International Student Support

Changes to your course of study

If you are on a Tier 4 visa, changes to your course could have an impact on your Tier 4 visa and may also require you to make a new visa application. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) have strict rules on when and where you can make this visa application. Please read the information below carefully and if you are not sure if your situation is going to have an impact on your current visa then please contact the International Student Support team for advice -

Detailed below are different scenarios related to change of studies.

Adding a work placement or study abroad year to your degree and this extends your course end date

Most students have the option to add a placement or study abroad year to their degree. For more information please visit the Careers and Sussex Abroad websites. If you have a Tier 4 visa there are important immigration implications you need to consider before deciding whether to add the work placement or study abroad year to your degree. Please note this only affects students whose course end date is extended due to the additional year, and does not affect students whose course already includes the additional year or who undertake a shorter work placement or study abroad period which does not alter their course end date.

If you opt to add a placement or study abroad year, you will need to make a new Tier 4 application in order to obtain a visa to cover the remainder of your studies. You can make this application from within the UK or from your home country. You will need to meet the financial requirements for the visa application again, which means you need to show evidence of the next year's tuition fee plus £9135 for living expenses, in your or your parent's bank account for a 28 day period leading up to the visa application.

We recommend that you apply for your new visa at the end of your year abroad/placement year, as it seems the most logical time for you to do it, as it is when your visa is due to expire. This will mean;

  • You will be contacted by Sussex around 6 months before your visa expiry date to begin the process of issuing a new CAS
  • You have the choice of applying for your visa in your home country, or in the UK, as long as it has not been curtailed whilst you are on your year abroad/placement year.

We will continue to sponsor you whilst on your year abroad, and this will count towards your time limit (the amount of time you can study in the UK in total). It is important that you are aware of the time cap and you can find more information on this here:

If you would like us to stop sponsoring you for your study abroad/placement year (we do not recommend this option unless, due to the time cap it will affect your ability to finish your course) then please let us know and we will advise you further. You will then need to apply for a new visa, in your home country before returning to the UK to start your final year.

You also have the option of applying for your visa now, before you start your year abroad/placement. Please be aware of the following;

  • You can apply from the UK.
  • It may affect your ability to travel as you will be without your passport for some time.
  • You will have to pay an additional amount of money for the Immigration Health Surcharge, and this will overlap what you have already paid, although if you apply in the UK the excess should get refunded.

If you would like to discuss your options in more detail, or would like further individual advice for your circumstances, then please contact one of the advisors in the International Student Support Office for further assistance.

Students moving from BENG/BSC to MENG/Msci

If you commenced a Bachelor degree and you now want to progress to an undergraduate Master’s degree and need additional time on your visa for the Masters year, you will need to make a new Tier 4 application. You can make the application in the UK. When you make the application depends on when your current visa was issued.

  • If your current visa was issued before 6 April 2016, you can make the visa application at any stage before your current visa expires.
  • If your current visa was issued after 6 April 2016, you will have to make a new Tier 4 application before your course changes.

You should also check if the Undergraduate Masters programme requires you to hold ATAS clearance. You should obtain ATAS clearance in advance of making a Tier 4 application. 

Time limit on study and repeating years

If you are an international student on a Tier 4 student visa you cannot spend more than 5 years studying degree level courses (UG and PGT) in the UK unless an exception applies. The short extra time you are given before the course (maximum one month) and after a course (maximum four months) will be included in this five year calculation. 

Exceptions which are relevant to Sussex include:

  • if you are applying to study a course at a higher education institution (HEI) and the 5-year cap would prevent you from completing a fifth academic year at degree level or above, then the limit is extended to 5 years and 11 months.
  • if you have successfully completed a UK degree course which was at least four years long, and you are making a Tier 4 application to study a Master's degree at a higher education institution (recognised body or institution in receipt of public funding), the limit is extended to six years and 11 months.
  • Where a student has completed a degree-level course in the UK and is progressing to a Graduate Diploma in Law/CPE – this course is excluded from the calculation of the maximum period
  • Degrees at doctorate level are excluded from the limit, although a maximum of 8 years does apply once the PhD has been completed

Assuming that you have not undertaken any previous degree level study in the UK, this means that:

  • if you are on a 3 year UG course you will only be able to repeat a maximum of 2 years (only 1 year if you want to undertake a Masters in the UK)
  • If you are on a 4 year UG course you will only be able to repeat 1 year (you would still be able to undertake a Masters if you wished).

You must always seek advice from an international student adviser if you are offered a repeat year, transfer to a longer course at Sussex (e.g. switch from a 3 to 4 year degree) or if you are thinking of taking intermission from your studies (including being offered a resit year).

If you are required to repeat a year of your studies you will need to extend your Tier 4 visa to cover the remainder of your course. You can make this visa application from within the UK or from your home country. You will normally apply in the summer before your visa expiry date and the Student Systems and Records office (SSRO) will contact you to begin the process of issuing a new CAS around 6 months before your visa expires. Once the CAS is issued it will be passed onto International Student Support who will email you with more details on making the visa application. We are required to check that you can meet the financial requirements of the visa application before releasing the CAS to you. 

Resitting exams

Full details on re-sits can be found on the Academic Development and Quality Enhancement site .


