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UK Student Visa Guide

With nearly half a million international students enrolling each year, the United Kingdom continues to be a favourite university destination for students from all over the globe. And it is easy to see why, with 90 of the UK’s universities ranked in the prestigious QS World Rankings.

The United Kingdom comprises the nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. International students are attracted to studying in the UK by the country’s multicultural cities and welcoming atmosphere for immigrants. Additionally, the United Kingdom is home to the world’s sixth-largest economy and the country is a centre for world-leading firms in a variety of industries including tech, financial services, trade, manufacturing and climate studies.

Studying in the United Kingdom also gives you the chance to enjoy the country’s centuries-old history and natural beauty, as well as explore the tourist favourite cities of Europe while living in an English-speaking cosmopolitan region. International students also enjoy the travel-friendly location of the United Kingdom, which is located within an 8-to-12 hour flight distance of nearly every one of the world’s major regions and cities.

The UK Student Visa

Depending on the nature of your course and length of planned stay in the country, international students typically receive one of two visa types from the UK government. These are:

  • Short-term Study Visa: For the purpose of studying an English language course for up to 11 months
  • Student Visa: For the purpose of coming to the UK for a college degree or certification. This visa was earlier known as a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa or a Tier 4 Student Visa

All around the world, UK embassies and consulates require a slightly different set of documents from international students depending on your home country, and you should get in touch with your nearest UK embassy for more details.

We recommend that you prepare multiple copies as well as originals of the following documents because they are required for all student visa applications to UK:

  • Your valid passport: must be valid for the entire duration of your university degree
  • UK student visa application form
  • 3 passport-sized photographs not older than six months
  • Proof of enrollment or a letter of admission from a UK university – this document is known as a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies)
  • Proof of funds: you must show proof of having at least £12,006 if you will be living in London, and at least £9,300 if you will be located outside London, for every year of your planned stay in the UK
  • Proof of language proficiency in English: exams such as TOEFL or IELTS
  • Your CV, previous academic degrees and other important academic certificates such as exam results
  • Payslips
  • UK visa fees payment receipt
  • ATAS certificate if required for your nationality or course

Valid Courses for a UK Student Visa

Enrollment in the following course types enables international students to be eligible for a UK student visa:

  • A full-time course with organised daytime study of minimum of 15 hours a week
  • A full-time course to obtain a qualification which is degree level or above
  • A full-time course to obtain a qualification which is degree level or above which shares the same platform as that of a UK higher education programme
  • A part-time programme to obtain a qualification which is above degree level 
  • A known foundation course for PG doctors or dentists
  • An English language programme at B2 level or above in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

UK Student Visa Process and Fees for International Students

The earliest that international students can apply for a UK student visa is 6 months before your course in the UK begins. You can expect to receive your UK student visa about three weeks after your application. The process to apply for a UK student visa involves filling out an online application form on the UK student visa website, completing the visa payment, and scheduling an interview at your nearest United Kingdom embassy or consulate.

In most countries worldwide, international students are required to pay £363 as the UK student visa application fee. You may also need to pay a visa processing and biometrics fee to your local UK visa processing centre. It will cost £490 to extend a UK student visa if you are already living or staying in the UK. You will also need to pay a healthcare charge, depending on your planned city of residence in the UK. International students must also be aware that only Master’s or PhD-level international students can take a dependent such as spouse or child into the UK with them.

Student Visas and Dependants

From January of 2024, international students will no longer be able to bring dependants with them on their student visa. There is an exception to this rule if you are enrolled or enrolling on a postgraduate research programme. This means that any dependants will have to apply for their own visa.

The UK’s new points-based immigration system

Following the 2016 European Union referendum, the UK revised it’s rules for work and student visas, in what came to be known as the new points-based immigration system. At this point, the UK Student Visa replaced what was previously known as the Tier 4 Student Visa. Much of the changes at this time focused on visas for skilled and non-skilled workers, whilst freedom of movement from the European Union ended, meaning that people moving to the UK from EU nations were now required to apply for a suitable visa.

UK Student Visa Work Rules

Current UK student visa rules allow you to work up to 20 hours per week and full-time during academic breaks in the country as an international student. Your university must be listed on the UKBA Sponsor list as well as the ‘recognised bodies’ list. Many international students use online platforms such as to secure internships and part-time employment at world-leading firms in Manchester, London and other major cities in the UK.

The cosmopolitan cities, cultural riches, world-leading quality of education and exciting cities all over the UK make studying in the country an unforgettable experience for international students. We suggest that you conduct further research to shortlist your ideal British universities and identify any additional admission requirements for international students at your preferred universities. All the best for your applications!

For further information about student visas, see our International Student Visas article.

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