UK Student Visa guide 2022

Date

Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on email
uk student visa

The UK has long been a global destination to seek high-quality education. For most international students, you will require a Student Visa to lawfully undertake further and higher education courses in the UK. It is important to ensure that you follow the correct steps to apply for your Student Visa, as your ability to enrol in the course of your choice will depend upon the acceptance of this application by the UK Home Office.

At first, the Student Visa process may seem daunting, yet it can be a fairly simple visa route if applicants prepare well and provide all of the required information and documents.

This article will outline common questions and concerns from international student applicants who are applying for a Student Visa.

 

What is the UK Student Visa?

Previously known as a ‘Tier 4 Visa’ until October 2020, a Student Visa allows international students over the age of 16 to legally undertake further education and higher education courses longer than 6 months in the UK. There are different requirements for international students under the age of 16 and courses less than 12 months in length. This article is focused on the Student Visa rather than the other types of visas.

Student Visas are issued for certain courses offered by institutions that have a Student Sponsor licence. Your educational institution must have a Student Sponsor licence to maintain its obligations to the government under UK immigration law. The following categories of educational courses from licenced Student Sponsor institutions are generally eligible for issuance of a Student Visa:

  • Full-time course – below degree level qualification with a minimum of 15 hours a week of formal daytime study
  • Full-time course – degree level or above
  • Full-time course – degree level or above that is delivered as part of a longer overseas course and is at an equivalent level to a British higher education course
  • Part-time course – above degree level qualification
  • Foundation programmes for postgraduate dentists or doctors
  • An English language course at B2 competency level or above

 
Prior to Brexit, EU students did not require a Student Visa to undertake educational courses in the UK.

New UK immigration rules following the end of EU free movement mean EU students other than those with Settled or Pre-Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme and citizens of the Republic of Ireland will require a Student Visa to study in the UK.

Additionally, it is important to note that the Student Visa entails a time limit or cap on the length of your studies, depending on the level and complexity of your desired course. You should ensure that you are prepared and ready to undertake your studies within the time limit as prescribed for your course by the Home Office.

 

What type of activities does the UK Student Visa allow and prohibit?

On a UK Student Visa, you can undertake your studies and work as a student union sabbatical officer. Depending on the type and level of your course, you may be able to undertake work placements and/or internships as part of your studies. These placements must be an assessed and mandatory part of your studies and not comprise more than ⅓ of the length of your course.

As part of your Student Visa application, you will be required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee. You can access the National Health Service (NHS) on a 24/7 basis on a Student Visa.

It is additionally important to note that, as per the conditions of Student Visas, you will not be permitted to access public funds or benefits. Use of the NHS is not considered access to public funds, but access to benefits is prohibited under your Student Visa.

Ultimately, your primary duty on a Student Visa is to ensure that you keep up with your studies regularly and remain in good standing with your further or higher education institution.

 

What are the requirements for UK Student Visa eligibility?