If you fail an exam and are offered the chance of a SIT or RESIT, unless you can take this before you are due to progress into your next year, you will normally be required to intermit from your studies and return at a later date to take the exams. This means that you will need to temporarily withdraw from your studies and Sussex will need to report this to UKVI (see withdrawing from your studies above). Your visa will be cancelled and you will need to leave the UK and return on a short-term study visa to take the exams. Provided you pass and progress a new CAS can then be issued (provided you have not exceeded the 5 year cap) and you will apply for a new Tier 4 visa in your home country before resuming your studies.

If you are a final year student, if you can't take the SIT or RESIT within your current visa, you will be required to leave the UK and return on a short-term study visa to take the exams.

Postgraduate Taught Students (PGTs)

If you are an overseas student offered a SIT or RESIT by the Examination Board, this is normally permitted on “continuation” status. This is a form of registration where attendance at classes is not required. You can remain in the UK up to your current visa expiry date but the University cannot issue students a further CAS to undertake sits/resits and assessment. 

Students will need to leave the UK and return for the exam at a later date, using a short-term study visa. This applies even in cases where your extension, sits or resits have been considered by the mitigating evidence committee (MEC). The Student Systems and Records Office will issue you with a letter detailing your current student status and the details of the exam. You will need to submit this letter with your visa application. 

Please note that when the SIT or RESIT is a coursework submission only and an exam is not required the University does not require your attendance to submit the coursework and you can submit from overseas. More information can be found on the Postgraduate Retakes section of the SSRO website.

Withdrawing from your studies - intermission and permanent withdrawal

Temporary withdrawal (also referred to as intermission) is when you take a break from your studies with the intention of resuming them again in the future. Permanent withdrawal is when you stop your studies and do not want to resume. The first point of contact if you are thinking of withdrawing depends on the type of student you are: 

After this you will need to see an International Student Adviser to discuss the immigration implications (including 5 year cap issues for UG/PGT students, see below for more info).

When you withdraw you will no longer be a registered student and the University will need to report this to UKVI. Sussex are required to report this to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) within 10 working days. UKVI should then email or write to you to confirm that your visa is going to be curtailed (cancelled). They will normally give you 60 days from the date of the email/letter to leave the UK. We recommend that you make arrangements to leave the UK as soon as possible after this report is made as you will no longer be a registered student so will not be fulfilling the terms of your visa. You will be notified when this report has been made.

Please note that you should not work if you withdraw from your studies, either temporarily or permanently. This is because your permission to work depends on your following a course of study that has work rights attached to it. This is confirmed in the Home Office guidance for employers on page 28. 

It is important that you make sure that UKVI have your up-to-date contact details. Please make sure you keep any correspondence you have from UKVI regarding the curtailment of your visa as you may need this in the future. If you don't receive this notification, please contact one of our immigration advisers and we can obtain this for you.

For PGR students a period of intermission of 60 days or less will not need to be reported to UKVI. Please see section 21.3 of the Doctoral Student Handbook for more details on this. However, please note that you can only work restricted hours (20 hours a working week - Monday to Sunday) during this period.

If you will be resuming your studies at Sussex you will need to apply for a new Tier 4 visa in your home country before you return, meeting all the application requirements (including financial ones) again. You should contact the relevant office below 3 months before your resumption date to request a new CAS:

  • Undergraduates and Postgraduate Taught students - Student Systems and Records office (
  • Postgraduate Research students - Research Student Administration Office (

Full details on making the visa application can be found on our web pages. When your CAS is processed it will be emailed to an international student adviser and we will contact you. We will be able to release the CAS to you once we have verified that you can meet the financial requirements of the visa application.

Other changes to your course and completing your course early

If you change your degree and the new course is at the same level and is the same length as your previous course or shorter, there is no requirement for you to make a new Tier 4 application. However, the University is still required to inform UKVI of the change, but this will not affect your current visa. You should check if the new course requires you to hold ATAS clearance, as you will need to obtain this before you move to the new course.

If you want to change course and cannot complete the new course within your existing visa (apart from adding a study abroad/placement year, see above), then you will need to contact the Student Systems and Records office. For example, you may want to change courses and transfer back to the start of the first year. SSRO will assess with the relevant schools whether the transfer is possible and if it is you will need to apply for a new Tier 4 visa from overseas before you can start the new course.

If you complete your course early it will be necessary for the University to report this to UKVI and your visa will be curtailed. This is particulalry relevant if:

  • you are a PhD student as you may submit your thesis early and complete before the course end date stated on your CAS
  • you are a UG student who transfers from a 4 year to a 3 year degree. For example, you may decide to drop a placement/study abroad year from your degree

In these circumstances UKVI should curtail your visa to 4 months from your new course end date, which will be when you are formally awarded the degree. Please note that curtailed leave will lapse if you leave the UK, so we advise that you don't re-enter the UK on your existing visa if you have been reported to UKVI for completing your studies early.

PhD students and the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES)

As a PhD student you will have a course end date which is the date you have to submit your thesis by. Your Tier 4 visa will normally be valid for an extra 4 month period after this date. After you have submitted, it can take a number of months for your viva to be set so it’s advisable to seek advice from an international student adviser before submission to see if you will be able to extend your visa (if necessary).

Some PhD students decide to leave the UK and return for their viva on a student visitor visa. However, if you decide to do this it would not be possible to apply for the Doctoral Extension Scheme visa (as you need to have a current Tier 4 visa). Full details on this visa can be found on the Doctorate extension scheme (Tier 4) page. Note that you must apply for the DES visa before you have formally completed your PhD.


International Student Support

T +44 (0)1273 67 8422