Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES)

About the Scheme

The Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) has been in force since 6 April 2013. It is designed to give students who have almost finished their UK PhD or other doctorate qualification an additional 12 months of Tier 4 (General) immigration permission in which to look for and start work in the UK. The university or college where you are studying for your doctorate must be a Tier 4 sponsor. According to the Home Office overview document, it must be sponsoring you under Tier 4. It must also be a recognised body or a body in receipt of public funding as a higher education institution.

You can check your institution on the Home Office list of Tier 4 sponsors and recognised bodies.

Who can apply

You must be a doctoral candidate and your institution must agree to continue to sponsor you for the following year (it is not compulsory for Universities and Colleges to provide CAS statements for the DES). This means you must be studying for a PhD qualification or for one of the doctorate qualifications listed in Annex 6 of the Tier 4 policy guidance as acceptable postgraduate research qualifications. The research Master’s degrees listed in the same annex are not acceptable for the doctorate extension scheme.

You can apply only in the UK under this scheme. According to the Tier 4 policy guidance, you must have current Tier 4 immigration permission in order to be eligible. If you have any other type of immigration permission, including student leave granted under the Rules that were in force before Tier 4 was introduced on 31 March 2009, you cannot apply under this scheme.

If you can apply under Tier 4 as a student before you reach the point of applying under the doctorate extension scheme, you might want to consider doing this if it fits your other plans and your university or college is willing to sponsor you under Tier 4. In this way, you will be eligible to apply later under the doctorate extension scheme. You should seek advice from the International Student Support Service (IISA) about all your options before deciding which is your best route.

When you can apply

If your university or college is happy to support your application under the doctorate extension scheme, it will assign you a Tier 4 confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS). *It cannot assign the CAS until you are within 60 days of the expected end date of your course. It also cannot assign you a CAS after it has confirmed that your doctorate has been awarded.

When to make your application

You can apply under the doctorate extension scheme after your Tier 4 sponsor has assigned a CAS for this scheme. You must apply before the expected end date on the CAS. You must also make a valid application before your current immigration permission expires. Remember that you must have held your funds for 28 days or longer before the date of your application so you need to plan ahead and make sure that the level of your funds does not go below the minimum required level at any time during this 28-day period.

Maintenance requirements (funds)

As well as the CAS, you must also provide evidence that you have £2,530 if you are at an institution in London. The equivalent figure if you are not in London is £2,030. If you have family members who will be applying with you, please see the “Family Members” section below.

You must have held the funds at the required level for a period of 28 days before you apply. You can rely on funds held in your name or in the name or your parent(s) or guardian(s). If you have an official financial sponsor that will continue to sponsor you after your studies have finished, you can rely on a letter from them in which they confirm the extent of their sponsorship. Please remember that if you have been sponsored up to this point and now wish to apply for the DES scheme using your own personal funds, you will need written permission from your sponsor. Loans are acceptable only if they are government or educational loans. Evidence of your funds must meet exactly the requirements explained in the Tier 4 policy guidance and as explained in the University Guide to extending your visa under Tier 4

If you have been financially supported by a government or international scholarship agency during your studies, or within 12 months of making this application if the sponsorship has now stopped, you must provide the unconditional written consent of your financial sponsor to this application under the doctorate extension scheme. The Tier 4 policy guidance states that this requirement applies to you only if the sponsorship covers all your tuition fees and living costs. This applies to all Tier 4 applications.

Visa Application Fee and Immigration Health Surcharge (Funds)

Please note that in addition to the above, you will also need to have £457 available to pay for the visa application. This money is in addition to the maintenance funds outlined above.

You will also need to pay for the Immigration Health Surcharge. The IHS is calculated at £75 per 6 months of your leave. This includes any time that you are granted after your course end date. This money is in addition to the maintenance funds outlined above.

Work under the Doctorate Extension Scheme

If your application is successful, you will be granted Tier 4 immigration permission for a period of 12 months from the expected end date on your CAS. When you are granted Tier 4 leave under this scheme and you have received confirmation of your award (this can be before or after your expected end date on the CAS), you can work almost without restriction. The only restrictions are that you cannot work as a doctor or dentist in training, or as a professional sportsperson or sports coach. You are not required to take employment at any particular level. However, if you wish to stay longer in the UK for work, you need to apply to switch into a different category (under Tier 1 or 2). The Immigration Rules provide that if you applied for your Tier 4 student leave on or after 6 April 2013, and you have now applied under the doctorate extension scheme but have not yet received a decision on that application, you can start working without the usual Tier 4 restrictions as soon as your award is confirmed.

You can apply only once under the doctorate extension scheme. If you want to stay in the UK for longer than this, you need to apply under a different route.

Contact with your Tier 4 sponsor

You are not required to stay in the area of the country where your Tier 4 sponsor is based and you can move anywhere in the UK. However, you are obliged to have formal contact with your Tier 4 sponsor on at least two occasions during this 12-month period. The format of this will be agreed with your institution.

