How to Get a Student Visa for the UK

Congratulations! After a lot of hard work, you were admitted to a university in the United Kingdom. But before you can start packing your bags, you have to make sure you have the proper paperwork ready. The amount of information may be overwhelming at first, but with a little organisation, you'll go through the entire process in no time. The following article is meant to offer you a complete guide to make your visa application process to the UK as easy and less stressful as possible.

Before you read further you should know that not everyone needs a visa when studying in the United Kingdom. If you are coming from a country belonging to the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, you will not need a UK student visa.

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However, non-EU students who are planning to study at a university in the UK will have to apply for a visa. Here are some in-depth details about getting your UK student visa if you're a national of these non-EU countries: 

1. Decide on a university to apply to and get your acceptance letter

If you’re still not sure where you want to study in the UK, you will have to decide before you can start your student visa application process. After being accepted at a British university, you’ll get an acceptance letter required for visa application.

Consider some of the best universities in the UK:

Find the right universities depending on the discipline you want to study:

2. Find out what type of visa you need to study in the UK

  • Short-term study visa (available between 6 and 11 months) – for students who plan to: Study a short language course or take up a short period of research as part of a degree course.
  • Tier 4 (General) Student Visa – for students who enrol in an academic study degree (Bachelor, Master or PhD course).

3. When and where to apply for the student visa in the UK?

There are two options for getting your student visa in the UK. You can apply for a student visa at the UK embassy in your country or you can do it online, on the official UK government website.

  • You’ll need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre (to get a biometric residence permit) as part of your application.
  • Schedule an appointment at the visa application centre.

Tips about my visa application

  • Do not leave your visa application to the last moment – usually, it takes about 3 weeks to receive the Tier 4 student visa. But depending on the place you are applying from you should start the visa application process with 3 months in advance.
  • Make sure you have the certificate of acceptance for studies (CAS) from your university before applying for your student visa.
  • Don’t submit fake documents – you risk being banned from visiting the UK in the future.
  • Make sure you get all the information before you start the application process.
  • If you use a visa agent to help you apply, make sure he is not trying to scam you.
  • Make sure the institution you are applying to is licensed.
  • Universities usually have trained visa advisors able to answer your questions about the Tier 4 student visa and guide you through the application process.

4. Conditions you need to meet to be accepted for Tier 4 visa

  • Be over 16 years old
  • Speak, read, and understand English
  • Have sufficient money to support yourself during your studies
  • Have an unconditional offer of study from a licensed university in the UK

Language requirements for studying in the UK

To prove that your knowledge of spoken and written English meet British visa requirements, you will need to pass a secure English language test (SELT). You must meet the CEFR level B2 of language proficiency if you’re studying at a degree level or higher.

Exception: For students coming from certain countries, proof of English proficiency may not be required if you’ve completed a qualification equivalent to a UK degree.

Required application documents

  1. Completed visa application form
  2. Passport or valid travel documentation
  3. One passport-sized colour photograph
  4. Proof that you can support yourself during your stay in the UK 1,265 GBP/month if you live in London and 1,015 GBP/month for the rest of the UK)
  5. Parental consent, if under 18 years old
  6. Tuberculosis test results (in certain countries)
  7. Visa application fee of 348 GBP
  8. Immigration Health Surcharge of 150 GBP per year of study
  9. Self-assessment form Appendix 8 with attached documents. (not required if you apply online)
  10. Other requirements specific to your country

Any documents that have to be submitted in support of the Appendix 8 form, which are not in English or Welsh, must be accompanied by an official full translation that can be independently verified by the UK Border Agency.

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5. Other specific UK visa requirements based on your nationality

Check out more detailed information for international students applying from all over the world for the UK student visa:

Foreign students’ right to work in the UK

Students from the EU (except Croatia) – are allowed to work in the UK under the same conditions as British nationals. However, your employer may require you to deliver proof of your nationality. Showing your passport should normally be sufficient.

Students from Croatia should apply for a yellow registration certificate before they apply for a job.

Tier 4 students can work for up to 20 hours per week during their studies, except if they are enrolled at a publicly further education college. In this case, UK immigration law does not provide them the right to work.

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