A step-by-step guide to applying for a UK student visa

Amelia Carruthers
Amelia Carruthers
Last updated: Jun 15, 20227 min read
A step-by-step guide to applying for a UK student visa

The United Kingdom is an immensely popular location for international students. With world renowned universities, a vibrant multicultural society, reasonable living costs and brilliant work opportunities post-graduation – it’s not hard to see why.

If you’ve taken the decision to study in the UK, you’ll probably have to apply for a UK student visa. Whilst Swiss nationals and those from the European Economic Area don’t currently need a visa to study in the UK, most other nationalities do.

The amount of paperwork and requirements can feel daunting, but with a little preparation – you’ll be packing your bags in no time. To understand the process for applying for a student visa for the UK, we’ve compiled a complete step-by-step list.

With insights into the online UK student visa application form, processing times, requirements and fees – discover what you need to do, every step of the way.

Your step by step guide to apply for a UK student visa

  1. Compile your financial evidence
  2. Check UK student visa requirements
  3. Accept your offer and pay course fees
  4. Check your CAS letter details
  5. Complete the UK student visa application form
  6. Finalise documents and biometrics
  7. Receive your entry vignette and decision letter
  8. Collect your biometric residence permit

1. Compile your financial evidence

To apply for a student visa for the UK, international students will need to provide evidence of funding for tuition fees and living expenses (including accommodation).

It’s a good idea to start planning your financial evidence at an early stage. 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 (or 1,334 a month inside London) for the first nine months of your course
  • Additional living expenses of any eligible family members, at a rate of £680 per person per month

Students from countries which are classed as “differentiated” don’t need to provide financial evidence with their 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.

2. Check UK student visa requirements

UK student visa application forms can be time-consuming, so as with your financial evidence – it’s worth getting your documentation started early.

Make sure you have a current passport (or other valid travel documentation) as well as:

Remember that official translations may be needed for any evidence that isn’t 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

Congratulations, you’ve had an academic offer! 

Before you can apply for your student visa for the UK, you must formally accept your 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 (deducted from the final amount), but is separate from UK student visa fees themselves.

4. Check your CAS letter details

Your CAS letter is a fundamental part of the UK student visa application form, so it’s worth checking (and double-checking!) that all details are correct.

It will include aspects such as your personal details, course details, tuition fees and deposits, as well as any English language qualification requirements.

To successfully apply for a UK student visa, you may also need to complete a short questionnaire before your university can issue your CAS. This applies to any students who have previously studied in the UK.

5. Complete the UK student visa application form

With your documentation and CAS letter in place, you are ready to start the online application process!

UK student visa fees are currently £348 per person. You will also need to pay a healthcare surcharge for NHS services, which is usually around £450 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 (more on this in the next step!) 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 or use the “UK Immigration: ID Check” app to scan your identity document. You’ll be told what you need to do when you apply.

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

UK student visa processing time is usually around three weeks. Once your application has been processed, your decision letter and passport will be returned to you 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 (specified on your UK student visa application form).

Although rare, there are 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. They’ll provide information on the best way to proceed.

8. Collect your biometric residence permit

Once you’ve arrived in the UK, it’s important to collect your biometric residence permit (BRP) within ten days of arrival. Just make sure to bring your passport, entry vignette and visa decision letter with you.

Your BRP is an essential immigration document – so once you’ve received it, make sure to keep it somewhere safe! If you used the UK Immigration ID Check app, you won’t need a BRP, as you’ll receive your digital immigration status via the app.

Congratulations, you’ve got your student visa for the UK! Once you’ve received all your documents, you can travel with confidence and focus on your exciting studies ahead. Explore Edvoy to find out more about fulfilling your student 

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Written By
Amelia Carruthers

With a background in academic publishing, education and digital marketing, Amelia Carruthers is a freelance writer with a love of history, philosophy and the written word.

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