in the UK

Under the guidelines of the United Kingdom Council for Overseas Student Affairs (UKCISA), birth in the UK does not automatically make a baby a British citizen. The baby needs to have a parent with British citizenship or settled status in the UK in order to be born British. Please note that the full, detailed guidance can be found on the UKCISA (see below). To discuss your specific situation, please contact the International Student Advisory Team (contact details below).

Changing to MPhil following Confirmation of Registration

In the event that the Confirmation of Registration outcome is to move the student on to an MPhil programme then the student’s Tier 4 sponsorship will be withdrawn. The student will need to return to their home country and if they wish to continue their MPhil studies at the University then they would need to apply for a new visa from that country. The type of visa that a student may wish to apply for may vary according to several factors. Students in this situation should discuss what is required with staff in the International Student Advisory Team/Doctoral Research Office and it may be necessary for students to suspend for a short period of time.

Visa extensions prior to thesis submission

The maximum total period that the University will provide visa sponsorship is 4 years and 7 months.

For student who started their studies before October 2014

The University will normally support you with a CAS for a further period of up to 7 months (if academically required) following the end of the 4-year period of visa sponsorship. Any additional CAS will only be issued subject to confirmation of satisfactory progress and engagement with your studies and confirmation that you intend to be physically present at the University for the entire visa extension period. The University will not sponsor your visa for more than the total period of 4 years and 7 months (including any periods of suspension). This total period of visa sponsorship covers submission, viva examination and a period of Minor Corrections (up to 3 months).

For students who started their studies in October 2014 and later In most cases your CAS was issued to you for 4 years and 7 months. This is the maximum period of time which the University will sponsor your visa and covers submission (no later than 4 years), viva examination and a period of Minor Corrections (up to 3 months). No further visa extensions will be supported.

Minor Amendments (Corrections)

If your viva has taken place, you have been given Minor Amendments, and your visa is going to expire during the 3 month correction-period then you may need to request support for a further visa. It will be necessary for you to discuss this with staff in the Doctoral Research Office. It may be that a Short Term Study Visa may be more appropriate than the production of a new CAS but this will depend on the circumstances. In the event a CAS is to be issued then it will only be to students who received an initial CAS of less than 4 years and 7 months in duration and other conditions may apply). A new CAS will only be issued to you subject to confirmation of engagement with your studies and confirmation that you will be physically studying at the University. If a CAS is granted then you will be given a 3 month period from the date of your viva, to enable you to make Minor Amendments at the University. You should contact the Doctoral Research Office to request a CAS. We also recommend that you take Immigration Advice from the International Student Advisory Team (further details below).

Major Amendments (Corrections)

PhD students (this does not apply to MPhil students) with Major Amendments are permitted to remain physically present at the University for the first 3 months of the period of corrections. It is normally the case that after this 3 month period, the student would return to their home country as the student is not required to be physically present at the University during the remaining period of Major Corrections and as such cannot be ‘sponsored’ under the University’s Tier 4 Sponsor Licence.

If your visa is going to expire during the first 3 months of the correction-period then you may need to request support for a further visa. It will be necessary for you to discuss this with staff in the Doctoral Research Office. It may be that a Short Term Study Visa may be more appropriate than the production of a new CAS but this will depend on the circumstances. In the event a CAS is to be issued then it will only be to students who received an initial CAS of less than 4 years and 7 months in duration and other conditions may apply).

If you are a PhD studentand there are strong academic grounds why you think you should remain physically present at the University for more than 3 months, then there is a procedure which allows you to submit an application (for a further period of up to 9 months) which must be supported by the relevant School. Further information on this procedure can be found here .  Please also refer to the flowchart ‘Procedure for Research Students with major corrections’, which is available at: Procedure for Research Students with major corrections requesting a CAS (PDF - 45.7KB).

Students requesting a CAS for the period of Major Amendments should note that a new CAS will only be issued subject to confirmation of engagement with their studies and confirmation that you intend to be physically studying at the University for the additional period.

Students granted a CAS for the approved period of Major Amendments must note that the period must cover resubmission and re-examination (including viva, if required) and that no further CAS will be granted. Students resubmitting following Major Amendments who subsequently receive further Minor Amendments will not be granted further visa sponsorship.

Failure: Re-submission within 3 years

In the rare event that you fail your viva, you will have the automatic right to re-submit your thesis for examination within a further 3 year period. However, for this period you will not be present at the University and your visa sponsorship will be withdrawn shortly after the outcome of your viva is confirmed. The Home Office will require you to leave the UK. You may wish to seek Immigration Advice from the International Student Advisory Team (further details below).

