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Guide to UK Student Visas

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uk student visas

If you are not a citizen of the European Union and you are planning to study in the UK, you may need to apply for a UK student visa. There are different types of visa, each with their own conditions and restrictions. The type of student visa you require will depend on your age, the type of course you wish to study, the length of your course and the type of college or university where you will study. This list of frequently asked questions provides some general information on UK immigration requirements for international students.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Will I need a student visa to come to the UK to study?

If you are a citizen of the EU (or Iceland, Norway, Switzerland or Liechtenstein) you will not need a student visa to come to the UK to study. If you are a national of any other country, you will need entry clearance. In most cases, that means you will have to apply for a student visa.

What types of student visa are there?

There are two types of UK student visa: Short Term Study Visa and Tier 4 Student Visa. A Short Term Study Visa is sufficient for short academic courses and for most English courses. For longer academic courses, you will need a Tier 4 Visa. These are divided into two categories: Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child). Tier 4 visas are issued under the provisions of the UK Points Based System (PBS).

What type of student visa will I need?

For academic courses up to 6 months, or English courses up to 11 months, a Short Term Study Visa will be sufficient. For longer courses, or if you plan to extend your study time in the UK, you will need a Tier 4 Student Visa.

If you are under 18 and want to study a course at GCSE level (NQF Level 2), you must apply for a Tier 4 (Child) Student Visa. If you want to study at a higher level (e.g. A Levels or University Foundation), you can choose whether to apply for a Tier 4 (Child) or Tier 4 (General) Student Visa. The requirements and conditions differ, so the best choice will depend on your own circumstances.

If you are over 18, you must apply for a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa. Note that you cannot study at GCSE level or below if you are over 18.

What are the requirements for Tier 4 Student Visas?

The requirements for obtaining a Tier 4 Student Visa are:

  • You must obtain a document called a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from the institution where you intend to study. Normally, an institution will issue a CAS only when you have confirmed your place by paying a substantial deposit.
  • The institution must be recognised (i.e. have a sponsor's licence) by the UK Government.
  • If you are over 18 and you want to study an academic course, the courses must be at NQF Level 3 or above (e.g. A Level or University Foundation). There is no restriction on study level for under 18s.
  • You must prove you have the funds to pay for your studies. As a minimum, you will need sufficient funds to pay your first year's tuition fees in full, plus a monthly maintenance allowance of £1,015 (£1,265 in Central London). For longer courses, the maintenance allowance requirement is capped at 9 months.
    For Government Sponsored Students, a Financial Guarantee Letter from your sponsor will be sufficient. In other cases, you will be asked to produce bank statements and/or a bank loan confirmation letter. If you rely on bank statements, the minimum funds must be in your account (or your parent's account) for a minimum of 28 days before you apply for your visa. This 28 day rule is applied strictly and failure to comply will result in the refusal of your visa application.
  • You may need to pass an approved English language test before you apply for your visa. English tests are mandatory if you are studying below degree level and may be required at degree level or above. For more information on approved English language tests, see our section on Secure English Language Tests.

When assessing your visa application, the UK Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) will take into consideration other factors (e.g. whether you have been refused a visa or refused entry to the UK in the past).

What are the requirements for Short Term Study Visas?

The requirements for obtaining a Short Term Study Visa are:

  • You must provide documentary evidence to show you have been accepted onto a course of study by an education institution recognised by the UK Government.
  • Your course must be no longer than 11 months (for English language courses) or 6 months (for academic courses).
  • As with a Tier 4 Student Visa, you must prove you can pay for your course and support yourself during your studies.

Can I extend my student visa from within the UK?

You cannot extend a Short Term Study Visa from within the UK, or switch to a different class of visa. You can extend a Tier 4 Student Visa, provided your new course begins no more than one month after the expiry of your current leave to remain.

To extend a Tier 4 visa, you will have to demonstrate academic progression. Usually, this means your new course must be at a higher NQF level than the last course you completed in the UK. If you want to study at the same NQF level, that may be possible under certain circumstanes (e.g. you are re-taking the same course at a different institution). But you will have difficulty finding an institution to sponsor your visa application at a lower NQF level.

If you have been studying an academic course for more than 6 months, then you will have established presence status when you extend your visa. You will still have to meet all the requirements for getting a Tier 4 Student Visa described above, but you will only need 2 months' maintenance allowance in your bank account (instead of 9 months).

How do I know if a college or university is licensed by the UK Government?

If you need a Tier 4 Student Visa, your visa application must be sponsored by a Government licensed institution. You can download the Register or Licensed Sponsors (pdf) from the UK Government's web site. The list changes from time to time, as new sponsors are added or existing sponsors removed.

Sponsors on the list can have one of two statuses: Probationary Sponsor or Tier 4 Sponsor.

New institutions are given Probationary Sponsor status for a period of 12 months, after which they must graduate to Tier 4 Sponsor status. Probationary sponsors can only sponsor your visa application for academic courses at NQF Level 4 or higher (no work placements), or an English course at level CEFR B2. A Tier 4 Sponsor is not restricted.

Will I be able to work when I am in the UK?

If you have a Tier 4 Student Visa, you may be allowed to work full time during vacations and part time during term time, but it depends on the level of course you are studying and the type of institution that sponsored your student visa.

  • You can work full time during vacations and up to 20 hours per week during term time if your student visa was sponsored by a UK university and you are studying at degree level above (i.e. NQF Level 6+).
  • You can work full time during vacations and up to 10 hours per week during term time if your student visa was sponsored by a university or a publicly funded college of further education and you are studying below degree level (NQF Level 3+).
  • If your student visa was sponsored by a private institution, you will not be allowed to work at all.

Important: Many university pathway courses are delivered by private sector organisations working in collaboration with the university. If you want to work during your studies, you must find out whether your visa will be sponsored by the private sector organisation or the university, as this will affect your work rights. Your student advisor at will be able to assist.

Can I bring my family with me to the UK while I study?

You can bring dependants with you only if you are studying a postgraduate course at a university or publicly funded college. The course must be more than 12 months' duration. You will have to demonstrate your family members (or you) have sufficient funds to cover monthly living costs.

What are the restrictions on Short Term Study Visas?

Restrictions apply if you enter the UK on a Short Term Study Visa. The main restrictions are follows: i) you will not be able to extend your stay from within the UK (you will have to return to your own country to apply for a new visa); ii) you will not be able to undertake any employment, even unpaid placements or internships as part of your study; iii) you will not be covered by the National Health Service (you can use the NHS, but will have to pay at the point of use); iv) you cannot bring dependants with you; v) you will not be able to study at a government funded school.

What is a Non-Visa National?

Non-Visa nationals can apply for a Short Term Study Visa on entry to the UK, rather than in advance. However, many non-visa national students choose to apply for a Short Term Study Visa in advance. If you choose to apply in advance, there is less risk you will be refused entry on arrival in the UK. You can also apply for a multi-entry visa, which means you can leave and re-enter the UK during your studies.

What is a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)?

If you need a Tier 4 Student Visa to study in the UK, you must obtain a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from a licensed institution before you apply for your visa. The CAS contains information about you, the institution, your course, the fees due (in the first year) and the amount already paid. It also states the course start and end dates. A CAS is specific to an institution, so you cannot use a CAS issued by one institution to study at another.

Where can I find more information?

Further information is available on the UK Government's web site.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is for guidance only. You should always check with the UK Government's web site for the latest information before applying for a student visa. Failure to follow the correct procedures is likely to result in your application being refused and could affect your ability to obtain a visa in the future.