Doctorate Extension Scheme

Doctorate Extension Scheme Header

Tier 4 - Doctorate Extension Scheme

The Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) allows students who are nearing completion of a PhD to apply for a 12 month extended visa period to look for work, set up as an entrepreneur or gain practical work experience in their field. The Scheme operates within Tier 4 of the points based system and, during the 12 months, the University of Lincoln will sponsor your visa.

Doctorate Extension Scheme CAS request form

Am I eligible for the Doctorate Extension Scheme?

To qualify for the Doctorate Extension Scheme you must meet the following criteria:

  • Hold a valid Tier 4 (General) student visa to study a programme that leads to a PhD qualification.
  • Have not yet completed your PhD programme. *
  • You must be in the UK and be able to make your application from within the UK.
  • You must be able to make your application no more than 60 days before the completion date on your CAS*

*For the purposes of the Doctorate Extension Scheme, completed/completion date refers to the date your award is conferred at the College Research Degrees Board.

Please note that these are general eligibility criteria and all CAS Requests for the Doctorate Extension Scheme are subject to a full assessment by the Tier 4 Compliance team. The University reserves the right to refuse a CAS.

When can I apply?

You must make your visa application no more than 60 days before the completion date on your CAS.

For example, if your award is due to be conferred at the College Research Degrees Board on 1st August 2017, you must make your visa application between 2nd June 2017 and 31st July 2017. These timeframes will be specified in an email from the Tier 4 Compliance team along with your CAS.

How do I apply?

  • Once you have completed your viva, and have been advised of what, if any, amendments you have to make, you should complete the Doctorate Extension Scheme CAS request form.
  • Once you have submitted your CAS Request the Tier 4 Compliance team will contact you within 5 working days to confirm whether you are eligible to receive a CAS. If you are eligible, you will be sent a timeline that you will need to adhere to as well as a DES declaration that you will be required to read, sign and return.
  • Attend a free visa workshop with the International Advice team for advice and guidance when making your DES application. Details of the free visa workshops can be found below.

Is there support available to help me make my application?

The International Advice team hold a visa workshop to support you when making your DES application. They are able to give you advice on the documents required, the maintenance amount you are required to demonstrate and how to complete the application form.

These workshops are free to attend and take place every Tuesday at 5.30pm in the University Library, Room UL101.

Working on the Doctorate Extension Scheme

The Home Office guidance states that ‘Students on the Doctorate Extension Scheme have new work conditions when they successfully complete their course’. This is the date that your PhD award is conferred at the College Research Degrees Board.

You should not undertake any full time work, and should continue to adhere to your restricted Tier 4 working conditions, until your PhD has been awarded, even if you have received the Doctorate Extension Scheme Visa.

Your Doctorate Extension Scheme Responsibilities

Once you have obtained your new Tier 4 DES visa you will be subject to the following:

  • Once you have received it, you must take your DES visa to the Student Support Centre, Minerva Building, for the University to take copies as required by the Home Office.
  • You must complete the online DES contact form approximately every three months. A link to the form will be sent to you by email. Failure to maintain contact using the online form will result in the University withdrawing sponsorship of your DES visa.
  • You must notify the Tier 4 Compliance team if you permanently leave the UK. You can contact us by email at desvisa@lincoln.ac.uk
  • If after you have applied for the DES visa you fail to complete your PhD the University must report this to the Home Office and your visa will be cancelled
  • The University may withdraw sponsorship of your DES visa should it be made aware that you are in breach of the conditions of the scheme.

FAQs and Policy Documents

1. Purpose

This document sets out the University’s policy regarding sponsorship of the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) visa.

2. Sponsoring students on the Doctorate Extension Scheme

2.1 The University will sponsor doctorate graduates under the DES only where the University is satisfied the student is eligible for the DES.

2.2 Any student requesting sponsorship under the DES must apply to the University Tier 4 Compliance Team by completing the Doctorate Extension Scheme CAS Request Form available from the University’s Tier 4 – Doctorate Extension Scheme webpage.

2.3 Requests for sponsorship under DES will be considered on an individual basis and the University reserves the right to refuse sponsorship in certain situations including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The student has outstanding debts to the University
  • The student has a history of prior visa application refusals
  • The student has had poor engagement throughout their doctorate study
  • The University is aware of information that could result in the student’s visa application being refused, for example insufficient maintenance funds
  • The student is in breach of their current visa conditions
  • The University believes a student is not acting honestly

2.4 In the event a student’s current Tier 4 leave expires before their course completion date and the University does not require the student’s continued attendance, the University will not issue a CAS to extend their existing leave if the University cannot meets its sponsorship duties with respect to the student.

3. Record keeping

3.1 The University will retain a copy of a student’s passport and the Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).

3.2 The University will keep a record of the contact points with the student in accordance with Section 4 of this policy

4. Monitoring

4.1 The University will contact students three times throughout the duration of sponsorship (12 month period). Contact points with the student will occur approximately every 3 months after the student has received their DES Tier 4 visa. Contact will be normally undertaken through a SharePoint system whereby the student will be sent an email inviting them to log on to the University system to review and amend their details.

