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UK Student Visas

International students who want to study an academic course lasting more than 6 months in the UK will have to apply for a Student Visa. For courses lasting 6 months or less, a Visitor Visa will be sufficient. This list of frequently asked questions applies to Student Visas only.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a student visa?

A Student Visa is for international students who want to come to the UK to study long academic courses (6 months or more), such as university pathway or degree programmes. They are issued under the provisions of the UK’s Points Based System (PBS) of immigration. There are two sub-categories of this visa type: Student Visa and Child Student Visa. The Child Student Visa is for under 18s who want to study a pre-university course at an independent school. For most of the courses on this website, you will need a Student Visa, even if you are under 18.

Do I need a student visa?

Students who are not a citizen of the UK or Ireland will need a Student Visa or Child Student Visa to study an academic course lasting more than 6 months. However, you will not need a visa to study in the UK if you already have permission to stay in certain categories (e.g. dependant or refugee).

What are the requirements for getting a student visa?

The most important requirements for obtaining a Student Visa are:

  • You must be accepted by an approved institution and obtain a document called a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from them.
  • If you are over 18, the course you study must be at NQF Level 3 or above (e.g. A Level or University Foundation). There is no restriction on study level for students who are under 18, but a Child Student visa is required for courses below NQF Level 3.
  • You must prove you have the money to pay for your studies. For Government sponsored students, a Financial Guarantee Letter from your sponsor will be sufficient. For other students, you must prove you have sufficient funds to pay your first year's tuition fees, plus a monthly allowance of £1,023 (£1,334 in London), up to a maximum of 9 months.
  • You may need to pass a Secure English Language Test before you apply for a student visa. Secure English Language Tests are mandatory for study below degree level (i.e. below NQF Level 6) and may also be required at degree level too. For more information, see Secure English Language Tests.
  • Students from certain countries may have to be tested for TB. For more information, see TB Testing
  • There are certain exemptions for students who have already made a successful student visa application in the past. In particular, you will not have to take an English test if you have already proved your knowledge of English at the required level. And if you extend your visa while in the UK, you will not have to prove you have the funds to pay for your studies if you have had a visa for at least 12 months prior to the date of your new visa application.

When assessing your visa application, the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) may take into consideration other factors (e.g. whether you have been refused a visa or refused entry to the UK in the past). You may also be interviewed when you attend your visa appointment.

How can I prove I have the funds to pay for my studies?

Unless you have a full scholarship from a government sponsor, you will have to provide personal bank statements in your name, or the name of your parent (or legal guardian). Company bank statements are not permitted and you cannot submit bank statements from a relative who is not your parent (or legal guardian). There are strict rules about the format of these documents and the funds must be held for at least 28 days. See Bank Statements Checklist and The 28 Day Rule for more information.

Can I work while I study in the UK?

If your visa is sponsored by a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance, you will be able to work full-time during vacations and 20 hours per week during term time (10 hours per week if you are studying below degree level). Work is also permitted on a work placement as part of the course. If your visa is sponsored by any other type of course provider, only work placements that are part of the course are allowed.

Note that some of the courses on our web site are delivered by private institutions working in partnership with universities. So if working is important to you, please ask your student advisor for advice.

Can I bring family members to the UK while I study?

You can bring family members (dependants) if you are studying a postgraduate course at NQF Level 7+ at a Higher Education Institution that lasts at least 9 months (or 6 months if you are a new government sponsored student). You will have to prove you have sufficient funds to support your dependants financially during your studies. Note: all of the undergraduate pathways and some of the postgraduate pathways on our website are below NQF Level 7. So if you need to bring your family with you to the UK, please ask your student advisor for advice.

When can I apply for my visa and how soon can I travel?

For applications made outside the UK, you can apply for your visa up to six months before the course start date. In most cases, your visa will be valid for one month before the course starts. However, if you apply late and your visa is granted within one month of the course start date, it will be valid for 7 days before your intended date of travel.

How long can I remain in the UK after the end of the course?

Your Student Visa will be valid for 2 - 4 months after the course end date, depending on the length of the course (i.e. 2 months for courses lasting up to 12 months, 4 months for courses lasting 12 months or longer).

Can I extend my visa from within the UK?

In general, it is possible to extend1 a Student Visa from within the UK when you progress from one course to another (e.g. a foundation course to a bachelor’s degree, or a pre-master’s to a master’s degree). However, you must demonstrate that you have progressed academically. That means the new course must be at a higher NQF level than your previous course, which you must have completed successfully. If you cannot demonstrate academic progression, you must leave the UK and apply for a new visa from your own country.

To extend your visa, you will need to obtain a CAS for the new course, which must start no later than 28 days after your current visa expires. Once you have submitted your application online, you can begin your course while you wait for a decision.

What are the time limits for completing my studies?

Students can spend a maximum of 2 years studying below degree level. The time limit for study at undergraduate degree level is 5 years, but there are exceptions for degrees in certain subjects (e.g. Architecture, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine) and for law conversion courses. There is no time limit for postgraduate degree courses.

This has important implications for students who have already studied in the UK and are making a new application. If the total time required for your new visa exceeds the limit when added to the time you have already been granted to study at the same level, your visa application will be refused. When calculating the total time, the following rules apply:

  • Time spent studying in the UK while under 18 does not count, even if you studied on a Student Visa rather than a Child Student Visa.
  • Individual days are rounded down to the nearest month. For example, 30 January - 5 August is calculated as January - July (i.e. 7 months).
  • Your visa will be valid for up to 1 month before the course start date and for 2 - 4 months after the course ends. This will be taken into consideration when calculating the total amount of time required for your new visa application. This is the case even if you do not intend to remain in the UK after the end of the course.

How long does it take to get a Student Visa?

The time taken to get a Student Visa depends on the country you apply from and the time of year. The UK government aims to make a decision within 15 working days (3 weeks), but it can take longer at busy times (June - Aug and Oct - Dec).

You can apply for your student visa up to 6 months before the course start date. So if you have an offer to study in the UK, make sure you confirm your place as early as possible. That way, your course provider will be able to issue your CAS as soon as possible after you have met the offer conditions.

Can I speed up the visa process?

Yes. In most countries, you can pay an additional fee to get a faster decision on your application. Use the Priority Visa Service for a decision within 5 working days of your visa appointment, or the Super Priority Service for a decision within 24 hours.

What about Tier 4 Student Visas?

The Tier 4 Student Visa Route has been replaced (October 2020) by the Student Visa route described above.

Also In This Section

Further Information

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1 Strictly speaking, it is not possible to extend a Student Visa. If you progress to a new course or switch to a new institution, you must obtain a new CAS and apply for a new student visa.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is for guidance only. You should always check with the UK Government's Website (Visas & Immigration) 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.

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