You’ve been accepted to the school of your dreams in the UK, so now what? Now it’s time to start the process of obtaining your visa. Although this task may seem daunting, we’ve compiled a brief list of helpful advice to guide you through the immigration process.
Do You Need a Visa?
Unless you are in one of the four categories below, you will need to apply for a visa to be able to study in the UK. You do not need a visa if:
- You are a national of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
- You are a British overseas territories citizen (excluding sovereign base areas in Cyprus)
- You are a UK Ancestry visa holder (meaning at least one of your grandparents was born in the UK and you’re a Commonwealth citizen)
- You have no conditions or time limit attached to your stay
*Even if you fit into one of the categories above, you may still need to obtain a visa depending on the length of your course or if you wish to work during your studies.
Types of Visas
Your own unique situation will determine which visa you need to obtain. Read below to see which category you fit into:
- Tier 4 (General)—For adults who want to come to the UK for their post-16 education
- Tier 4 (Child)—For children 4 – 17 years old on a long course of study. If you are 4-15 years old you must be coming to study at an independent fee-paying school
- Student Visitor—For adults (age 18 and over) on a short course of study (no longer than 6 months), who will not work during their time in the UK. Or, if you are taking an English Language course (no longer than 11 months) and will not work
- Child Visitor—For children under 18 on a short course of study (up to 6 months). If you have this visa and then wish to apply for a Tier 4 visa you must leave the country first
If you apply for a visa outside the UK, there are charges involved in obtaining one. See the list below:
- Tier 4 (General) or (Child)—£298
- Student Visitor—£80 – 144
- Child Visitor—£80 – 737 (depending on length of stay)
*If you have been awarded certain scholarships, you may be able to apply for your visa free of charge.
Please note, if you apply for your visa once already in the UK the fees will be considerably higher.
Depending on which country you live in, you can apply for your visa online or by filling out and mailing in an application (or a combination of the two). To make a successful application, you must score 40 total points in the UK Border Agency’s points assessment. To score the full amount you must have:
- A valid Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), which your school will provide for you, and an appropriate level of English language skills based on assessment test scores or native ability. This accounts for 30 out of 40 points
- Evidence that you have enough money to cover course fees and living costs during your stay. This accounts for the additional 10 out of 40 points
As part of your application, you will also have to register your biometric information (fingerprints and facial photo) at a UK visa application centre.
Supporting Documents Required
For many visa categories you may be asked to provide additional documents to support your application. These documents may include, but are not limited to:
- A valid passport or travel document
- One passport-sized colour photograph (to go on your visa)
- Evidence that you have been unconditionally accepted on a course in the UK (normally your original CAS statement)
- Original certificate(s) of previous academic qualification or the original transcript of previous academic results
- Test certificate of your English language competence (if applicable)
- Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) clearance certificate (if applicable)
- Evidence of finances (either your own or your sponsor’s, which may include bank statements and balance certificates)
- Tuberculosis testing for students (of certain countries) studying English language courses longer than 6 months (if applicable)
- Details of accommodation and travel bookings
Working While You Study
With a Tier 4 (General) or (Child) you have the ability to work up to 10 or 20 hours per week (dependant on the nature of your course) during your studies. With these visas you can:
- Work part-time during term
- Work full-time on holiday
- Participate in a work-placement for your course
- Work as a postgrad doctor or dentist on a recognized Foundation Programme (if applicable)
- Work as a student union officer
*With a Student or Child Visitor visa, you will not be able to work during your time in the UK.
Can You Stay After Your Course Ends?
Depending on the nature and length of your course, you will be able to stay for a short time after your studies. See which category you fit into below:
- Your course is 12+ months—You can stay 4 months after the end of your course
- Your course is at least 6 months, but less than 12 months—You can stay 2 months after the end of your course
- Your course is less than 6 months—You can stay between 7 days and 1 month after the end of your course (dependant on the nature of your course)
The visa application process may seem complicated and confusing, but as long as you follow our guide and apply for your visa in a timely manner, you won’t have any snags along the way. If you need further information about visas for studying in the UK, visit this website.