Rules for your dependants in the UK

Seek advice

If you or your dependants are already in the UK and you are thinking about applying to extend your stay or travel and apply from home or switch immigration categories, it is important that you seek advice first. The rules are complex and the decisions you make can affect your future immigration status in the UK. 

Who are 'dependants' under Tier 4?

Under the Tier 4 immigration rules your 'dependants' means:

  • you husband or wife
  • civil partner (your same sex partner in a relationship that has been formally or legally registered in the UK or another country) 
  • your unmarried or same sex partner, with whom you have lived for at least two years)
  • your child who is aged under 18 on the date you will arrive in the UK

Who can bring dependants?

If you want to bring your family to the UK for the first time, you can bring them if:

  • you are studying at postgraduate level for twelve months or more, or
  • you are fully sponsored by your government for a programme of study longer than six months

If you meet these requirements, you or your dependants can apply outside the UK at the same time as you or separately.

If you are studying on a course which is below degree level, or which you are studying for less than twelve months, or you are government sponsored for a course of six months or less, your dependants cannot join you in the UK as your Tier 4 dependants.

Family members already in the UK

If you meet the Tier 4 rules to bring dependants:

  • you are studying at postgraduate level for twelve months or more, or
  • you are fully sponsored by your government for a programme of study longer than six months
  • and your family are already in the UK as your Tier 4 dependants;

they can apply to continue to stay in the UK with you.  They can apply inside the UK before their visa expires (this date should match your visa end date) or they can apply outside the UK. Contact ISIS for further advice on your options.

If your family are in the UK with different immigration permission, they can become your Tier 4 dependant.  As long as they are not in the UK with permission as a visitor or have 'temporary admission' or 'temporary release', they can apply inside the UK.

If you don't meet the Tier 4 rules to bring dependants
If your dependants are already with you and you do not meet the requirements above, but you have already been studying in the UK on a programme that is longer than six months, the rules state that they can continue to stay with you in the UK if:

  • you have a Tier 4 Student visa or Student Visa
  • your current visa is for a programme of study longer than six months
  • your visa has not yet expired or it expired less than three months ago*
  • you and your family apply together (if you are not applying, your dependants have to apply from outside the UK)
  • you are applying for a programme of study longer than six months
  • your family member currently has or had permission (within the last three months) as your dependant

* but the rules also state that you cannot submit an application in the UK if you have overstayed beyond the end date of your visa for more than 28 days.  We advise you to always apply before your current visa expires.

Additional rules for child dependants

The Tier 4 rules state that you can only bring your child / children with you to the UK if  both parents are going to be in the UK. This means that if your partner is going to stay outside the UK, your child /children cannot join you.

The exception to this is if you are:

  • the only parent or
  • you have 'sole responsibility' for your child / children or
  • there are serious compelling reasons which mean you and your partner cannot come to live together in the UK

The rules also state that to qualify as a 'child' they must 'not be living an independent life'.  Read the PBS dependant's guidance for further details.

Babies born in the UK

 If you are pregnant or your partner is pregnant, you should seek advice from ISIS about the implications for your visa in the UK.

Babies born in the UK are not automatically entitled to a British passport.  If you or your partner have a baby in the UK, you do not need to apply for immigration permission for the baby unless your baby needs to re-enter the UK after travel.  Non-visa nationals are advised not to re-enter their baby as visitor as they will not be entitled to access NHS services without health insurance.

Your child will only be eligible for free NHS care until they are three months old.  At this point you will need to obtain a visa for them and pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Advice on applying for a Tier 4 Dependant visa for your baby can be found on the UKCISA website:

Babies born in the UK

How do my family apply?

The Immigration Health Surcharge is mandatory and failure to pay the correct amount may lead to a refusal of their visa.  The surcharge costs £150 per year for dependants of students and is calculated on the basis of the length of leave granted.  For example, dependants of a PhD student applying for a visa for the full length of the course will receive visa for four years and four months.  Each dependant will be required to pay a surcharge of £675.

If you have a Tier 4 Student visa, your dependants apply as 'dependant of a Points Based System migrant'. Each dependant completes a separate application form and pays a separate fee if you are applying outside the UK or at separate times.

The dependants of a PBS migrant application form is available as an online form. If your dependants are applying at the same time as you, their form will be combined with your application.  If they are applying separately, you will need to complete a form for each dependant.

Home Office website

If you are on a pre-Tier 4 Student via the rules are different.  Read the guidance from UKCISA and then contact ISIS for advice.

UKCISA - pre-Tier 4 students with dependants

If your dependants apply at the same time as you and receive a refusal, your application may also be affected so it's important to get it as correct as possible.

Maintenance funds for your dependants

As well as your own maintenance funds, you need to show an additional £615 (£845 from 12 November 2015)  for each dependant for each month that you are applying for up to a maximum 9 months' maintenance funds.

Your dependants will only be eligible for the lower "established presence" level of funds if you are eligible at the time you apply together or you had established presence the last time you applied for a Tier 4 visa. From the 12th November, only dependants of Tier 4 DES applicants are eligible for established presence.  

If you have a scholarship and it is intended to cover costs for your family, you can use the scholarship to cover the maintenance funds for your dependants. The scholarship letter must state that funds are also intended for your dependants and explain how much money is allocated for the support of your dependants.

It is important that you and your dependants all show sufficient funds. If there are insufficient funds for all applicants, even if you have enough money to cover your costs, all applications will be refused.

If your dependant is a 'low risk'  national, they can benefit from 'differentiation arrangements'. However, you must still prepare evidence of your finances for your dependants as it can be requested.   Refer to our guidance for current students for details:

Applying for Tier 4 - current students

Contact our team:

See the link on the right hand side of the page.

Further advice

For students with Tier 4 visas:
UKCISA - guidance on 'your family' 

For students with pre-Tier 4 visas:
UKCISA - your family's immigration if you don't have Tier 4

Home Office