Writing-up/completing corrections away from the University

Students who have requested to write-up their thesis/complete corrections away from the University (sometimes for reasons of employment) must have this request considered and agreed with their supervisor, and immediately reported to the Doctoral Research Office. If approved, the University will cease to sponsor the student’s current Tier 4 (General) Student Visa but support will be provided for a further appropriate visa application, e.g. for viva attendance, if suitable.

Degree Awarded Date

Please note that the University is obliged to inform the Home Office that we have withdrawn visa sponsorship when your Degree is awarded earlier than expected, even though you may not have attended a Graduation Ceremony, because at that point you have finished your studies at the University. If you wish to check if you can stay in the UK until your Graduation Ceremony then please contact the Doctoral Research Office.

When your Degree is awarded, if a further period of time remains on your current Tier 4 (General) Visa, then you should not assume that you can remain in the UK until the date the visa expires. Similarly, you should not assume that you can leave the UK and then re-enter when your degree is awarded, or is close to being awarded, but should discuss with the Doctoral Research Office before making any arrangements to travel.

Once the University has informed the Home Office that you have completed your studies early, this will affect your immigration status and you will be required to leave the UK. The Home Office will contact you in order to confirm the date by which you are required to leave the UK. We also recommend that you take Immigration Advice from the International Student Advisory Team (contact details below).

Graduation Ceremonies

If you wish to check if you can stay in the UK until your Graduation Ceremony then please contact the Doctoral Research Office. Given that there are two ceremonies per year (July and December), the timing of your award will be important. If you have left the UK and wish to return in order to attend your Graduation Ceremony then you should contact the Graduation Office to request a letter confirming the Ceremony that you will be attending. You will then be able to use the letter to apply for a Visitor Visa.

Maximum Period of Study in the UK

The Home Office has set an upper limit on the amount of time that an individual can spend in the UK for study purposes. For further information on this please visit the Home Office website or request Immigration Advice from the International Student Advisory Team (contact details below).

The Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES)

The DES is designed to allow full-time students holding a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa who are completing a PhD/Doctorate at the University of Reading to stay in the UK for a further period of 12 months in order to:

  • Find work with a Tier 2 employer
  • Set up as an entrepreneur
  • Gain practical work experience in their field

Students can only apply for a DES CAS if their PhD has not already been awarded and if they have been on a Tier 4 visa and in the UK for a minimum of 12 months before applying for a DES CAS. This does not apply to students who have recently submitted their thesis and are taking a short period of holiday prior to returning for their viva.

If you wish to request information about the DES or to apply for the Scheme then please send an e-mail to dro@reading.ac.uk in order to request a DES appointment You must register your interest for the Scheme approximately three months prior to the submission of your thesis to ensure that you have sufficient time to receive information/advice on the Scheme and to make the necessary arrangements for a visa application. If you wish to discuss matters relating to your thesis submission date etc. then please contact the Doctoral Research Office (contact details below).

Short-Term Student Visas

Students coming to the University for periods of up to 6 months will normally require a Short-Term Student Visa. If you wish to apply for a Short-Term Student Visa then you need a special letter from the University before you can submit your Short-Term Student Visa application. In order to request a letter for a Short-term Student Visa application then please send an e-mail to the Doctoral Research Office (contact details below). Please note that when you arrive at the University you must present your Short-Term Student Visa to the Doctoral Research Office within 48 hours of arrival so that it can be scanned and added to your student record. You must also inform the Doctoral Research Office when you leave the University after each visit.

Immigration Advice and other useful links

International Student Advisory Team

Student Services Centre, Carrington Building
General Enquiries: +44 (0)118 378 5555
Email: immigration@reading.ac.uk

Doctoral Research Office (DRO)

Graduate School, Old Whiteknights House
Email: dro@reading.ac.uk

Tel: 0118 378 4740/4741

http://www.reading.ac.uk/graduateschool/currentstudents/gs-immigration.aspx

The International Student Webpages provide a variety of information including details of the International Advice Team and Visas and Immigration.

United Kingdom Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA)

www.ukcisa.org.uk

The UKCISA operate a free telephone advice line for students.
020 7107 9922

This is available Monday – Friday (1-4 pm)

Disclaimer: The Doctoral Research Office provides this information and any other related documents in good faith, based on the information that you have given us about your current situation.  We endeavour to ensure our information is accurate, but since both your situation and the legislation relating to your immigration status can change at short notice, the Doctoral Research Office cannot accept any responsibility for any errors, omissions or other consequences arising from the use of this information, nor for decisions made by the Home Office or any other agencies regarding immigration applications.

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