If you will not be able to make an appointment or other contact that your Tier 4 sponsor has arranged with you, it is very important that you contact your Tier 4 sponsor to let them know. If you miss a scheduled contact without providing an explanation, your Tier 4 sponsor is obliged to report this to the Home Office. The Home Office can take action to cut short your immigration permision if you do not comply with this requirement. You should also let your Tier 4 sponsor know if you leave the UK and do not intend to return before your doctorate extension scheme leave expires or if are granted immigration permission under a different category.

Family members

The following family members can join you or stay with you in the UK:

  • spouse or civil partner
  • unmarried partner or same sex partner who is not a civil partner
  • children aged under 18 if they are outside the UK
  • children of any age if they are applying in the UK and they currently have immigration permission as your dependant and are not leading an independent life.

You will also need to show that you have enough money to support your dependents. You will need to show £1690 per each dependent if applying from within the London boroughs or £1360 if you are applying from outside the London boroughs. The Policy Guidance for Points Based System dependants lists the forms of acceptable evidence of funds.

Applying for the Doctorate Extension Scheme via the University of South Wales

If you wish to be sponsored under the DES by the University of South Wales, you must start your preparations at least 8 weeks before you are due to submit your thesis. You will have to complete a University DES application form provide evidence (i.e. bank statements) that you have the correct funds available to you (and any dependants that you might have) and prepare a Personal Statement.

The personal statement must include the following information:

  • Where you intend to live
  • What you intend to do in the next 12 months
  • Details of any current employment and/or
  • Details of any offers of employment and/or
  • A detailed plan of steps you intend to find work
  • Any dependants that will be remaining in the UK with you

These documents need to be submitted in person to the Research Office AO 21 or can be emailed to: doctorateextensionscheme@southwales.ac.uk

Your application for University sponsorship will be considered by the University Secretary (or nominee) advised by the University DES panel. As the scheme is supposed to be for the best and most committed research students, continued sponsorship will be considered with reference to: your attendance record; your progression rate; any delays in submission of work; your immigration record whilst studying and any other factors they consider appropriate. The University is under no legal obligation to continue to sponsor a student under the DES and the panel’s decision will be final.

If you are successful in your application for the University to sponsor you under the DES, you will be notified of this and the date of completion which will be used on your DES CAS. This date will be set at two weeks after your viva/ thesis examination. At this point, you will also be required to sign an agreement promising to notify the University to any changes to your situation and to submit to 2 formal monitoring points during the 12 month DES period. Failure to meet the University monitoring requirements will result in notification to the Home Office, necessary due to institutional Tier 4 sponsor licence responsibilities.

8 weeks prior to thesis submission, you should also discuss your eligibility and run through the process with a member of staff from Immigration & International Student Advice (IISA). Please call in to our drop-in sessions at H027 (Monday and Wednesday – Friday between 10am-4pm and Tuesday between 10am-1pm) or by emailing IISA. Students studying at Newport/Caerleon campuses should email the IISA for details of when an adviser will be available at Newport/Caerleon.

If your University application for sponsorship is successful,and you have been assessed by a member of the IISA team, you will then be booked a one to one appointment with an International Student Adviser who will check your application with you. It is mandatory that all DES applications are submitted to the Home Office via the IISA. Your application must be prepared and submitted to the IISA before your viva examination.

If you pass your viva/examination, a CAS will be produced by the Research Office and released to the IISA team for inclusion in your application. You will then have to submit your Tier 4 DES application (via the IISA) to the Home Office. This must be within the two week period between the viva and designated course end date. Failure to submit in time will mean you are unable to apply for the DES scheme under Home Office regulations. It is your responsibility to ensure that you reply promptly to any communication from the IISA. The University holds no responsibility for students who do not reply to IISA communication or who do not provide any additional documentation requested in time for the DES application to be submitted. The IISA team will always request any additional information/documents from you in a timely fashion and submit complete applications to the Home Office within time. If you fail to respond, and they cannot send your application as it’s incomplete, this is entirely your own responsibility.

If you are awarded subject to amendments within a period of up to six months you need to come and seek advice from the IISA. They will look at your individual situation and advise you accordingly. You should note that: if you have remaining time left on your Tier 4 students visa, you should try and complete your amendments within this time or you may need to make a Tier 4 student visa application prior, and in addition, to your Tier 4 DES application.

If you fail the viva/PhD examination and are given 12 months to resubmit your thesis you must speak to the IISA immediately. You may have to submit a Tier 4 student application dependent on whether the University considers it necessary for you to remain in the UK whilst rewriting. If you are able to resubmit from home you will be ineligible to apply for DES in the future.

You should make every effort to complete your PhD first time and on time. This will make subsequent processes easier and reduce the risk of you being refused or ineligible for the DES.

The University has produced a DES Application Flowchart to help you with your application preparation. It is very important that you follow the timings on the flowchart carefully. The University accepts no responsibility for students who fail to prepare in adequate time and render themselves unable to apply for the DES scheme. Applications must be submitted to the Home Office before course completion in order to be valid.