Changes in student status
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Changes in student status

The following changes can all have an impact on your student visa and it is important you seek advice in advance as needed.

  • Suspension of studies;
  • Deferral of studies;
  • Withdrawal from a course or lapsed status;
  • Transferring course;
  • Resitting an exam or assignment and you need a longer visa;
  • Study abroad, exchange programme or fieldwork overseas;
  • Unexpected absences from study;
  • Early course completion (more than one month before the end date on your CAS);
  • Visa refusal;
  • Change in immigration status.

For updates about studying remotely and your student visa, or if you are thinking of suspending because of Coronavirus, see the travel and visas section of the University Coronavirus webpages for students.  

Advice and support from the University

The Student Visa Compliance team is here to help and advise you on the consequences for your student visa following any changes to your student status. We will always contact you by email before any report is made to the Home Office about a change in your student status.  

If you stop studying, you should also seek advice and notify your employer immediately as your working entitlement could be affected. If you have family members with you in the UK as your dependants, their visas could also be curtailed at the same time as your own.

If your health or mental health is having an impact on your studies seek advice early on from your college, department or Student Welfare as there are many people willing to advise and help you and it will avoid any visa difficulties at a later stage. You can also ask the University visa advisors for advice.

Suspension of studies

If you suspend your studies for personal or academic reasons then the Home Office will usually cut your visa short to 60 days from the date they contact you i.e. a short time after the University report is made online about your suspension. The Home Office will expect you to return to your home country or switch visa status, unless there are other circumstances as listed below. If you would like advice before proceeding with your suspension or your specific circumstances are not listed below, email the Student Visa Compliance team outlining the length of time you intend to suspend and the reason for doing so.

  • If you are suspending for parental leave, contact us to check whether you can remain in the UK without your Student visa being affected, depending on the length of your leave;
  • If you are a DPhil student suspending for one term only because of medical issues or mental health issues, contact us for advice if you would prefer to remain in the UK;
  • If a doctor can certify that you are medically unable to travel you may also contact us for advice about remaining in the UK.

We will treat your query in confidence if there are personal, medical or financial reasons for suspending and we will ask for your permission to discuss your case with the Home Office if required. 

The Student Visa Compliance team will always contact you by email to discuss any unusual circumstances before a report is made to the Home Office and in some cases a report may not be required so your visa will not be affected.

The University’s report to the Home Office and your visa curtailment will impact on your right to work in the UK as well as that of your Student visa dependants. If your suspension has been reported, you will need to advise your employer that you have ceased studying.

Undergraduate students who suspend their studies should be aware of the Home Office time limit on undergraduate study in the UK, some of the time that you are suspended may still count towards the five year time limit.

When you are ready to return to resume your studies and have completed the return to studies paperwork, you will need a new CAS number to apply for a Student visa in your home country.

Deferring your course

If you have been issued with a CAS number and decide to defer the start of your course to a later term or the following year, you need to agree this with your college or department and inform the Student Visa Compliance team as soon as possible as we must notify the Home Office that you will not be arriving.

If you have not applied for a visa yet, your current CAS number will be cancelled and you will need a new CAS number to apply for a visa in due course.

If you have obtained a visa using your CAS number and decide to defer, your deferral will be reported to the Home Office and you will not be able to use your visa to enter the UK. You will then need to obtain a new CAS number and apply for a new visa in good time before your new start date.

Withdrawing from your course

If you withdraw from a course then the University will need to inform the Home Office if you hold a student visa. The Student Visa Compliance team will email you before making a report to the Home Office to discuss any unusual circumstances you may have, for example transferring to a different sponsor or visa type.

If you have not moved to another Student visa sponsor or visa category, once our report to the Home Office is made your visa will usually be cut short to 60 days from the date the Home Office contact you and then you will need to leave the UK before this date. If you wish to discuss any unusual circumstances before withdrawing from the course and the impact on your student visa, please contact the Student Visa Compliance team.

Lapsed status for graduate research students

If you are a graduate research student and your status lapses because you have not submitted on time or have not been granted an extension of time, there could be implications for your visa status. If you plan to resume your studies after a short break the University may be able to continue to sponsor you. If you are unlikely to resume your studies then we would need to notify the Home Office who would reduce your visa length to 60 days from the date they contact you. You would then be required to return home or switch into another visa status.

Transfer to another course

If you transfer to a different course at Oxford and you hold a Student visa, the University may need to inform the Home Office. 

There are two course transfer routes that may cause an issue for students:

  • You cannot transfer to a course of a lower academic level and remain on the same visa, so contact the Student Visa Compliance team for advice if this applies to your situation;
  • The MSt/MSc to MPhil course transfer route described below requires you to return home and obtain a new visa before you can start the MPhil.

Course changes can also have an impact on your Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) clearance if you had to obtain one for your original course. If you have not had to apply for an ATAS certificate before, you should check if you now need to do so. You can find out more about ATAS on the Home Office website.

