How to Get a UK Student Visa
Want to study in the UK? Find out whether you need to apply for a UK student visa, and how the application process works.
UK visa requirements and general immigration criteria are managed by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), which has an easy-to-navigate site to help you determine whether you need a UK student visa. While Swiss nationals and those from the EU/European Economic Area (EEA) states are treated as home students in the UK, all other international students are likely to need a visa to study in the UK.
Types of UK student visa
If you’re doing a short course or an 11-month English language course, and are over 18 years old, you may be eligible for the student visitor visa. This is valid up to 6 months for short courses and can be extended for a stay of up to 11 months for English language courses. If you’re doing a longer course, you’ll need to make sure your chosen institution is on the UKBA list of trusted sponsors. You can either apply for a Tier 4 (Child) student visa (if you’re aged 4-17) or a Tier 4 (General) student visa for those aged 18 and over.
You may also apply for entry to the UK as a prospective student. To do this you must prove you have been in touch with some UK universities. This visa will be valid for six months, during which time you may study – though it is advisable to upgrade to a full student visa sooner rather than later.
UK student visa requirements
Your course provider may be willing to help you to apply for a UK student visa once you have been offered a place on a course, so it’s always worth asking. You can apply for the visa up to three months in advance of the start date of your course. Make sure to allow plenty of time, as average visa processing times may vary.
UK student visas are awarded on a points-based system. In order to meet all the UK student visa requirements, you’ll need to provide:
- Details of your passport
- A recent photograph
- A 'Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies’ (CAS) form from your course provider (worth 30 points)
- Proof of adequate English language skills, through one of the UKBA-approved English language tests (or perhaps through an alternate test or Skype interview with your course provider)
- Proof you have financial support throughout your stay in the UK (worth 10 points)
This proof of financial support can take the form of bank statements or a letter from your financial sponsor, showing you can cover your tuition fees, accommodation and living costs. You may be required to show you have a budget of at least £800-1,000 (US$1,320-1,650) per month.
You may also be required to produce documents showing your academic qualifications, and to attend an interview or biometric test, which includes a digital scan of your fingerprints. Depending on your country of origin, you may also be required to have certain medical vaccinations.
Using your UK student visa
When you enter the UK, a UK Border Agency officer will put a stamp on your passport that states the duration of your stay in the UK. You cannot extend your stay beyond this period. Before you arrive, you must make sure you are fully immunized, remembering to pack your immunization record in your hand luggage in case you are asked to show the Border Agency officer at your UK port of entry.
While UK student visitor visa holders and prospective student visa holders are not allowed to work in the UK, Tier 4 student visa holders can work a certain amount of hours per week in the holiday periods.