Applying for a student visa in the UK

Every year, millions of people from around the world travel to the UK. The most popular reason is to visit as a tourist, but to study is the second most common reason, with students making up the largest percentage of people moving to the UK.

There are many advantages to studying in the UK – embrace a new culture, meet different people and, of course, get an education. But as exciting as becoming an international student can be, there are some legal aspects to consider. Most notably, the need for a visa.

Last year, more than 276,000 Tier 4 Student Visas were granted, up 16 per cent from the year before, and around 460,000 international students attended British universities. That’s a lot of people and lots of visa paperwork to process.

But before we get stuck into the practical details of applying for a student visa, here are a few more statistics to consider.

  • In the year ending June 2019, 8 per cent of all visas granted (including visitor visas) were for students.
  • Last year, sponsored study applications at universities increased by 11 per cent.
  • Chinese and Indian nationals account for more than 50 per cent of all international student visas granted.
  • International students graduating from British universities are now allowed to stay in the country for another two years to look for work (previously it was four months).

If that all sounds good, let’s look at what is needed to apply for a student visa. As with most UK visas, Tier 4 is split into categories, which are detailed below.

General Student Visa

As the name suggests, this a general visa for international students and is the most common visa applied for by people coming to the UK to study.

To be granted this visa, you must 16 or over and have been offered an unconditional place on a course, which is known as Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). English language skills are required, with proof of level B1 for non-degree courses, and level B2 for degree courses and above. There are some exceptions to this rule though, such as being a national from an English-speaking country.

Other conditions are that the institution where you intend to study must be a licenced Tier 4 sponsor, and you must provide evidence of maintenance funds to support yourself and pay tuition. There are also fees involved at £348 per applicant and a healthcare surcharge.

Finally, students with a Tier 4 General Student Visa are eligible to work in most jobs.

Child Student Visa

The UK is home to many independent schools that attract students from around the world each year. The Tier 4 Child Student Visa is designed to allow children aged four to 17 from overseas to study at an independent school.

As with the General Student Visa, to apply you need an offer (CAS) from an institution that is a licenced Tier 4 sponsor, plus sufficient maintenance funds to cover living costs and fees. However, as this visa deals with children, a consent letter from the parents or legal guardian is also required for the visa to be granted.

For children under 16, the visa is initially granted for up to six years, and for three years for those over 16.

Short-term study

If long-term study is not for you, there is the option to study or conduct research in the UK on a short-term basis.

This visa allows people aged 16 or over to study in the UK for up to six months, or up to 11 months for an English language course, at a licenced Tier 4 sponsored education institution. You cannot work in the UK with this visa.

With the Short-term Study Visa, you must have enough funds to support yourself, or have friends or relatives that can support you, as well as proof that you can pay for an onward journey out of the UK.

Students from EEA and Switzerland

Students from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland currently do not need to apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa and are still eligible to pay home tuition fees (the same amount charged to UK citizens). This will continue for students applying for the 2020-21 academic year.

However, from 1st January 2021, the Brexit transition period will be over. At the time of writing this article, there was no confirmation about the future status of visas and fees for students from the EU.

Becoming an international student in the UK

There is a vibrant international student community in the UK with people moving from all over the world to study at British universities and educational establishments.

The process of applying for a Tier 4 Student Visa is relatively simple, as long as certain conditions are met, and you have enough money to pay fees and support yourself. An important issue to remember though is that international tuition fees are significantly higher than domestic fees. Studying abroad is not cheap, but for many people the advantages of getting an education in the UK is worth the investment.



Article Created By Hayley Maguire

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