Doctorate Extension Scheme (Tier 4)

We know that international students will be worried by the Covid-19 situation and what it means for their immigration status and their studies in the UK. UK Visa Application Centres are currently closed, as are English language testing centres and the ATAS application service, and travel is severely restricted.

The Home Office has introduced a number of immigration concessions for students, outlined here: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Tier 4 sponsors, migrants and short-term students.

UKCISA regularly updates their advice for students here: Coronavirus (Covid-19): info for international students.

Students will also want to keep up-to-date with the University’s response to Covid-19 on our FAQ pages here: University of Exeter – Coronavirus (Covid-19) Information and Advice.

Finally, the trained immigration advisers in International Student Support are here to help with any questions or concerns you have during this difficult time. Please email us at and one of our advisers will respond as soon as possible.

If you are a PhD (or equivalent) student and are interested in gaining experience in the UK at the end of your degree, then extending your Tier 4 visa under the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) may be a good option for you.

This 12 month visa extension allows students and their dependants to extend their Tier 4 visas to allow them to look for and start employment or set up as a business in the UK. There are fewer work restrictions and you do not need to have a job offer to apply for this visa. You will need a new CAS number issued by our office to submit with your visa application. Your DES visa will expire 12 months after your award date. 

  • You must be studying a programme at PhD level (including EdD, EngD, Doctor of Engineering, DClin, Doctor of Educational Psychology); 

  • You can apply no more than 60 days before your award date. You cannot apply after you have completed your programme; 

  • You must meet the financial requirements;  

  • You must have a Tier 4 (General) visa and  

  • You must apply from within the UK through our office.

  • You can work without restrictions after you have successfully completed your degree and submitted your DES visa extension application.
  • You still cannot work as a Doctor or Dentist in training, or as a sportsperson (including as a coach). 
Keeping in contact
  • You must respond to emails sent to you by the University within 2 weeks.  There will be a minimum of 2 emails during the year. 
  • You must notify the University if your contact details change or if you permanently leave the UK. 
The University will notify UKVI if you
  • fail your programme or are awarded a lower qualification; 
  • fail to respond to a University email; 
  • permanently leave the UK; 
  • are no longer participating in the scheme. 

During your appointment you will need to confirm that you understand and agree to the above conditions.

You can submit an application no more than 60 days before your award date which will be very shortly after you submit your final corrected thesis, you cannot apply for DES after your PhD has been awarded. We strongly advise that you book an appointment with us before you have your viva so that we can fully prepare you for an application.

We would strongly recommend that you use our service as we will check and submit your application and supporting documents.

As your application must be made from within the UK, you should use this guide:


If you are having trouble viewing this guide, you can download it here: In-country application form guide

UK Visas and Immigration requires that you have a set amount of savings for a specified amount of time to apply for the Doctorate Extension Scheme. If your dependants are applying with you, you will also need to show money for them.

Doctorate Extension Scheme Money Calculation 

Maintenance £1,015 per month for 2 months = £2,030
Living expenses for dependants If you have any dependants applying with you they will need £1,360 each
= The total money you need

Evidence of money 

If you qualify under the UK Visas and Immigration differentiation arrangements you must still meet the requirements below but do not need to submit evidence with your initial application. Check whether this applies to you in the differentiation section below. All other students will need to submit documentary evidence with their application.

Money in the bank 

The money must be cash funds in a current account or savings account in your name or that of your parent. Joint accounts are acceptable. You must hold the money in the account for at least the 28 day period before you submit your Tier 4 DES application. You can use your bank account during the 28 days but the balance must not fall below the required amount.  

Your bank document must show the transactions and balance during the 28 day period. The date on your bank document may be up to 31 days before the date of application but the money must remain in your account until the date of application. 

Date of application

The date of application is the date that you submit your application form online and pay your application fee. 

