International students accepted into a UK educational institution must apply for a UK student visa before starting their courses.
Following Brexit, the previous Tier 4 (General) student visa has undergone a “rebranding”, mainly linked to the fact that students from the EU and EEA will now also have to apply for a visa if they wish to study in the UK.
Changes to the UK Tier 4 student visa
Tier 4 (General) student visa has been replaced with the so-called “Student Route”. The Student Route is the new UK student visa, which will also be available to EEA citizens who, before Brexit, did not require a visa to study in the UK.
According to the British government, with the new Student Visa program, the number of students who can receive a visa is unlimited.
Some of the key changes to the UK student visa that came into effect after 5 October 2020 are:
- It is divided into the Student Path (for adult students aged 18 and over) and the Child Student Path (for students aged 4 to 17, which replaced the Tier 4 Child Student Visa).
- EU/EEA citizens will also need to apply for a visa if they enter the country after 1 January 2021.
- You can now apply for a student visa up to six months before your courses start, rather than three.
- Eligibility to obtain a visa depends on a points-based system. You have to collect 70 points.
- Those who graduate from a UK educational institution before and after summer 2021 will be able to apply for a postgraduate visa, which will allow them to work/look for work in the UK for up to 2 years.
Other requirements, such as English language proficiency and Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), remain the same as for the Tier 4 student visa.
Do EU/EEA students need a UK student visa?
If you enter the UK after 1 January 2021, you will need to apply for a student visa. If you are already in the UK before 1 January 2021, you need to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme.
Who can apply for a UK student visa?
EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA citizens can apply for the new UK student visa if they reach 70 points on the points-based system. The system measures whether you meet the requirements to study in the UK, such as:
- Have you been accepted into an approved institution? The institution issues the Confirmation of Acceptance to Studies (CAS) as proof.
- Do you have the financial resources to finance your stay? In addition to the money you need to pay for the course, you will also need £1,265 per month if you study in London or £1,015 per month if you study outside London. If you have dependents, you need around £800 a month for each of them.
- Do you have excellent knowledge of English? When you apply for the visa, you must pass an English language proficiency test at an approved provider.
- B2 for degree-level courses or higher.
- B1 for courses below a degree.
- Does your course meet the established course requirements? Look down.
UK Student Visa Course Requirements
You can get a UK student visa if you have been accepted onto one of the following courses:
- A full-time, sub-degree level course (more than 15 hours of study per week). Called RQF level 3, 4 or 5, this includes A levels (essentially the last two years of high school), apprenticeships or the first two years of a degree.
- A full-time course leading to a qualification at undergraduate level or above. Includes RQF levels 6, 7 and 8 (bachelor’s, postgraduate, master’s or doctorate).
- A part-time course above RQF 7 (postgraduate, master’s or doctorate).
- An approved program for postgraduate doctors or dentists.
- An English language course (level B2 or above) in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
How to apply for a UK student visa?
You can apply for a UK student visa as early as six months before your courses start if you are outside the UK. You must start your application online on the UK Government website before appearing at a visa application center in your country to submit your biometric data.
Once you have been offered a place on the course, your education provider will send you a reference number called a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies. You must enter this number during online registration. After submitting your application online, you will receive instructions on how to proceed, depending on your country of residence.
Applicants for a child student visa will need the consent of a parent or guardian.
Can I switch to a UK student visa?
If you are already in the UK, you can switch to a student visa as long as your current visa is not one of the following:
- Travel visa
- Short-term student visa
- Student visa for parent of a child
- Seasonal worker visa
- Domestic worker with private residence visa
- Leave out of immigration rules
You can apply to switch to the UK Student Route up to three months before your scheduled start of lessons. You must be accepted into one of the approved institutions and your current visa must still be valid.
UK Student Visa Processing Time
If you are applying from outside the UK, it will take approximately 3 weeks to receive a decision on your student visa application. If you are applying from within the UK (switch to student visa), it will take approximately 8 weeks to reach a decision on your application.
UK student visa fees and costs
The fees for a UK student visa are:
- £348 if applying from outside the UK.
- £475 if you apply to extend or switch to a student visa from within the UK.
- You must pay a separate fee for yourself and each family member joining you.
In addition to the visa fees, you also need to prove that you have enough money to finance your stay:
- At least £1,265 per month if you study in London (for a maximum of nine months).
- At least £1,015 per month if you study outside London (for a maximum of nine months).
- Documents required for a UK student visa application
- When applying for a UK student visa, the following documents are needed:
- Your valid passport.
- Your school’s Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).
- Proof that you have sufficient financial resources to support yourself and your family members.
- An Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate, if applicable.
- Criminal record certificate.
- Proof of knowledge of the English language.
- Tuberculosis test results.
- For students under 18:
- Proof of parental consent
- Proof of your relationship with a parent or legal guardian
Any additional documents required during the application process, such as student visa cover letter, etc.
How long does the UK student visa last?
The UK student visa is granted for a period of time corresponding to the course you have started. If you are an adult, enrolled in a degree course, the visa can be granted for a maximum of five years. If you are taking a course below degree level, the visa will be granted for two years.
Can I extend a UK student visa?
Yes, you can extend a UK student visa provided you are accepted onto a different course in the UK. The course must be at a higher level than the one you completed. You can also extend your student visa if you have a Tier 4 (General) student visa. You can apply no earlier than three months before the start of your new classes.
Can I stay in the UK after my studies?
Yes, from summer of 2021, international students in the UK who have successfully completed a university-level degree will be able to apply for a Graduate Visa. The Graduate Visa allows you to stay in the UK for up to two years after graduation while working or looking for work. Doctoral students can stay for up to three years.
If you find a suitable job during that period, you will be able to switch to a different immigration category, such as a UK work visa.
Can I work on a UK student visa?
Yes, international students in the UK can work under certain conditions. For example, you can work as a student union sabbatical officer, but you will not be able to claim public benefits and pensions. The type of work you can do in the UK on a student visa will depend on what you are studying and whether you will be working during the semester or during breaks.
Some jobs are also prohibited, such as working as a professional athlete or sports coach or being self-employed.
Can I have dependents on a UK student visa?
Yes, you can bring your dependents to the UK with you while you continue your studies. This includes:
- Your spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner.
- Your dependent children under the age of 18.
You and your family must demonstrate that each of you has enough money to support your stay in the UK. In addition to their (the student’s) financial requirements, each family member must also have the following funds:
- £845 per month (for a maximum of 9 months) for courses in London
- £680 per month (for a maximum of 9 months) for courses outside London