The eligibility for a Student Visa to study at a British institution of further or higher education primarily depends upon your country of nationality and the level of study you seek to pursue. Accordingly, you will have to provide supporting documentation with your application. In order to apply for a UK Student Visa, you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • You must have a valid passport or other valid travel permission documentation with at least one blank page, front and back
  • You must have been issued an unconditional offer of acceptance for a course run by a licenced student sponsorship institution
  • You must have been issued a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) by a licenced student sponsorship institution
  • You must provide evidence of a negative tuberculosis test if your country of nationality is on the government list or possess proof of nationality from a country exempt from this requirement
  • You must have enough money to pay your tuition fees and support yourself financially throughout your studies. Applicants from many nationalities will not be required to provide this evidence but could be requested to provide additional financial evidence by the Home Office during the application process. This amount will differ depending on where you will live in the UK, but you will generally be required to provide evidence of the following financial requirement costs:
    • Your course fees, as listed on the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies
    • Cost of living within London – £1,334 per month for up to 9 months
    • Cost of living outside of London – £1,023 per month for up to 9 months
  • You must have proficient speaking skills and comprehension of the English language. For below degree-level courses, you must have at least B1 level competency on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale. For degree-level and above, you must have at least B2 level competency on the CEFR scale. You must be able to prove your language level through one of the following categories:
    • You have successfully passed a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from a UK government-approved provider of the exam
    • You possess UK secondary school qualifications in English that you earned by studying before the age of 18 at a British school
    • You are coming to the UK for a foreign exchange programme as part of a higher education course in the USA
    • 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 English language competency in a previous UK visa application
    • You are a national of a majority English language country
  • If under the age of 18, you must have permission from your parents or guardians to study in the UK and proof of your legal relationship with your parents or guardians. Permission must be granted for the following:
    • Applying for a UK Student Visa
    • Approval of your living and caring arrangements whilst in the UK
    • Travelling to the UK
  • If you are studying or researching at the postgraduate level or above and your course involves access to ‘sensitive materials’, you must have been issued an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate by your further or higher education institution. Applicants from countries on the following list are exempt from this requirement:
    • European Union (EU)
    • European Economic Area (EEA)
    • Australia
    • Canada
    • Japan
    • New Zealand
    • Singapore
    • South Korea
    • Switzerland
    • United States of America

 

You will need to provide documentation of all of the above criteria to apply for your UK Student Visa. You will additionally need to pay for the Immigration Health Surcharge fee and an application fee.

 

How can I access healthcare in the UK on my Student Visa?

Healthcare in the UK is free at the point of use through the National Health Service (NHS) for permanent residents and citizens in the UK. All international students in the UK on a course that lasts longer than 6 months will be required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee to access the NHS.

As part of your Student Visa application, you will be required to pay the IHS fee – for Student Visas, this currently costs £470 per year. You must pay the full fee upfront for your degree. If your course includes part of a year that is less than 6 months, you will need to pay £235 for the partial year. If your course includes part of a year that is more than 6 months, you will need to pay £470 for the full year. Please note that the IHS fee can be refunded if your Student Visa application is refused.

By paying the IHS fee, you will have access to 24/7 emergency healthcare and can register with a GP to access non-emergency care and request prescription medications. In England, you will have to pay £9.35 per item for some prescriptions. In Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free.

If you want more options for healthcare providers or want to undertake elective procedures without long waitlists, you can choose to pay for private health insurance. However, you would need to pay for this private health insurance in addition to the IHS fee – you cannot avoid paying the IHS fee due to possessing alternative healthcare coverage.

 

How can I apply for a UK Student Visa?

Applying for a Student Visa is an important legal step necessary to undertake your further or higher education in the UK, but with careful planning, you can successfully navigate the Student Visa application process.

 

If you are applying for your Student Visa from outside the UK

After receiving your unconditional offer from a UK institution of further or higher education, you must first be issued your CAS certificate. This certificate will contain a CAS number that will need to be provided as part of your application. You will not be able to submit your application until you receive this document. If you require an ATAS certificate as a non-exempt national studying sensitive materials as part of your course, you will additionally need to receive this document before submitting your application.

Secondly, you should collect all relevant documentation as noted in the Eligibility section. The type of documentation you will be required to provide will be relayed to you by your further or higher education institution, but you should ensure that you have everything in hand by the date you submit your application online. Regardless of your specific circumstances, you will at minimum need to provide proof of your valid passport or travel document and your CAS certificate issued by your licenced course provider.

Thirdly, you must apply for your visa online. Please note that the earliest you can submit your application is 6 months before your course begins. You must either submit your application from your country of nationality or a country where you have valid immigration permission. During the application, you will need to pay the IHS fee – this amount will vary depending upon the length of your course. You will be issued an IHS number as proof of payment to input into the application. At the end of the online application, you will need to pay the application fee of £348.

