Table of Contents
- What is a student visa in the United Kingdom?
- What are the types of student visas available in the UK?
- How to apply for a UK student visa
The UK's student visa process is an important step in your application to study in the country.
It can seem a bit complicated and confusing at first but is it completely manageable if you take the time to prepare.
The United Kingdom is an immensely popular location for international students. World-renowned universities, a vibrant multicultural society, reasonable living costs and brilliant work opportunities are appealing to international students.
To help you with the visa application, we provide the necessary information to help you complete the process without hassle.
What is a student visa in the United Kingdom?
All international students need to get a visa to study in the UK. However, if you are an Irish student, you will not have to set up a visa.
A student visa is an official government permit that allows you to enter, stay and study in the UK. There are certain other benefits and restrictions based on the type of student visa you have.
In the guide below, we explain what the different visas are and the pros and cons of each.
What are the types of student visas available in the UK?
Currently, you can apply for one of the three types of student visas. The options are a short-term study visa, a student visa or a child student visa.
But, as an international student, you are unlikely to need the child student visa as this is for students between the ages of 4 and 17. As a result, we provide details about the short-term and student visa options below.
Short-term study visa
If your course is fewer than 11 months, you can choose the short-term visa. With a short-term study visa, you can stay in the UK for the duration of your course (up to 11 months). But, you cannot extend this visa, and you cannot work while studying.
If you are from the European Economic Area (EEA), the US, Canada or Australia, you can enter the UK as a visitor on arrival. Also, you can study a short course with a duration of fewer than 6 months. Alternatively, you can complete an accredited or recreational course with a duration of fewer than 30 days while holding a visitor status. Therefore, a short-term study visa will not be needed in this case.
But, if you enrol on a full-time course, like an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, you need a student visa.
With this type of visa, you can stay in the UK for the duration of your course. Also, you can apply to extend the visa, and you can work whilst studying.
Additionally, you can apply for a graduate visa up to 2 years after completing your course. Through this option, you can decide whether you want to stay in the UK and work, but this is completely optional.
How to apply for a UK student visa
Once you have decided on the best option for your course and study requirements, you must apply for your student visas.
At first, this can seem confusing as there are a few different steps. However, if you follow the guide below, then the application process should be quick and easy.
Firstly, to apply for a UK student visa, international students must provide evidence of funding for tuition fees and living expenses. This includes providing proof of funds for accommodation.
As part of this, you’ll need bank statements (from yourself, parents or guardians) with the required funds in place for at least 28 days.
This evidence should include:
- Tuition Fees for the first year of your course.
- Living expenses of £1,023 per month for the first nine months of your course. However, if your university is in London, you will need evidence of £1,334 per month as living costs are higher.
- Additional living expenses of any eligible family members, at a rate of £680 per person per month
Students from countries which are “differentiated” don’t need to provide financial evidence with a visa application. But it’s still a good idea to have this to hand – just in case you are asked to submit evidence at a later stage.
If you’re funded by an official sponsor (such as your university), you must obtain an official sponsorship letter from them too.
2. Check UK student visa requirements
UK student visa application forms can take time. Along with your financial evidence, it’s worth getting your documentation started early.
Therefore, it is important that your passport is in date and that you have any additional travel documents. In addition, you will need the following:
- A valid ATAS certificate (depending on your course and nationality).
- Parental or guardian consent if you are under 18.
- Tuberculosis test results (for certain listed countries).
Also, you might need official translations if some evidence is not shown in English.
UK student visa requirements may also require original academic certificates and transcripts, as well as English language test certificates. Your course provider’s Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies letter (CAS) will confirm all the documents you need.
3. Accept your offer and pay course fees
Before you can apply for your student visitor to the UK, you must formally accept your university’s course offer. This is a crucial first step before your institution can offer a CAS.
Some institutions also require a deposit towards course fees. This payment will go towards your total tuition fees and are deducted from the final amount. But this payment is separate from UK student visa fees.
4. Check your CAS letter
Your CAS letter is important during the UK student visa application. Therefore, it’s worth checking that all details are correct, including personal details and course information.
The CAS letter will include information like your personal details, course details, tuition fees and deposits. In addition, any further English language qualification requirements will be shown on the letter.
To successfully apply for a UK student visa, you might need to complete a short questionnaire before your university can issue a CAS. However, this only applies to any students who have previously studied in the UK.
5. Complete the UK student visa application
With your documentation and CAS letter in place, you are ready to start the online application process.
Currently, UK student visa fees are £363 per person. You will also need to pay a healthcare surcharge for NHS services, which is usually around £470 a year.
For any short courses, UK student visa fees are £97 for six months and £186 for eleven months.
UK student visa processing time can take up to three weeks. But if you have to provide biometric information at a visa application centre, you may be able to pay to get a faster decision.
6. Finalise documents and biometrics
As part of your application, you’ll need to prove your identity.
You’ll either give your fingerprints and photograph (biometric information) at a visa application centre. Alternatively, you can use the “UK Immigration: ID Check” app to scan your identity document.
You may also be selected for a “credibility interview” which is a five-minute interview via video link with UKVI staff. If selected, this is nothing to worry about, it’s just a check to make sure you’re a genuine student.
7. Receive your entry vignette and decision letter
Usually, UK student visas are processed within three weeks. Once your application is processed, your decision letter and passport will be returned alongside a vignette added to a blank page.
This vignette allows you to enter the UK within a 30 or 90-day window. This period is usually directly before your course start date, which is specified on your UK student visa application form.
Although, there are some cases where a visa may be refused, or where an issued visa is incorrect. If this has impacted you, contact your university in the first instance and they will provide information on the best way to proceed.
8. Collect your biometric residence permit
Once you arrive in the UK, you must collect your biometric residence permit (BRP) within ten days of arrival. When you collect the BRP, bring your passport, entry vignette and visa decision letter with you.
Your BRP is an important immigration document. Once you receive the document, you must keep it safe and secure. However, if you use the UK Immigration ID Check app, you won’t need a BRP, as you’ll receive your digital immigration status via the app.
These are a set of documents that you need to submit when you apply for your student visa. You will receive your visa only after your documents are verified.
- A valid passport.
- Parental or legal guardian consent with proof of relationship if the student is under the age of 18.
- University letter of acceptance along with the CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) number. Your university will provide the CAS reference number. You need to start your visa application within six months of receiving your letter of acceptance because your CAS number will expire in 6 months. However, 3 months is generally more than enough to obtain your visa.
- Statement of proof for your funds. This is to check if you will be able to take care of yourself financially. You need proof you can pay tuition fees for the first year of education and your cost of living for up to 9 months.