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Doctorate Extension Scheme

The Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) is designed to provide PhD students with a bridge to Tier 2 and Tier 1 visas. If you have almost finished a UK PhD, or other doctorate qualification, the Doctorate Extension Scheme lets you apply for an additional 12 months residence to look for work.

We are here to guide you through every aspect of your doctoral extension scheme application, so instead of worrying about your immigration status, you can focus on your future.

Please note: A 30-minute consultation with one of our immigration experts can be held in our offices or over the phone or Skype. Please be aware that we do not offer free advice and will charge a non-refundable fee of £60 per consultation.

What you are allowed to do on a doctorate extension scheme

Doctorate extension scheme visas are made available so that students who have almost finished their PhD have 12 additional months to look for work.

During that 12 months:

  • Any leave issued under the scheme will expire 12 months after you complete your course
  • It’s your responsibility to make sure that you stay in contact with the international student team. You need to do this three times during the year so they can advise you on your current employment status
  • Until you receive unconditional approval for your degree from the Board of Graduate Studies, normal Tier 4 conditions apply
  • The less restrictive terms of the Tier 4 doctorate extension visa apply from the date on which your finish your PhD, if a valid visa application has been made before then. This is true even if you’re still waiting to hear the outcome of your visa application
  • Under the doctorate extension scheme, you can’t work as a doctor or dentist in training, or a sportsperson

Who can apply

To qualify for the doctorate extension scheme you need to be a doctoral candidate. This means studying for a PhD qualification or for one of the doctorate qualifications listed on the policy guide.

You can only apply if you are already in the UK and you need to have a current Tier 4 study visa.

During the year you will need to keep in contact with the university as they are your sponsor for the scheme. The full requirements state that:

  • You must have a current Tier 4 visa to study a PhD or other doctorate level degree at a HEI in the UK
  • You must not have completed your course before 6 April 2013
  • You must not have previously been granted leave under the doctoral extension scheme
  • You must be following a course leading to the award of a PhD
  • You must be sponsored by a recognised body or a body in receipt of public funding as a higher education institution. This funding can come from the Department of Employment and Learning in England, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales or the Scottish Funding Council and that sponsor will be the sponsor awarding your PhD
  • You must apply a maximum of 60 days before the expected end date of the course that will lead to your PhD being awarded

If you expect to complete your PhD earlier than you stated originally in your offer letter, you need to apply no more than 60 days before the revised end date (day that the PhD is formally awarded).

Documents you need to provide

In order to support your application, you need to provide certain documents. These include:

  • Evidence of maintenance funds (This will be two months of maintenance which is currently £2,030.00. This needs to have been held in your account for a consecutive 28-day period from the date you apply. The evidence you provide needs to be dated within 31 days of the date of your application.)
  • Two passport sized colour photos (these need to meet the Home Office Photo Guidance requirements)
  • Your current passport and any previous passport which contains your current visa
  • Your Biometric Residence Permit (if you currently hold one)
  • Your Police Registration Certificate (if applicable)
  • An Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Certificate (if applicable)

Visa sponsorship and ATAS clearance

Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies

To apply under this scheme you need to be sponsored by a university. When you enrolled you will have been given a reference number, also known as a ‘Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies’ or CAS. To apply for the Doctorate Extension Scheme you’ll need a new CAS from your university. That CAS needs to be included in your application.

DES visas are granted for 12 months. That 12 months starts on the date you’re expected to complete your award, based on the new CAS.

ATAS clearance

If you required ATAS clearance to study your PhD, and your course end date is postponed by more than three calendar months, you’ll need a new ATAS certificate. You don’t need to submit this with your other supporting documents, though.

If your current visa expires before you finish

If you think your current visa will expire before you receive your PhD, you need to apply for a Tier 4 general visa extension. The Doctorate Extension Scheme shouldn’t be used to bridge this gap.

Applying for a visa extension can take as much time as a general application, so you could find yourself waiting three or four months.

If you don’t have this time, you may want to consider fast-track or same day visa services. It’s illegal to live and study in the UK without a valid visa. If you do this, you could lose your right to stay here, even if you are eligible for the Doctorate Extension Scheme. 

Visa alternatives

Tier 4 student visas

If you just need the temporary right to work and study in the UK a Tier 4 General visa should allow you to bridge the gap.

To be eligible for a Tier 4 General visa you need to be aged 18 or over and be able to prove that you have enough funds to support yourself throughout your stay.

There are strict restrictions, though. These include the type of institute you can study at, the type of employment you can take, and the number of hours you can work.

Tier 4 child visas

If you’re under 18, you can apply as a child student under the Tier 4 category.

The Tier 4 child visa is designed for anyone under 18 who intends to study at a UK school on a full-time course.

Expert immigration support and guidance

If you’re looking into the doctorate extension scheme and would like expert advice on your application, get in touch with our immigration solicitors or request a call back today.

With our solicitors by your side you can be sure the application process will be as smooth as possible, giving you the best chance at success.

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