International students accepted in a British educational institution have to apply for a UK Student Visa before their courses start.
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.
Changes to UK Tier 4 Student Visa
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.
According to the British Government, under the new Student Visa program, the number of students who can receive a visa is unlimited.
Some of the main changes to the UK Student Visa that came into effect after 5 October 2020 are:
- It is divided into the Student Route (for adult students aged 18+) and Child Student Route (for students aged 4-17, which has replaced the Tier 4 Child Student Visa).
- EU/EEA nationals are also to apply for a visa if they will enter the country after January 1, 2021.
- You can now apply for a Student Visa up to six months before courses start, as opposed to three.
- Whether you are eligible for a visa depends on a Point-Based System. You need to collect 70 points.
- Those graduating from a British educational institution by and after Summer 2021 will be able to apply for the post-graduate visa, allowing them to work/look for work in the UK for up to 2 years.
Other requirements, such as English proficiency and Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) remain the same as under the Tier 4 Student Visa.
Do EU/EEA Students Need a UK Student Visa?
If you will enter the UK after January 1, 2021, then you have to apply for a Student Visa. If you are already in the UK before January 1, 2021, then you have to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme.
Who Can Apply for a UK Student Visa?
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, such as:
- Have you been accepted into an approved institution? The institution issues the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) as proof.
- Do you have the financial resources to fund your stay? In addition to the money required to pay for the course, you also need £1,265 per month if studying in London or £1,015 per month if studying outside London. If you have dependents, you need approximately £800 per month for each of them.
- Are you proficient in English? When applying for the visa, you need to pass an English Proficiency Test from an approved provider.
- B2 for Degree-level courses or above.
- B1 for below Degree-level courses.
- Does your course meet the set-out course requirements? See below.
UK Student Visa Course Requirements
You can get a Student Visa for the UK if you have been accepted into one of the following courses:
- A full-time, below degree-level course (more than 15 hours per week of study). Referred to as the RQF level 3, 4, or 5, this includes A levels (basically the last two years of high school), apprenticeships, or the first two years of a Bachelor degree.
- A full-time course leading to a degree level or above degree-level qualification. Includes RQF level 6, 7, and 8 (Bachelor, Postgraduate, Masters, or Doctorate degree).
- A part-time course at a degree level above RQF 7 (Postgraduate, Masters, or Doctorate degree).
- 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 the online application on the UK Government website (here) before appearing at a Visa Application Center in your country to submit your biometrics.
Once they’ve offered you 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 your registration online. After you apply online, you will receive instructions on how to proceed, depending on your country of residence.
Child Student Visa applicants will need the consent of a parent or a 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:
- Visit visa
- Short-term student visa
- Parent of a Child Student visa
- Seasonal worker visa
- Domestic worker in a private household visa
- Leave outside the immigration rules
You can apply to switch to the UK Student Route up to three months before your classes are scheduled to begin. 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 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 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 inside the UK.
You must pay a separate fee for yourself and each family member that joins you.
In addition to the visa fee, you also have to prove that you have enough money to finance your stay:
- At least £1,265 per month if studying in London (for up to nine months).
- At least £1,015 per month if studying outside London (for up to nine months).
Documents Required for a UK Student Visa Application
When applying for a UK Student Visa, you need the following documents:
- Your valid passport.
- The Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your school.
- Proof you have enough financial resources to support yourself and ant family members.
- An Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if applicable.
- Criminal record certificate.
- Proof of English Language proficiency.
- Tuberculosis test results.
- For students under 18:
- Proof of parental consent
- Proof of your relationship to your parent or legal guardian
- Any additional documents required during the application process.
How Long Is the UK Student Visa Valid?
The UK Student Visa is granted for e period of time corresponding to the course you have started. If you are an adult, enrolled in a degree-level course, the visa can be granted for up to five years. If you are pursuing a below degree-level course, the visa will be granted for two years.
Can I Extend a UK Student Visa?
Yes, you can extend a UK Student Visa provided that you are accepted into a different course in the UK. The course must be at a higher level than the one you have 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 your new classes start.
Can I Stay in the UK After My Studies?
Yes, starting from Summer 2021, international students in the UK who have successfully completed a degree at an undergraduate level will be able to apply for the 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. PhD graduates can stay for up to three years.
If you find a suitable job during that time, you will be able to switch into a different immigration category, such as a UK Work Visa.
Can I Work With 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. What 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.
Some jobs are also off-limits, such as working as a professional sportsperson or sports coach or being self-employed.
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. This includes:
- Your spouse, civil partner, or unmarried partner.
- Your dependent children under the age of 18.
You and your family must prove each of you has enough money to sustain your stay in the UK. In addition to the financial requirements of yourself (the student), each family member must also have the following funds:
- £845 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses in London
- £680 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses outside London