How to get a UK student visa | Top Universities

How to get a UK student visa

By Keshala Jayawickrama

Updated January 23, 2024 Updated January 23, 2024

Want to study in the UK? Find out whether you need to apply for a UK student visa, and how the UK student visa application process works. 

UK visa requirements and general immigration criteria are managed by UK Visas and Immigration, which has an easy-to-navigate site to help you determine whether you need a UK student visa. While Swiss nationals and those from the EU/EEA states do not currently need a visa to study in the UK, all other international students are likely to need a student visa. 

The result of the UK’s referendum on membership in the European Union (‘Brexit’) has led to some changes to the visa regulations to both EU and non-EU student visa applicants.  

Types of UK student visa 

If you’re studying a short course and are over 18 years old, you may be eligible for the short-term study visa. This is valid up to six months for most short courses and can be extended for a stay of up to 11 months for English language courses. 

If you’re studying a longer course, you’ll need to make sure your chosen institution holds a Student Sponsor License. You can either apply for a child student visa (if you’re aged four-17 and want to study at an independent school in the UK) or a general student visa for those aged 16 and over. 

UK student visa requirements 

Your course provider may be willing to help you to apply for a UK student visa once you have been offered a place on a course; ask to find out if this is the case. You can apply for your student visa up to three months in advance of the start date of your course. Check the average visa processing times for your country and be sure to allow plenty of time. 

UK student visas are awarded on a points-based system. In order to meet all the UK visa requirements, you’ll need to provide:  

  • Details of your passport 

  • A recent photograph 

  • An unconditional offer of a place on a course offered by a licensed Sponsor, evidenced by a 'Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies’ (CAS) form from your course provider (worth 30 points) 

  • Proof of adequate English language skills, demonstrated by passing one of the secure English language tests (SELT). You will not need to provide this if you’re from an English-speaking country such as the United States or have completed a qualification equivalent to a UK degree in an English-speaking country. 

  • Proof you have financial support throughout your stay in the UK (worth 10 points) 

  • If you’re a non-EU/EEA/Swiss student studying a sensitive subject, you may also need an ATAS certificate 

Proof of financial support can take the form of bank statements or a letter from your financial sponsor, showing you can cover your tuition fees, accommodation and living costs. You must prove that you have £1,023 (~US$1,300) per month for living costs if studying in the UK outside of London, and £1,334 (~US$1,700) a month for living costs if studying in London. 

Further UK visa requirements include, producing documents showing your academic qualifications, and attending an interview or biometric test, which includes a digital scan of your fingerprints. Depending on your country of origin, you may also be required to have certain medical vaccinations or undertake a tuberculosis test. 

If you’re 16 or 17 years old and applying for the Tier 4 (General) student visa, you must have written consent from your parents/guardians that you can live and travel independently. 

You must complete the UK student visa application online for the general tier 4 student visa, ensuring you’ve read the full guidance. You can apply up to three months before the start of your course. 

UK student visa fees 

The current fee for a student visa is £490 (~US$620) if you apply outside of the UK or if you extend or switch to a student visa from inside the UK. You’ll also need to pay a healthcare surcharge per year to access the National Health Service (NHS) during your stay. This is an additional cost of £470 (~US$594) per year.   

Using your UK student visa 

When you enter the UK, a UK Border Agency officer will put a stamp on your passport that states the duration of your stay in the UK. For example, if your course is 12 months or more, you can stay for the full duration of the course plus an additional four months. You cannot extend your stay beyond this period. 

Before you arrive, you must make sure you are fully immunised, and make sure to pack your immunisation record in your hand luggage in case you are asked to show the border agency officer at your UK port of entry. You should also carry the documents relating to your studies (including your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies or CAS number), your proof of finances and your proof of accommodation. 

Working while studying in the UK 

For EU, EEA, and Swiss students, working while studying in the UK is a viable option. Those enrolled in publicly funded higher education institutions under student visas can engage in part-time work, up to 20 hours per week during term time, and full-time during Christmas and Easter breaks. (Note: For students aged 16 or 17, the maximum is 10 hours per week during term time). 

However, there are certain restrictions in place for students on a UK student visa. They cannot undertake full-time employment (40 hours per week) and are also prohibited from claiming public funds (benefits) and pensions. Additionally, specific activities such as working as a professional sportsperson or sports coach, being self-employed, and studying at an academy or local authority-funded school are restricted. 

Before commencing work, students are required to apply for a National Insurance Number to pay National Insurance contributions from their pay to qualify for certain benefits and the state pension. Additionally, students will also be required to produce evidence of right to work in the UK, using a share code to secure part-time employment during their course of study. 

Bringing partner and children on student visa 

As per the latest regulations imposed in 2024, partner and children of a student can apply to come and stay in the UK only if it is a government-sponsored student starting a course that lasts longer than 6 months or is a full-time student on a PhD or other doctorate (RQF level 8) course or a research-based higher degree.  


How much is UK visa fee? 

The UK student visa fee is £490 when applying from both outside and inside of the UK. As per the 2024 January currency rate, it converts to approximately €570 in Europe, 533,990 Nigerian Nairas, 51,670 Indian Rupees, 9,700,600 Indonesian Rupiahs and 34,700 Philippine Pesos. 

In addition to the visa fee, applicants must pay a health surcharge fee of £490 per each year of their stay in the UK. This may convert to an annual fee of approximately €570 in Europe, 533,990 Nigerian Nairas, 51,670 Indian Rupees, 9,700,600 Indonesian Rupiahs and 34,700 Philippine Pesos.  

How to apply for UK student visa? 

Applying for a UK student visa can be done completely online, where the applicants will have to first create an account with the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). When applying from outside the UK, applicants will be required to prove their identity and it will depend on where the applicant is from and the type of passport they have.  

Applicants can give their fingerprints and a photograph (biometric information) at a visa application centre or use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan their identity documents.  

How long can I stay in the UK with a student visa? 

The duration of your stay in the UK with a student visa usually depends on the length of your course and what study you’ve already completed in the UK. Generally, for individuals aged 18 or above enrolled in a degree-level course, the duration of stay is typically for up to five years.  

However, if your course is below degree level, the usual duration is up to two years. If you are applying for a one-year taught postgraduate programme, the duration of stay you will be permitted from your student visa is one year.  

It's essential to note that this duration is subject to your individual circumstances, and you should refer to the specific details provided by the UK immigration authorities for precise information tailored to your case. Always ensure to comply with visa regulations and seek guidance if needed to make the most of your study experience in the UK. 

Can I work while studying on a UK student visa? 

Absolutely, student visa holders in the UK usually can work, but the extent depends on your field of study and whether you're in or out of term time. While you can engage in roles such as a student union sabbatical officer, there are restrictions on being self-employed, employed as a sportsperson or coach, and claiming public funds. 

In many cases, working part-time for up to 20 hours a week is permissible for most UK student visa holders. However, it's wise to adhere to the specific details provided by the UK immigration authorities upon visa issuance to ensure you make the most of the opportunities available to you. 

How do I extend my stay in the UK with a student visa? 

If you currently hold a Tier 4 (General) student visa, you will have the opportunity to extend your visa and continue your existing course or pursue a new one in the UK. Applicants should be in the UK on either a student or Tier 4 (General) student visa, should have an unconditional offer from a licensed student sponsor, and should demonstrate that your new course surpasses the academic level of your current one, with certain exceptions at the time of applying.  

Additionally, if your stay in the UK has been less than 12 months, you'll need to show sufficient funds to support yourself during the extension.  

This article was originally published in August 2018 . It was last updated in January 2024

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