Living and studying in the UK is a dream for aspiring students around the world. The possibility to improve your English skills, study at a leading university and explore all that the British Isles have to offer is a wonderful opportunity.
In 2020 there were over 500,000 international students studying in the UK. The vast majority of these students will have been in the same situation you are in now – applying for a UK student visa!
In this article, we look at how you can join the thousands of students already in the UK by demystifying the UK student visa application process. From which UK study visa you require to prerequisites and fees, here’s everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
1. Do I need a UK student visa to study in the UK?
International students aged 16 or over (looking to study at higher education level) will need to apply for a UK student visa. This allows you to live and study in the UK for the duration of your course.
You can apply for a UK study visa through the GOV.UK site, providing you meet the following UK student visa requirements:
- You’ve been offered a place on a university course or by a licensed student sponsor.
- You can speak, read, write and understand English to a standard test level – you may have to sit an exam to prove your English skills. (We’ve already written about TOEFL scores, PTE preparation and Duolingo English Tests – so check these out if you’re currently working on your language skills!).
- Have reasonable finances to support yourself and pay for your course. As well as tuition and accommodation fees, living expenses currently sit at £1,023 per month (or 1,334 a month inside London). Whilst you might decide to take up a part-time job alongside your studies, you shouldn’t rely on this income.
- Have written consent from your parents to study abroad if you’re 16 or 17.
For more information on the exact details of UK student visa requirements, we’ve created your ultimate step-by-step guide to the UK study visa application process.
2. Which UK study visa do I need?
Since October 2020, the UK Tier 4 system has been replaced by The Student Route; a points-based visa system for international students. This includes EU, EEA and Swiss students.
The Student Route is designed to streamline the UK student visa application process into one centralised system – and therefore attract the most talented students from around the world.
This means that whether prospective students are from the EU, Singapore, Chile – or anywhere else in the world, they face a fair and efficient UK student visa application process.
When will I know if my visa application has been approved or rejected?
If you’re applying for a UK student visa from outside the country, the earliest you can apply is six months before your course starts. You should receive a decision from UKVI within three weeks. This may come in the form of a letter, text message or email.
From inside the UK, the earliest you can apply is three months before the course start date. The time scales will be the same, but you are more likely to receive a letter confirming whether your application has been approved or rejected.
Remember that most courses usually start in September (so you should apply well in advance of this), but it’s worth checking all the details with your institution!
3. How much is the UK student visa fee?
Here’s the bad news… There is a UK student visa fee for international students. The good news is that this is a single amount, payable one time only.
A UK study visa application will set you back £348 from outside the UK, or a hefty £475 for those already inside the UK looking to extend or switch their existing visa. We know, it’s not ideal – but it is worthwhile persevering!
You may also have to pay a healthcare charge, as you won’t be covered by the NHS in the same way as British citizens. Make sure to check how much you need to pay before you apply.
4. How long does a UK study visa last?
A UK student visa grants you up to five years stay if you’re over 18 (and studying at degree level). If it’s below degree level, then you can usually stay up to two years, although this can be extended.
Most undergraduate courses take three to four years. This might be longer if “years in industry” or work experience are included as part of your course. Given that most university-level UK study visas last five years, this does mean that you might be able to stay for a year or so after your university course ends. You could continue studying, working in a part-time job or simply enjoying time with your new British friends!
If you want to extend your stay in the UK beyond five years (and don’t intend to undertake further studies) – finding stable, long-term employment after graduation is your best chance of a visa extension.
5. UK student visas: in summary
With this guide to UK student visas, we hope you have a clear idea of what to expect. It’s vital international students understand what visa they need, the costs involved, what UK student visa requirements need to meet, as well as options for staying in the UK beyond graduation.
UK universities are incredibly welcoming places where international students are fully integrated from the very first fresher’s week. Moving to a new country (especially if English isn’t your first language) is undoubtedly daunting, but it’s no coincidence that most who arrive never want to leave!
Are you currently applying for a UK study visa? Take a look at our step-by-step guide to student visa applications as well as advice on preparing and passing your UK student visa interview. From everyone at Edvoy, we wish you every success with your study abroad plans.