Student Visa: Apply to Study in the UK

student visa uk

You can apply for a student visa to study in the UK if you are 16 or over and you:

  • have been offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor
  • have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course – the amount will vary depending on your circumstances
  • can speak, read, write and understand English
  • have consent from your parents if you’re 16 or 17 – you’ll need evidence of this when you apply

The UK student visa route replaced the Tier 4 visa on 5 October 2020.

If you are 16 or 17 and you want to study at an independent school in the UK, you may be eligible for a ‘child student visa instead.

Student visa requirements

Course requirements

You can study one of the following courses:

  • a full-time course leading to a qualification that’s below degree level RQF level 3, 4 or 5) with at least 15 hours a week of organised daytime study
  • a full-time course leading to a qualification that’s degree level or above RQF level 6, 7 or 8)
  • a full-time course at degree level or above RQF level 6,7 or 8 that’s equivalent to a UK higher education course and is being delivered as part of a longer course overseas
  • a part-time course leading to a qualification that’s above degree level RQF level 7 or above
  • a recognised foundation programme for postgraduate doctors or dentists
  • an English language course at level B2 or above in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

You may also need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme ATAS certificate if you’re studying or researching sensitive topics at RQF level 7 or above.

The qualification levels are different in Scotland.

You can also apply for this visa if you are:

  • taking up a full-time elected position as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer
  • applying to extend your stay on the Doctorate Extension Scheme – you must currently have permission to be in the UK on a student visa (or a Tier 4 (General) student visa) and your course must lead to a PhD


Postgraduate doctors and dentists

You can apply for this visa if you are sponsored to do a recognised foundation programme and you’ve:

  • finished a recognised UK degree in medicine or dentistry
  • received that degree from a registered student sponsor
  • spent your final year and at least 1 other year of studies leading to that degree in the UK

You must have an unconditional offer of a place on an eligible course with a licensed student sponsor.

To prove this, your education provider will send you a reference number, called a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies, once they’ve offered you a place on the course. You need a CAS before you can apply for your visa.

You must apply for your visa within 6 months of receiving your CAS.

Student financial requirement

You must have enough money to pay for your course and support yourself in the UK.

How much money you need depends on your circumstances and what you’re applying for.

You need enough money to pay for your course for 1 academic year (up to 9 months). The amount you need to pay will be on your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies CAS.

If you’ve been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months, you do not need to prove you have this money for your visa application.

You will need to show you have enough money to support yourself – unless you’ve been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months on the date of your application.

How much money you need depends on where you will be studying. You’ll need either:

  • £1,334 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses in London
  • £1,023 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses outside London

If you’re applying for the Doctorate Extension Scheme, and you’ve been in the UK for less than 12 months, you need to prove you have a total of £2,668 for courses in London, or a total of £2,046 for courses outside London.

If you’re boarding at a residential independent school, you’ll need to pay boarding fees instead. The amount you need to pay will be on your CAS.

London means the City of London and the 32 London boroughs.

You’ll need to prove you have extra money for each family member you bring with you.

You must have this money for at least 28 consecutive days. The end date of the 28-day period must be within 31 days of the date you apply for your visa.

If you have a student loan or financial sponsorship, you’ll need to provide evidence of this from your loan or sponsorship company.

You do not need to prove the financial requirement if:

  • you’ve had a UK visa for 12 months prior to the date of your Student visa application – you must currently be in the UK
  • you’re applying as a student union sabbatical officer
  • you’re applying as a postgraduate doctor or dentist on a recognised foundation programme

Under the ‘differential evidence requirement’, you do not need to prove you have enough money to support yourself if you are a British national overseas or from one of a number of specific countries or territories.

Knowledge of English requirement

You must prove your knowledge of the English language when you apply.

This usually means passing a Secure English Language Test SELT. This must be from an approved provider.

Level of English

You must prove you can read, write, speak and understand English to a certain level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages CEFR scale.

What you’re studying Level
Degree level or above Equivalent to CEFR level B2
Below degree level CEFR level B1

If you’re studying at degree level or above, your Higher Education Provider HEP can assess your level of English themselves. This means they may ask you to do a different test.

This must still be equivalent to a CEFRlevel B2.