  • Shorter course: If your new course is shorter, your visa length may be reduced when you complete that course. The Student Visa Compliance team will advise you of the steps to take and will also report the course change to the Home Office if needed. If your immigration permission is cut short, the Home Office will inform you in writing and will usually cut it short to the same period as would have originally been issued for that course length.
  • Exit with a lower award: the Home Office have made an exception for students on the 4 year integrated undergraduate exit Masters award who finish early with a 3 year BA award. You will still meet the Home Office academic progression requirement to be able to apply for another visa in the UK, or apply for the Graduate Route visa;
  • Longer course: If your new course is longer and at a higher academic level and does not involve repeating any period of study, then an application to extend your visa will need to be made before your current visa expires. The Student Visa Compliance team will advise you of the steps to take. Although you can continue study on your existing visa until it expires, it is advisable to  apply for your visa for the new course as soon as convenient. Note that the MSc/MSt to MPhil transfer route is not considered a higher academic level by the Home Office so you will need to return home and apply for a new visa before undertaking the MPhil; you cannot apply for a new visa in the UK.
  • Same length course: If you have transferred to a course of the same length and same or higher academic level, although this may not have an impact on your visa duration, the Student Visa Compliance team will still need to inform the Home Office of the change.
  • Transfer from full-time to part-time study: Current students on a full-time course with a student visa cannot switch to a part-time course in the UK. The reason for this, is that you would not be able to complete the course in the same timeframe so you would not meet the Home Office academic progression requirement to be able to apply in the UK. You would need to return home and come back on another immigration status that allows part-time study, or consider the visitor route for short visits only.

In all of the above cases, the Student Visa Compliance team will contact you by email to advise you of the report being made to the Home Office regarding your course transfer and any action you may need to take.

Re-sitting an examination

If you fail an examination in the summer and can re-take it again before the beginning of December you can remain in the UK to take the re-sit examination, and if necessary can extend your visa. If you fail an examination in the summer and cannot retake the examination (and hence continue your studies) until Hilary term, Trinity term or the next summer it will not be possible for you to remain in the UK. In most cases you will need to suspend your studies and return home.

If you hold a Student visa, then the University will inform the Home Office who will curtail your visa. You will require a new CAS and Student visa to return to the UK.

Undergraduate students who have failed an examination and need to obtain a new Student visa for a re-take should be aware of the Home Office time limit on undergraduate studies in the UK. The University cannot guarantee that you will be able to obtain a Student visa for your re-sit if you have already reached the time limit for studies.

Re-submitting an assignment

If you need to re-submit an assignment, dissertation or thesis after the expiry date of your visa, your department or faculty will decide if you need to stay in the UK to do this. If so, your department may issue you with a CAS so that you can apply for a visa for this.

Taking part in a study abroad, exchange programme, or fieldwork overseas

In most cases, planned study outside the UK as part of your course should not affect your student visa. You must remain in contact with your department or college while away from the UK so that they can monitor your progress and attendance on your course overseas.

Unexpected absences from study

It is a condition of your student visa that you remain engaged in your studies throughout your course. We will use existing academic mechanisms already in place to meet this Home Office obligation e.g. termly reporting systems, attendance at core events and if you miss several contact points without an explanation we may need to discuss your continued engagement on the course. If it becomes clear you are no longer engaging with your course we may need to withdraw sponsorship of your visa (see withdrawing from your course section above).

If your health or mental health, is having an impact on your studies seek advice early from your college, department or student welfare as there are many people willing to advise and help you and to help you avoid any visa difficulties at a later stage.

If you are going to be away from the University for an extended period of time, please inform your college administrator (for undergraduates or visiting students) or department administrator (for postgraduates or recognised students) so we know how to manage this longer absence.

Completion earlier than expected

This section is mostly relevant to DPhil and research master students where the time taken to complete your degree is variable. Although, it may also apply to students on a 4 year integrated undergraduate degree that students usually exit with a Masters award.  If you complete after 3 years with a BA award instead of the Masters award, the University would also need to report early completion. 

If you complete your studies more than one month earlier than the course end date stipulated on your original CAS, the Student Visa Compliance team will need to inform the Home Office of your early course completion. The University will contact you by email first, before reporting your early completion to check for any unusual circumstances.

Depending on the amount of time left on your current visa, the Home Office may then decide to cut short your visa. They will usually cut the visa short to the new course end date plus four months.

Once a report has been made online to the Home Office you cannot travel back to the UK on the same visa, so it is important you time any future travel commitments carefully to avoid any inconvenience.

Visa refusals in the UK and overseas

If your student visa application is refused – either in the UK or overseas - you should notify your college or department immediately. You will need to make a new application and your college or department will be able to assist you with the issue of a new CAS number. If you do not understand the reasons for your refusal or would like help with your next application, then contact the Student Immigration team with a copy of your refusal notice, so we can advise on asking for a review of the decision, or planning for a new application as appropriate.

Change in immigration status

If you change immigration status for example. to a new visa type or acquire indefinite leave to remain, or pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme you must notify your college and the Student Visa Compliance team so we can update your record.

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