The Points-Based System

What is the Points-Based System (PBS)?

PBS is a new system for immigration being introduced in the UK. It is a five-tiered system covering the areas of work and study and has been rolled out tier by tier since June 2008. The first phase of Tier 4 (Students) of PBS was introduced on 31 March 2009. The final phase was introduced on 22 February 2010.

Is Exeter a ‘registered sponsor’?

It is a requirement of PBS that institutions be registered with the UK Border Agency in order to recruit international students. The University of Exeter is a registered sponsor and has achieved an A-rating, the highest available.

I’m applying for my visa after March 2009/February 2010. What do I need to know?

PBS is a more transparent but stricter immigration system. Previously, Entry Clearance Officers and Home Office Caseworkers could use discretion to make certain decisions. Students were expected to prove that they intended to study in the UK, and visas could be rejected based on very subjective ‘intention tests’. Under PBS, ‘intention tests’ will not exist, and your visa application will be judged strictly against the required criteria. This means, however, that it is very important that you have exactly the documents required as you will not be granted a visa if all necessary documents are not supplied. These requirements apply to students applying for a visa both at home and already in the UK:

  • CAS: You will need a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from the University. The University's Admissions Office will create an electronic record in the UK Border Agency Sponsor Management System which will generate a unique reference number called a CAS. This number and the details uploaded into the Sponsor Management System will be forwarded to you in a 'CAS statement' email. You must enter this number on your visa application form and the UK Border Agency will then be able to access the details of your offer. Since 22 February 2010, visa letters of any kind are no longer valid so you must have a CAS number before you can apply for your visa. Your visa will feature the University of Exeter sponsor number and you will only be able to study at the University of Exeter on this visa.
  • Maintenance: You must show that you have enough money in cash funds to pay at least your first year’s tuition fees + £800 per month for accommodation and living expenses (up to a maximum of 9 months). You will need a further £450 per month for any dependants.
  • Proof of qualifications: Your 'CAS statement' email will list the qualifications that you used to obtain your place at Exeter. With your visa application, you must submit original proof of all of these qualifications.

The UK Border Agency will check your documents to make sure that they are genuine. If you submit fraudulent documents, your visa will be rejected, and you could be banned from entering the UK for 10 years.

Make sure that you visit the section of our website for much more detailed advice before you make your application.

I will be arriving late. Do I need to do anything?

It is extremely important that you contact the Admissions Office at as soon as possible if you think you might be arriving late. Under PBS rules, institutions are required to report any students who have not arrived within 10 days of registration to the UK Border Agency. If we have reported you as non-registered and you try to enter the UK, you will be stopped at the border and told to return home. If you have a genuine reason for being late, however, and we have approved your late arrival, we can let the UK Border Agency know that we are expecting you at a later date and you will be allowed to enter the UK and travel to Exeter. Please note that students will rarely be allowed to start more than 2 weeks late even if their visa has been delayed.

Are there any new rules after I arrive?

Yes, and it is important that you know what they are:

  • Visa/passport copies: You will need to present your visa or ID card and passport to the University or you will not be able to register. We will keep copies of your visa and passport
  • Up-to-date contact details: Exeter will be required to keep up to date contact details for all international students. If you change your address or phone number, you must let the University know by updating your details using the MyExeter facility.
  • Attendance: It is a requirement of PBS that attendance be monitored and that non-attending students must be reported to the UK Border Agency. It is therefore vital that you attend all mandatory seminars, lectures, labs, etc. If you have a good reason for missing a teaching event, you should contact your tutor in advance to let them know that you will not be attending and why. You will receive a warning if you miss too many classes, and will be required to meet with University staff before the reporting stage is reached

What about working regulations, Police Registration and ATAS?

All of these will stay the same as under the current rules. International students will be allowed to work 20 hours per week during term-time, and full-time during holidays.

Certain nationalities will be required to register with the police. This will be indicated on your visa.

Postgraduate research students in some disciplines, particularly science and engineering will need to obtain an ATAS certificate BEFORE applying for a visa. If this is a requirement it will be highlighted in your offer and visa letter. ATAS is a UK government scheme designed to ensure that students applying to study certain sensitive subjects in the UK cannot use their academic studies to spread knowledge and skills that could be used in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery. You will need to hold a valid ATAS certificate before you apply for your UK student visa or extension to stay, whilst this doesn't guarantee you a visa, your visa application will automatically be refused if you need an ATAS certificate and cannot provide one. You can apply for an ATAS certificate up to 12 months prior to the start of your course and the certificate remains valid as long as your course details do not change. The ATAS certificate is institution specific so you may want to start the ATAS application after you have confirmed where you want to study otherwise you will need to apply for separate ATAS clearance certificates for each University/Institution and programme of study. More information about ATAS is available here:

How do I find out more about PBS?

The UK Council for International Student Affairs has a helpful website with lots of information for international students, including updates on the Points-Based System:

For official policy documents and more detailed information, visit the UK Border Agency website here

Sometimes you will have questions about your particular situation. Please contact the International Student Support Office ( for specific advice.