You do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you’ve completed a qualification equivalent to a UK degree in one of the following countries, or are from one of the following countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • UK
  • USA

You also do not need to prove your knowledge of English if one of the following applies:

  • you’re a national of Canada
  • you’re applying to come to the UK for a study abroad programme as part of a university degree course in the USA
  • you proved your level of English in a previous visa application


How to apply

You must apply online for a student visa.
If applying from outside the UK, you will need to prove your identity. How you do this depends on where you’re from and what type of passport you have.
You will either:

  • give your fingerprints and a photograph (biometric information) at a visa application centre
  • use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document – you’ll also create or sign into your UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account

You’ll be told what you need to do when you apply.

Once you’ve started your application, you can save your form and complete it later.

If you are applying from within the UK, you will need to make an application to either switch to a student visa from another type of visa or extend your student visa.

Supporting documents

When you apply for your Student visa you must provide:

  • a current passport or other valid travel documentation
  • a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies from your course provider

You may also need to provide:

  • proof you have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course – this will vary depending on your circumstances
  • a valid ATAS certificate if your course and nationality require it
  • proof of parental or other legal guardian consent if you’re under 18
  • proof of your relationship to your parent or guardian if you’re under 18
  • your tuberculosis test results
  • written consent for your application from your financial sponsor if you’ve received sponsorship for your course fees and living costs in the last 12 months

You may need to provide additional documents depending on your circumstances.
You need a blank page in your passport for your visa if you need to give your biometric information (fingerprints and a photograph) at a visa application centre. You’ll be told if you need to do this when you apply.

When to apply for the student visa

If you are applying from outside the UK, the earliest you can apply for a visa is 6 months before you start your course.

You will usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks.

If applying from inside the UK, the earliest you can apply is 3 months before your course starts.

You must apply before your current visa expires. Your new course must begin within 28 days of your current visa expiring.

How long do student visa applications take?

You will usually get a decision within 8 weeks.

You will be contacted if your application is complex and will take longer, for example because:

  • your supporting documents need to be verified
  • you need to attend an interview
  • of your personal circumstances (for example if you have a criminal conviction)


How much is a student visa?

The student visa application fee is:

  • £348 if applying from outside the UK
  • £475 if applying to extend or switch from inside the UK

In addition to the application cost, you will also have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge:

  • £470 per year for a student
  • £470 per year for visa and immigration applicants who are under the age of 18 at time of application


How long does a UK student visa last?

The period of leave you will be granted as a student will depend on a number of factors, including the length of your course and any studies you have already completed.

For students over 18 studying at degree level, you will in most cases be granted a student visa for up to five years. Eligible courses below degree level usually allow a two-year stay.

Can I work with a student visa in UK?

It may be possible to work in the UK while on a student visa, depending on your circumstances. Where it is allowed, a number of restrictions will apply to the hours you can work and the type of work you can do.

Working hours

A student visa issued for full-time degree level studies allows the holder to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week during term-time. This is a maximum of 20 hours in total in any one week, including paid or unpaid work and for one or more organisation.

The 20 hours cannot be averaged over a longer period.  A ‘week’ is defined by the Home Office as a period of 7 days beginning with a Monday. This also includes both paid and unpaid work.

Many institutions impose their own working restrictions applicable to their international students. In many cases, these may be stricter than the Home Office rules. Students are advised to check the regulations for their own institution.

A student visa issued for full-time degree-level studies allows you to work full-time during official vacation periods. Term and vacation dates differ depending on the level of study you are undertaking so it is important you check these before undertaking full-time work. This includes a full-time internship or placement unless it is part of your course.

Term and vacation dates used by undergraduates may not apply to postgraduate students. Masters students should consult their Faculty or Department for further details regarding official vacation periods.

The academic year for postgraduate research students is continuous throughout the year, from 1 October to 30 September. It is therefore not possible, for example, for a postgraduate research student to undertake full-time work during the summer period. Whilst breaks for holidays are permitted, at times agreed with your supervisor, these are not periods that would permit full-time work. Whether you can work after submission of your thesis for examination varies depending on the stage of the process as outlined in the information below.

Type of work

Students on a student visa can do most kinds of work, but you must not:

  • Be self-employed
  • Engage in business activity
  • Take a permanent full-time job
  • Be employed as a professional sportsperson including as a sports coach, paid or unpaid, as defined by the Home Office within the Student route guidance
  • Be employed as an entertainer, paid or unpaid
  • Work as a professional sportsperson or sports coach
  • Work as a doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the foundation programme

These restrictions apply throughout your time on a student visa.

Legal disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.


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