Bank Statements 

Your bank statement needs to meet the following rules: 

  • It must cover the whole 28 day period 
  • It must be dated within no more than 31 days before the date of application.  
  • It must include at least your name, account number, all transactions, and the logo of the bank 
  • It must be original – you cannot use a print-out or copy unless it has been certified by the bank 
  • It must be in English – you will need an official translation in addition to the original if it is not 
  • If the currency is not in British Pounds (GBP), you should check the conversion of the final balance on the Oanda website on the date of application and write this on the bank statement  

Print-outs and electronic bank statements:

If your statement has been printed at the bank or you have printed it yourself online, it must have the bank’s official stamp on every page in addition to all of the above requirements. We advise that there is not a gap of more than 3 days between the date of the last transaction and the date the statement is stamped.

Example Bank Statement

Bank letters 

If your bank statement does not meet the above rules you can request a letter from the bank instead. A bank letter needs to meet the following rules: 

  • It must include your name and account number 
  • It must include the date of letter (no more than 1 month old) 
  • It must include the bank’s name and logo 
  • It must clearly state the amount of money in the account 
  • It must confirm that the required amount has been there for at least 28 days 

Example Bank Letter


If your dependant family members are applying with you, please see our Dependants section for information about the documents required for them.

Passport and visas

You must provide a current valid passport. 

If you have a current or previous UK visa issued on a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card, you must include it with your application.  

Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) 

Your CAS statement lists your CAS number and other important information which you will need to include on your application form. Our office will agree the details with you and issue your CAS number prior to your final appointment with us. This will list your award date as your course end date which will be used to calculate the beginning of your 12 month DES visa. 

Evidence of money

You will need either a bank statement or a bank letter to show that you have held the required funds for the required amount of time as described above. 

Sponsor permission letter

If you have been financially sponsored by a government or an international scholarship agency within the last 12 months, you will need your sponsor’s unconditional written permission to stay in or re-enter the UK.


Any documents not in English must also include a professional translation. Translations must include:  

  • confirmation that the translation is an accurate reflection of the original,  
  • translator’s name, signature and date of translation,  
  • translator’s contact details 
  • list of translator’s qualifications or credentials.


If an ATAS certificate was required for your programme of study, you will need to submit it with your Doctorate Extension Scheme application. ATAS is only required for certain subject areas, including Computer Science, Physics, Medicine, Biosciences and Engineering. If it was required for your programme, you will have needed this to apply for your original Tier 4 visa.

In most cases, if you are required to submit an ATAS certificate, you will be able to use the original ATAS certificate that you were issued, even though it will have expired. However, if your award date will be more than 3 months after the course end date that was on the CAS for your last Tier 4 visa, you will need to apply for a new ATAS certificate. This can take 4-6 weeks to be processed. Our team will be able to help you work out whether a new ATAS certificate is required.

Police registration certificate

If you are required to register with the police, you must submit an up-to-date police registration certificate which includes your current visa details and your current address.

Additional documents

The Home Office should not request any additional documents except in exceptional circumstances.


Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS):

Compulsory, entitles you to access to National Health Service (NHS)

£300 per person.

Application fee:

Prices increase for premium applications to receive a quicker decision

£494.20 (standard), £994.20 (priority), £1,294.20 (super priority)

Additional charges:

Biometrics appointment at a UK Visa Application Centre

The closest free appointments are available in Cardiff, Croydon and Birmingham.  For other locations, Exeter, there will be a charge of £60 - £135 depending on the location and time of appointment.

Nationals of certain countries qualify for Tier 4 differentiation arrangements. If you qualify for differentiation arrangements, you do not need to submit evidence of previous qualifications or financial documents with your initial visa application. However, UK Visas and Immigration can request that you submit full documents at any point during the application process, so you must ensure you meet the financial and qualifications requirements on the date that you submit your online application.

To apply for the Doctorate Extension Scheme, you must submit your application through International Student Support. We recommend that you contact us for a first appointment after you have submitted your initial thesis (and at least one month before your viva). You will then usually need to attend an appointment with us as soon as possible after your viva. Contact us to book an appointment or ask a question.