Authorised absence for international students

As a Tier 4 sponsor licence holder, the University of Birmingham has an obligation to monitor and keep records of attendance and absence for Tier 4 students.

A Tier 4 (General) student visa is issued for the purpose of full-time study at the University of Birmingham, however the University recognises that there may be times when you need to be absent from the University due to unforeseen circumstances (such as a bereavement or illness of an immediate family member). Students may also be permitted to undertake a period of study in or outside the UK, not based at the University of Birmingham (e.g. fieldwork or to work on your thesis or dissertation).

How long can I take as authorised absence?

If you will not be engaging in any academic activities during the absence, the University may approve a period of authorised absence for a maximum of eight weeks per academic year without the withdrawal of immigration sponsorship.

A period of authorised absence will not be added to your registration period; therefore in some circumstances a leave of absence may be more appropriate. Please see the Code of Practice on Leave of Absence Procedures for more information.

Where you are continuing to engage with your programme of study during the period of authorised absence, for example undertaking fieldwork, the University may approve a period of authorised absence longer than eight weeks.

Can I take authorised absence for the purpose of holiday?

Undergraduate/Postgraduate taught students:

If you are an undergraduate or postgraduate taught student, you are not expected to be absent from teaching sessions during term-time for the purpose of holiday/tourist travel, cultural or religious events that can be observed in the UK, or social occasions (e.g. weddings). You do not need to apply for authorised absence during vacation time if your programme follows the standard University vacation calendar. You are also not required to apply for authorised absence if you will be absent over a weekend only. However, authorised absence is required if you travel during reading week.

If you are on a twelve month full-time Masters programme and will be working on your dissertation/research project over the summer you must apply for authorised absence if you require an absence during this time, even if it is during the University summer vacation period. Whilst you will not normally have any teaching sessions scheduled, you are required to be academically engaged on a full time basis. We would therefore not expect absence for the purpose of holiday to be taken during this time.

If you are on a twenty four month full-time Masters programme, you do not need to apply for authorised absence during the summer vacation period between year one and year two. In your second year, if you will be working on your dissertation/research project over the summer you must apply for authorised absence if you wish to take holiday during this time, even if it is during the University summer vacation period.

Postgraduate research students:

If you are a postgraduate research student, then yes, you are permitted to take authorised absence for the purpose of holiday. University term dates vacation periods do not apply to postgraduate research students, therefore any period of holiday must be covered by an authorised absence. Postgraduate researchers may, with the prior agreement of their supervisor, take up to eight weeks holiday in each academic year, including public holidays.

The eight weeks permitted is equivalent to 40 days (8 weeks x 5 days). This is based on weekdays, not working days; it excludes weekends but includes any University closed days and bank holidays. Please note that this is calculated on a pro-rata basis where a student's registration is for less than an academic year.

What other reasons am I allowed to take authorised absence for?

Please see the link below for information on the available reasons for absence:

If you are selecting ‘Other’ as the reason, please ensure you provide details about the reason for your absence in the ‘Details (other absence reason)’ field.

Authorised Absence Requests – Reasons for Absence (PDF - 187 KB)

How do I apply for authorised absence?

You are required to submit an authorised absence request by completing section one of the online request form and providing all mandatory information and evidence. Please read the authorised absence for international students guidance notes carefully.

Authorised absence for international students online request form

Authorised absence for international students guidance notes (PDF - 416 KB)

Please ensure your request is submitted a minimum of ten University working days in advance of your departure date, as retrospective requests may not be considered. Exceptions to this would be if you need to travel at short notice due to unforeseen events, such as illness or death of an immediate family member.

Please note: If you are unsure of whose name to enter as your authorised signatory, please contact your programme/PGR administrator before submitting your authorised absence request.

Do I need to provide evidence in support of my request?

For some absences, yes. Please see the link below for where evidence is required:

Authorised Absence Requests – Reasons for Absence (PDF - 187 KB)

Please note that evidence should support the reason for the absence. Evidence that is not in English must be translated into English by a certified translator.

When providing translated evidence, please provide both the original and the translated copy.

What happens after I apply and how long will it take?

The named authorised signatory will review your request and provide confirmation of any relevant monitoring conditions and their decision. Once they submit their decision, a confirmation email will be sent to the administrator named in the form.

The programme/PGR administrator will receive the completed online request via email and forward the request to Registry for processing.

Registry will process your request and email you to confirm whether the request has been approved or declined. If your authorised absence is approved and you are due to travel outside the UK, you will be provided with a scanned copy of a letter (which will be emailed to you) for you to carry in your hand luggage when you leave and return to the UK. This can be shown to the Immigration Officer should they ask for proof that you are a student and have permission to travel outside the UK.

Please note that once the authorised absence request has been received by Registry, the standard processing time is ten working days (maximum). 

Will you inform the Home Office about my absence?

The University may inform the Home Office if your absence is on academic grounds (fieldwork or writing up your dissertation/thesis in your home country).

If you intend to return to the University and continue with your studies at the end of your absence, the University will inform the Home Office of a temporary change in your study location. In these circumstances, the University must fulfil its Sponsor Licence obligations and continue to monitor your academic engagement and progress with your fieldwork, thesis or dissertation.

If you confirm on the authorised absence form that you will not be returning to the University to complete your studies, the University will report to the Home Office that you have returned to your home country for the remainder of your programme. This means that the University will withdraw immigration sponsorship from your Tier 4 visa and you will not be permitted to return to the University on your current Tier 4 visa. If you have any queries regarding your Tier 4 visa and withdrawal of immigration sponsorship, we strongly advise that you contact the International Students Advisory Service (ISAS)

Do I have to return to the University at the end of my authorised absence?

If the purpose of your absence is to write up your dissertation or thesis overseas you may, with the approval of your School, submit your work from overseas and not be required to return to the University. If you choose to do this, the University will report to the Home Office that you have returned to your home country for the remainder of your programme. This means that the University will withdraw immigration sponsorship from your Tier 4 visa and you will not be permitted to return to the University on your current Tier 4 visa. If you have any queries regarding to your Tier 4 visa and withdrawal of immigration sponsorship, we strongly advise that you contact the International Students Advisory Service (ISAS)

What do I need to do when I return from authorised absence?

On the first University working day after the end of your authorised absence you must report in person to your programme/PGR administrator to confirm that you have returned by the agreed date.

If you are unable to return by the date provided on your request form, you must notify your authorised signatory and contact Registry at registrypbsqueries@contacts.bham.ac.uk to advise of your new date of return and the reasons why you are unable to return by the original agreed date. Failure to do so may result in the withdrawal of immigration sponsorship.

The authorised signatory will need to confirm to Registry whether they approve the extension to your absence and you may be asked to provide evidence to support the reason for the extension. If your absence is on non-academic grounds, and the extension takes you over the maximum eight weeks permitted per academic  year, the request will be refused and an alternative course of action may be required.

Will an authorised absence affect my American Loan?

If you have an American Loan, you should contact the Funding, Graduation & Awards team for advice, by email to fga@contacts.bham.ac.uk as an authorised absence can have an effect on your loan eligibility.

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