Next, you will need to book a biometrics appointment at a suitable visa application centre in your country of application. It will cost £19.20 to book this appointment. You can either upload your supporting documentation online before your appointment or pay an additional fee to have your supporting documentation scanned and uploaded at the appointment. At the appointment, you will have your fingerprints recorded, a photograph taken, and your supporting documentation confirmed. Your passport will likely be sent to the UK government for an entry clearance stamp to be placed inside your passport.

Finally, after this appointment, you will normally receive a decision within 3 weeks. You may be able to pay to receive a decision more quickly than this. If your application is successful, you will be issued entry clearance in your passport. If your course is more than 6 months in length, you will be permitted to enter the UK up to 1 month before your course begins. If your course is less than 6 months in length, you will be permitted to enter the UK up to 1 week before your course begins. Upon arrival in the UK, you will need to retrieve your Biometric Residence Permit from either a Post Office branch or your Student Sponsor institution.

 

If you are applying for your Student Visa from within the UK

You may be able to apply for your Student Visa from within the UK if you have existing immigration permission. This is known as ‘switching’ or ‘extending’ visa routes. However, you will not be able to apply for your Student Visa from within the UK if you currently possess any of the following visas or immigration statuses:

  • Visit Visa
  • Short-Term Student Visa
  • Parent of a Short-Term Student Visa holder
  • Seasonal Worker Visa
  • Domestic Worker in a Private Household Visa
  • Leave to remain or enter outside of the Immigration Rules

 

After receiving your unconditional offer from a UK institution of further or higher education, you must first be issued your CAS certificate. This certificate will contain a CAS number that will need to be provided as part of your application. You will not be able to submit your application until you receive this document. If you require an ATAS certificate as a non-exempt national studying sensitive materials as part of your course, you will additionally need to receive this document before submitting your application.

Secondly, you should collect all relevant documentation as noted in the Eligibility section. The type of documentation you will be required to provide will be relayed to you by your further or higher education institution, but you should ensure that you have everything in hand by the date you submit your application online. Regardless of your specific circumstances, you will at minimum need to provide proof of your valid passport or travel document and your CAS certificate issued by your licenced course provider.

Thirdly, you must apply for your visa online. Please note that the earliest you can submit your application is 3 months before your course begins, but before your current visa expires. Additionally, you will need to ensure that your new course will begin within 28 days of the date of expiration of your current visa. During the application, you will need to pay the IHS fee – this amount will vary depending upon the length of your course. You will be issued an IHS number as proof of payment to input into the application. At the end of the online application, you will need to pay the application fee of £475.

Next, you will need to book a biometrics appointment at a suitable UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) office. It will cost £19.20 to book this appointment. You can either upload your supporting documentation online before your appointment or pay an additional fee to have your supporting documentation scanned and uploaded at the appointment. At the appointment, you will have your fingerprints recorded, a photograph taken, and your supporting documentation confirmed.

Finally, after this appointment, you will normally receive a decision within 8 weeks. You may be able to pay to receive a decision more quickly than this. If your current visa expires while you are waiting for a decision on your new application, you can remain in the country while you wait. If your application is successful, you will be issued a new Biometric Residence Permit and be able to commence your new course.

 

Can I bring dependants to the UK with a Student Visa?

Understandably, you may want to bring your family along with you to the UK if you are undertaking a course or degree. You may be able to bring dependants to the UK if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are a full-time postgraduate student on a course that lasts at least 9 months
  • You are a new government-sponsored student on a course that lasts at least 6 months
  • You are part of the Doctorate Extension Scheme

 

Eligible family members include spouses and civil partners, unmarried partners with whom you have lived for at least two years, and children under the age of 18. To apply to bring your dependents, you will need to submit a separate application for each family member. You will need to pay additional application fees, Immigration Health Surcharge fees, and provide additional proof of funds to demonstrate that you can support your family members. You will additionally need to prove your relationship to each of these individuals with documents such as birth certificates, marriage or civil partnership certificates, or documentation proving your unmarried partner status.

