UK Student Visa - Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve been offered a place on a higher education course and you don’t live in the UK, EU, EEA, or Switzerland yet, you’ll need a student visa to study in the UK. Learn more about UK student visas, how to apply, the costs, scholarships, and what happens at the end of your studies.

UK Student Visa - Everything You Need to Know

If you want to study in the United Kingdom (UK), you might need to apply for a student visa. This is an immigration condition for undergraduate and postgraduate studies, post-doctoral research, or short courses, including learning English. There are different types of student visas, each with its requirements and costs attached, which can be confusing. However, for full-time university study, you’ll usually need a Tier 4 (General) student visa. A UK student visa costs around £348 if you apply from outside the UK, and you’ll also have to pay a healthcare surcharge; the cost of which can vary depending on your home country.

International students accepted in a British educational institution have to apply for a UK Student Visa before their courses start. UK visa requirements and general immigration criteria are managed by UK Visas and Immigration, which has an easy-to-navigate site to help you determine whether you need a UK student visa. However, following Brexit, the previous Tier 4 (General) Student Visa has undergone a “rebranding”, which is mostly related to the fact that students from the EU and EEA will now also be required to apply for a visa if they want to study in the UK.

Who Needs a UK Student Visa?

Since the implementation of Brexit in the UK, residents from most countries need a Student visa to study. As of October 4, 2020, the previous Tier 4 (General) Student Visa has been replaced with the so-called “Student Route”. The Student Route is the UK’s new Student Visa, which will be available to EEA nationals as well, who, before Brexit, did not need a visa to study in the UK. However, the government has waived these for citizens of some countries, including Australia, Japan, and Canada, if they only want to study a short course for up to six months.

Moreover, if you’re an EU or EFTA citizen already living in the UK and have applied to remain through the EU Settlement Scheme, you won’t need a student visa. This may also apply to your close family members. However, you can check the UK immigration requirements online if you are not sure whether you need a visa.

UK Student Visa Requirements

EU/EEA and non-EU/EEA nationals can apply for the new UK Student Visa if they reach 70 points on the Point Based System. The system measures whether you meet the requirements to study in the UK. To apply for this Student visa, you need:

  • Acceptance into a course by a licensed sponsoring institution in the UK
  • Minimum funding of £1,023 a month for at least nine months (or £1,334 if living in London) as you cannot access public funds
  • English language skills need to be at a B1 level if studying for a diploma and at a
  • B2 level for any degree courses or English language studies. These ability skills refer to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) scale.
  • If you are studying toward a certificate or a diploma instead of a degree, it must be a full-time course of at least 15 hours per week.

How to Apply for the UK Student Visa

Meanwhile, here's a step-by-step guide on how to apply for UK Student Visa

Apply to a UK university and get your acceptance letter

To begin with, you need to apply to your chosen university (or universities) and receive an unconditional offer. If you’re still not sure where you want to study in the UK, you will have to decide before you can start your student visa application process. Check out our guide on how to study in the United Kingdom. After being accepted at a university, you’ll get an acceptance letter required for the visa application.

Gather your documents

Once you have received your unconditional offer, pay any necessary deposits for your course or accommodation to the university and you have accepted it, your university will give you a document called a Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (or CAS). Meanwhile, for the student application, you’ll need the following:

  • Valid photo ID
  • Acceptance letter from the academic institution
  • Proof of sufficient funds, for example, bank statements or a letter from your sponsor if they are paying your fees and/or living costs
  • Certificate to confirm that you meet the English language requirements unless you are from an English-speaking country
  • Letter of parental consent if you are under 18
  • Academic Technical Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate for specific subjects or research areas where you can use your knowledge to develop Advanced
  • Conventional Military Technology (ACMT) or weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)
  • Tuberculosis (TB) test results if you’re traveling from a high-risk country
  • Other requirements that may vary depending on your country of origin

Complete your UK Student Visa application

You can apply online or at any UK visa application center worldwide. However, you must start the online application on the UK Government website before appearing at a Visa Application Center in your country to submit your biometrics.

You will have to enter the Confirmation as Acceptance of Studies (CAS) reference number during your registration online. After you apply online, you will receive instructions on how to proceed, depending on your country of residence. Moreover, during the application, you’ll book your visa application center appointment for your biometrics to be taken and to show your documentation.


Attend your visa appointment

During the interview, you will need to submit your supporting documents and receive your visa sticker permitting travel into the UK. You’ll usually have your visa decision in around three weeks, however, this varies depending on your home country. Moreover, as part of your application, you will also need to submit your biometric data at the visa center or scan your ID documents online via the UK Immigration: ID Check the app to get your biometric residence permit (BRP). Within ten days of your arrival in the UK, you will need to collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) which contains your full visa.

UK Student Visa Processing Time

It usually takes around three weeks to get a decision, but it can take longer if there are any delays, or if it's a busy period. If you apply from outside the UK, it will take approximately 3 weeks to receive a decision on your Student Visa application. If you apply from inside the UK (switch to Student Visa), it will take approximately 8 weeks to decide on your application.

It's worth starting your application as soon as possible to avoid running the risk of not getting your visa in time. If you're applying from outside the UK, you can apply six months before you start your course. The earliest you can apply from inside the UK is three months before your program starts.


Furthermore, here are some of the frequently asked questions about UK Student Visa

Can I work in the UK on a study visa?

Yes, international students in the UK can work under certain conditions. Many international students in the UK take a part-time job, work placement, or internship alongside their studies. For most courses, you will be allowed to work for up to 20 hours per week during term time. The type of work you can do in the UK while on a Student Visa will depend on what you are studying and if you will be working during the term time or during breaks. Before you consider looking for work, check your visa and biometric residence permit and check your university’s rules to see if there are any restrictions to the type of work or number of hours you can do.

Can I Have Dependents With a UK Student Visa?

Yes, you can bring your dependent family members to the UK with you as you pursue your studies. However, rules for bringing dependents to the UK to live with you are strict, and as a student, it is unlikely you will be eligible unless your course is full-time, at a postgraduate level, and for nine months or more. Furthermore, you need to know what is regarded as a dependant. Your spouse/wife and children are considered your Tier 4 dependants. Other relatives are not. In the case you can bring dependents with you, your financial proof will also have to include how you plan to support them, in addition to yourself.

Can I stay in the UK after I graduate?

The date your student visa ends depends on the length of your course. Make sure you know when your visa is due to expire so you can plan your next steps accordingly. Starting from Summer 2021, international students in the UK who have completed a degree at an undergraduate level 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 graduating as you work or look for work. Ph.D. graduates can stay for up to three years. You may be able to extend your student visa if you’re eligible, for example, to continue your studies in the UK. You may also be able to switch to another type of visa if you want to stay and work in the UK. 

What happens if am refused a UK Student visa?

Most reasons for UK student visa refusals revolve around finances. You may not have shown that you have enough money, or the funds have been held for 28 days. If your application is refused, you'll get a letter or email explaining why you were unsuccessful. Your letter will also let you know if you have the right to either an administrative review or an immigration decision appeal.

You'll need an administrative review if you're applying from outside the UK. You can apply online within 28 days of your rejection and you will need to pay a fee of £80. It can take up to six months to get a decision, but the UK Home Office will contact you after three months with an update.