4.2 If a student does not respond to the contact point the University will make a further two attempts to contact the student within a reasonable amount of time. If the student cannot provide a reasonable explanation for missing the contact point or the University is unable to re-establish contact with the student, the University reserves the right to withdraw sponsorship.

5. Withdrawing sponsorship

5.1 The Home Office’s process requires students to apply for the Doctorate Extension Scheme visa application prior to the completion of the doctorate course. The University are required to withdraw sponsorship of the DES visa if the student does not successfully achieve a doctorate degree.

5.2 When the University issues the DES CAS the intention is to sponsor the student for the duration of the 12 month period that is allowed. However, the University reserves the right to withdraw sponsorship at any time should the Tier 4 Compliance team become aware the student is in breach of the terms and conditions of their visa or has evidence that the student has not disclosed all relevant information at the time of issuing the CAS or has not acted honestly.

5.3 Students are expected to fully cooperate with the University. Any student who hinders the University’s ability to comply with its record keeping and reporting duties under Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance, or puts the University’s Tier 4 Sponsor Licence at risk, will have their sponsorship withdrawn.

5.4 If a student informs the University they are permanently leaving the UK, the University will report the student’s visa to the Home Office for curtailment in accordance with Section 6 of this policy.

6. Reporting students to Home Office

6.1 The University will report a student to the Home Office in accordance with the Immigration Rules, Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance and any other guidance received from the Home Office.

6.2 The reports to the Home Office will be made by the Tier 4 Compliance team using the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) unless a situation arises where a report must be made by email to the Home Office.

6.3 All reports to the Home Office will be made within 10 days that the University becomes aware of an issue that would result in a report being made.

7. Policy Review

This policy will be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the University remains compliant with the Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance and Immigration Rules.

Q. What happens if I still have a long period remaining on my existing visa when I am due to complete e.g. 11 months, can I just use my existing visa to remain and look for work after I have completed?

A. No, once your degree has been awarded and you have surplus leave (more than four months remaining) on your existing visa, the University is obliged to report your early completion to UKVI and your visa may be cut short (curtailed). You should instead apply under the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme before you complete to give you the correct permission to remain in the UK.


Q. My visa will expire before I can apply for the DES visa. What can I do? A. You will have to apply for a normal student extension under Tier 4 for more time to complete your course and then apply for the DES visa at the appropriate time. However, if you are handing in your final thesis within 60 days, you may be eligible to apply for a Doctorate Extension Scheme visa. To check if you are eligible to do this, please contact tier4visa@lincoln.ac.uk Q. What kind of employment am I not allowed to take up?

A. You cannot work as a doctor or dentist in training or a sportsperson (including coaches). You are permitted to take up any other form of employment or be self-employed. Note that if you wish to progress to Tier 2, your employment must meet the requirement for this visa.


Q. Am I restricted to how many hours I can work on a Tier 4 visa under the Doctorate Extension Scheme?

A. No, the Tier 4 visa under the Doctorate Extension Scheme does not limit the number of hours you can work in a week.


Q. Can I use the student batch scheme to apply? A. Yes, the University’s International Advice Team can check your visa application form and documents and then submit the application to UKVI. Q. Am I still eligible for the Doctorate Extension Scheme if I receive a lower award i.e. Master of Philosophy?

A. No, the Doctorate Extension Scheme is only available to students who are on track to receive a PhD. If a student is not conferred a PhD after the DES Tier 4 visa application is submitted, the University would need to withdraw sponsorship of the application.


Q. Is there a fee for the University sponsoring me for the Doctorate Extension Scheme?

A. No, there is no charge for the request of a DES CAS and the only fee you will pay will be the cost of the Doctorate Extension Scheme visa application.


Q. I have had my viva and have been told I have major amendments to do on my thesis, why am I not eligible for the Doctorate Extension Scheme?

A. The University allows research students up to 6 months to complete major amendments on their thesis. As the UKVI rules are clear that you cannot submit a DES Tier 4 visa application until 60 days before your ‘completion date’, you would not be eligible to apply whilst you have major amendments to complete until near your hand in date. Please contact the Tier 4 Compliance team for further advice on the ideal time to complete a DES CAS request form.


Q. Would I need to have found employment to be eligible for the Doctorate Extension Scheme?

A. No, you would not need to have found employment prior to applying for the Doctorate Extension Scheme.


Q. Would my Doctorate Extension Scheme visa get cancelled if I do not find employment?

A. No, the University will not withdraw sponsorship if you cannot find employment.


Q. Can I apply for the Doctorate Extension Scheme from my home country?

A. No, you must make an application within the UK. Once you have received your DES Tier 4 visa, you may return home for visits if you wish.


Q. Can I extend my stay in the UK after my 12 months under the Doctorate Extension Scheme?

A. There is no option to extend the DES visa for longer than 12 months. As long as your DES visa is still valid (not expired or curtailed) you can switch into Tier 2 or Tier 1 (Entrepreneur). You would need to meet the requirements for the relevant tier.