They will also need to submit biometric information at a visa application centre. As a dependant, your family members will be able to work, live, and study in the UK while you undertake your studies. Their visa status will be directly tied to your visa status, so it is important to ensure that you adhere to the conditions of your visa permission.

 

Can I extend my UK Student Visa?

After the successful completion of a course or degree or if you need extra time on your current course, you may choose to extend your Student Visa. You may be eligible to do so if meet the following conditions:

You are currently studying in the UK on a Student Visa or Tier 4 (General) visa
You have an unconditional offer for a course sponsored by a licenced institution of further or higher education
If you are undertaking a new course, you can demonstrate that your studies are at a higher academic level than your current course – please note that there are some exceptions to this rule known as the ‘academic progress requirement’

You will be required to submit an online application, pay the application fee of £475 plus £19.20 for biometrics as well as an IHS fee top-up, and attend a biometrics appointment. For more details on how to extend your Student Visa, please see the above section – ‘If you are applying for your Student Visa from within the UK’.

 

Can I work in the UK on a Student Visa?

If you are undertaking a full-time course or degree, you will likely be permitted to work during your UK Student Visa although certain restrictions may apply. If your visa conditions permit work, you would be required to follow the following guidance:

  • You are not permitted to undertake self-employed work or start a business
  • During term time if you are studying at degree level or above, you can work for a maximum of 20 hours per week for any employer
  • During term time if you are studying below degree level, you can work for a maximum of 10 hours per week for any employer
  • Outside term time, you can work full-time hours for any employer

 

It is important to ensure that your work does not interfere with or compromise your ability to succeed in your studies. If you are found to be in breach of any of your visa conditions regarding work permission by missing your course lessons to undertake work, there could be consequences from your university due to its legal requirements by the Home Office as a licenced Student Sponsor.

 

What are the options for staying in the UK after my studies?

There are a few options for staying in the UK after your studies on a Student Visa. These include the upcoming Graduate Route and the Skilled Worker Route. You can switch from a Student Visa to these two visa routes in-country.

The UK government has committed to reinstating the post-study work visa route as of 1 July 2021, known as the Graduate Route. International students who have completed an undergraduate degree or above will be permitted to apply for this visa. Successful applicants will be granted the right to work or look for work after the completion of their studies for a maximum of 2 years – this will be extended to 3 years for PhD students. This route will not lead to permanent residence but will permit graduates to look for more permanent work through a sponsoring employer.

The Skilled Worker route, previously known as the Tier 2 Visa, is a visa for individuals with a minimum skill set and education level to work in a specific job with a sponsoring employer. Your job must be included on a list of eligible occupations on a list published by the government. You must have been offered a job with an eligible employer and been issued a certificate of sponsorship before applying for a Skilled Worker visa. Depending on your skill set and experience, the minimum salary requirement will differ. This visa can eventually lead to permanent residence and even British citizenship.

 

UK Student Visa FAQs

What is a Student Visa?

A Student Visa is a legal document and immigration status that allows you to undertake further or higher education courses at a licenced institution. On a student visa, you can study, live, and potentially work in the UK for a limited duration.

What are the requirements for a UK Student Visa?

Broadly, the requirements for a UK Student Visa are that you are 1) unconditionally accepted to a UK institution of further or higher education, 2) have enough money to cover your course fees and cost of living, 3) have adequate proficiency in the English language, 4) pay for the application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge fee, and 5) maintain your student status in good standing for the duration of your studies.

Can you work on a Student Visa?

If you are a full-time student over the age of 16, you will most likely be permitted to undertake work on a Student Visa. However, you cannot undertake self-employment and during term time you can work a maximum of 20 hours per week. Outside of term-time, you can work full-time.

 

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.

LinkedIn
Twitter
Facebook
Email

Latest
articles