All international students who want to study in the UK must get a student visa (Tier 4). This type of visa is only available to full-time university students pursuing a degree in the UK, not short-term or language courses.
Anyone planning to study in the UK must have a visa to stay here for an extended period. Immigration requirements for the UK (and the United Kingdom as a whole) are determined by your nationality and the country or countries of citizenship.
This article will give you a general idea of the guidelines for getting a visa to study in the UK.
The UK student visa application can be completed online, by mail, or in person. You can apply online only outside the UK, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man (except North Korea). Those residing in the UK at the time of application must apply in person or by mail.
Remember that the requirements for a student visa in the UK change regularly. Therefore, you should always check the visa policy guidelines before starting an application.
Here are the most common documents you need to apply for a UK student visa:
- Application form.
- Valid passport.
- Two photographs. As per the guidelines provided by MyBiometricPhotos, the dimensions of your UK visa photos should be 45mm x 35mm in their original form, rather than being cropped from a larger image. The distance from the top of your hair to the bottom of your chin should not exceed 34 mm. Additionally, your head and shoulders should occupy approximately 70% to 80% of the photo.
- Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). The school usually provides the applicant with this confirmation electronically. You must enter the reference number to include CAS in your visa application.
- Proof of sufficient funds. The applicant must submit proof of sufficient monetary means to support themselves during their stay.
- In case of financial support by a parent or guardian, the applicant must include proof of relationship by birth certificates or adoption certificates.
- Proof of English proficiency. If English is not listed as a qualification in the applicant’s CAS, then the applicant must provide proof of English proficiency separately.
- An Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS). International students (except for some nationalities) must apply for an ATAS certificate for undergraduate or graduate research studies.
- Tuberculosis test results*. For studies lasting more than six months, some students may need to submit a negative tuberculosis test result with a validity of six months.
- Official translations of documents that are not in English.
- Proof of parental consent. This requirement is only for students under 18, who must also submit proof of relationship to parent or guardian.
The embassy or consulate may request additional documents during the application.
*The following candidates are exempt from this requirement:
- A returning resident of the UK.
- Has lived abroad for at least six months in a country where the UK does not require a tuberculosis test.
Note: After six months of living in the UK, you must take the tuberculosis test again.
The time of application for a UK student visa depends on whether the applicant is in or outside of the UK at the time of application.
When to apply for both cases:
- Applying from within the UK. The earliest you can apply is three months before the academic year begins. You will usually get a response within eight weeks of your application.
- Applying from outside the UK. You should apply for a student visa at least three months before the academic year begins or six months at the earliest.
You can apply for a student visa as soon as you receive the CAS from the university. You must then use the CAS reference number to support your application.
The procedure includes giving your biometric information at the visa application center or applying online through the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ application to scan your passport or another identification document
You will typically get a decision on your student visa application within three weeks.
Yes, working in the UK while completing your studies is possible. However, according to the UK government regulations for international students, you can only work part-time for a maximum of 20 hours per week. Full-time international students are not allowed to be self-employed in the UK.
Yes, you can bring your dependents to the UK under certain circumstances. Dependants are considered your married or unmarried partners and children (under 18 years old).
To bring your family members to the UK, you must meet the following requirements:
- Enrolled as a full-time student on a postgraduate course.
- A government-sponsored student enrolled in courses longer than six months.
- A Doctorate Extension Scheme student.
- Submit proof of marriage or civil partnership for your partner.
- Birth certificate for children.
Your dependant can stay in the UK under these circumstances:
- Proof of sufficient funds to support themselves. Each family member must have around £680 – £845 (USD 820-1,020) monthly.
- A newly introduced rule in the UK states that those dependants who submit an immigration application on or after 06 July 2018 will be allowed to work even if your degree course is nine months or longer.
If you apply outside the UK for a Tier 4 Student visa, you must pay £335 (USD 440). You must pay £490 (USD 590) if you are applying within the UK.
For a faster decision, you must pay an additional fee. However, the faster decision option is not guaranteed, and you must wait to find out whether you are eligible for such a service.
Applying for a UK student visa carries a certain fee which may depend on your nationality and the type of visa you’re willing to get. Furthermore, the student visa fee scheme changes occasionally, so you must always check the official sources.
There are two possibilities available for a faster decision on your student visa application:
- Priority Service: Within five working days for an additional fee of £250 (USD 302)
- Super Priority Services: By the end of the next day (not including weekends), for an additional fee of £956 (USD 1,157).
If you wish to remain in the UK after graduation, you can work full-time for the validity of your student visa. After your visa expires, you can apply to extend its validity by contacting Home Office.
You can also apply for a UK post-study work visa or work permit, which allows you to search for work for a period of two years after completing your studies (applies to graduate students).
Here is how you can extend your stay in the UK by seeking a proper visa:
- Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme. Students in the final stage of completing their Ph.D. in the UK and considering finding a job or establishing a business can seek an extension for up to 12 months. To get this visa, sponsorship from your university is required.
- Tier 2 (General). This is the most common immigration route for skilled workers outside the EU or Switzerland to work in the UK. You can only seek this visa if a Tier 2 licensed employer offers you a job. This type of visa is valid for up to five years.
- Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur. International students who wish to remain in the UK after graduation and start a business in the UK can seek this type of visa. You don’t need sponsorship for this visa, but approval from the University or UK Trade and Investment is required.
Its validity lasts 12 months; after that, you can ask for another extension of 12 months. This type of visa also allows you to bring your family members to join you in the UK.
- UK Ancestry. If your grandparent was born in the UK, you might be eligible for the UK Ancestry visa, which allows you to work in the UK. This type of visa is valid for up to five years.
As the current rules state, your University must inform the Home Office if they suspect you have breached the conditions and terms of your Tier 4 visa.
The immigration system to the UK changed post-Brexit, (the withdrawal of the UK from the EU that ran through January 31, 2020, to January 1st, 2021), including the number of countries that need a student visa to attend studies in the UK.
*Before Brexit, EU/EEA member countries, including Switzerland and Lichtenstein, did not need a student visa to study in the UK.
Since January 1st, 2021, all the countries listed below (including Switzerland and Lichtenstein) need a visa to study in the UK. This applies to students who enroll in courses that last longer than six months.
Note: If you have obtained settled or pre-settled status before 1 January 2021, according to the EU Settlement Scheme, or are a citizen of Ireland, you do not need to apply for a student visa.
If you are from one of the countries below, you need a visa to study in the UK:
- Republic of Cyprus
- Czech Republic
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Bosnia Herzegovina
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- The Central African Republic
- Costa Rica
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- The Dominican Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
- Falkland Islands
- Guinea Bissau
- Hong Kong
- Ivory Coast
- Korea (North)
- North Macedonia
- New Zealand
- Palestinian Territories
- Papua New Guinea
- Republic of South Sudan
- Republic of Sudan
- San Marino
- Sao Tome e Principe
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- United Arab Emirates
- United States
- Vatican City
If you are a citizen of any of the countries listed above, here is what you have to do to study in the UK:
You have to obtain your visa before arriving in the UK. The following visa types are available depending on your plans:
- Tier 4 (General) student visa. If you plan to be in the country for more than six months or want to work in the UK (either as an unpaid intern or to make a living), you must obtain a Tier 4 (General) student visa.
- Student visitor visa or a Tier 4 (General) student visa. If you are not working and staying for under six months, you may get a student visitor visa or a Tier 4 (General) student visa.
For further information on whether you need a visa or the type of visa you need, check out the UK Visa Guide webpage.