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Visas to study in the UK – Overview

Do I need a visa to study in the UK?

Until 1 January 2021, nationals from the EU, EEA and Switzerland do not need a visa to study in the UK. All other nationals will need a visa to study in the UK.

From 1 January 2021, all non-British nationals will need a visa to study in the UK (please see below).

Do I need to be sponsored for a study visa?

Yes, you need to receive sponsorship from your education provider before you can apply for your visa to study in the UK.

How do I know if my education provider can sponsor me for a student visa?

You can find a list of all of the education providers that are registered with UK Visas & Immigration to sponsor international students here. You will then be able to contact them directly or review their webpage for more information about sponsorship.

What is a “CAS” (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies)?

A CAS is a reference number received from your education provider when you are offered a place on a course and sponsored. You will need the CAS number to input into your visa application form online.

Can I use a CAS more than once?

No, a new CAS is required every time you apply for a Tier 4 (General) Student visa.

How long before my course begins can I travel to the UK?

For the Tier 4 (General) student visa, you will need to apply for the visa within six months from the date that you receive your CAS but no earlier than three months before the course start date on your CAS.

For the Student visa route, you will need to apply for the visa within six months from the date that you receive your CAS. However you can apply for the visa at any time up to six months before the course start date on your CAS.

You will typically receive a decision from the Home Office on your visa within three weeks from the date of your application if you are applying from outside the UK.

Can I obtain a CAS to extend my studies in the UK?

You will be able to obtain a CAS if you are:

  • resitting exams or repeating modules
  • applying for the first time to a new institution to complete a course you started at an institution that lost its sponsorship status
  • applying to extend your stay to complete your studies because you have done (or want to do) a work placement or study abroad programme
  • completing a PhD or other doctorate that you started studying under your last study visa
  • applying after working as a student union sabbatical officer to complete a qualification you started studying under your last study visa
  • continuing your medical, dentistry or medical science degree after completing an intercalated course

Can I obtain a CAS to start a new course of study in the UK?

You will be able to obtain a CAS if your course is one of the following:

  • at a higher academic level than your previous course
  • at the same level and related to your previous course or career
  • intercalated to a medicine, dentistry or medical science course you started studying under a study visa

Can I apply for ILR/to settle in the UK with a student visa?

Student visas do not lead to ILR/settlement in the UK. You may however be eligible to settle in the UK based on being in the UK legally for 10 years. Please see the ILR section of the hub for further information.

Can I bring my family to the UK with me under my student visa?

If you obtain the student visa, your family members (known as “dependants”) might be able to apply to join or stay in the UK with you if they are your:

  • spouse or partner; and/or
  • children under the age of 18.

In order to be able to apply for a visa for your dependants, you (the student and main visa holder), must be:

  • sponsored on a master’s (or equivalent) level course or above that lasts 9 months or more; or
  • a new government-sponsored student on a course that lasts longer than 6 months; or
  • a Doctorate Extension Scheme student.

You must also show that your dependants can be supported while they are in the UK. Each dependant must show that they have a certain amount of money available to them and that it has been in your or their bank account for at least 28 days before the application. The maintenance sum will depend on individual circumstances. Please contacts us for more information.

Tier 4 (General) student visa route

What is the Tier 4 (General) student visa route?

This is the visa route for students wanting to study in the UK which was open for applications until 5 October 2020.

When does the Tier 4 (General) student visa route close?

Applications for the Tier 4 (General) student visas close at 8.59am on 5 October 2020.

Do I need to prove my knowledge of my English as part of my student visa application?

You will need to evidence your knowledge of English language when you apply. The requirement will depend on where and what you are studying:

Where you are studying What you are studying Knowledge of English needed  Level
Higher education provider Degree level or above Reading, writing, listening and speaking Equivalent to CEFR (Common European Framework for languages) level B2
Institution that’s not a higher education provider Degree level or above Secure English language test (SELT) tin reading, writing, listening and speaking CEFR level B2
Any institution Below degree level

 

Secure English language test (SELT) tin reading, writing, listening and speaking CEFR level B1

If you are from a country which is exempt from the English language requirement, you do not have to prove your level of English. A full list of countries which are exempt can be found here.

If you are unsure which test you should take, please contact us.

What documents are needed for a Tier 4 (General) student visa application?

You will need to provide all of the following documents with your application:

  • a current passport or other valid travel documentation (which will need a blank page for your visa);
  • proof that you can support yourself and pay for your course (which will vary depending on your circumstances);
  • proof of parental or other legal guardian consent and evidence of your relationship if you are under 18.

You may also need to provide additional documents depending on your individual circumstances, such as whether you will be applying alone or with your dependants. In some cases, you must also provide a negative tuberculosis test result depending on where you are applying from.

If you would like to know more information about supporting documents or would like us to review these before you submit your application, please contact us.

Can I switch to the student visa from my current visa?

Yes, you can switch to a Tier 4 (General) student visa if you are applying before 5 October 2020, meet the visa eligibility criteria, are already in the UK and hold one of the following visas:

  • Tier 2 (General)
  • Tier 2 (Intra-company transfer)
  • Tier 2 (Minister of religion)
  • Tier 4 (Child)

 

Can I extend my Tier 4 (General) student visa?

If you already have a Tier 4 (General) student visa and are in the UK, you will only be able to extend the visa if you can show that:

  • you meet the eligibility requirements of this visa (see above);
  • you are in the UK; and
  • you have a sponsor.

Tier 4 (General) student visa holders can extend their visas under the Student visa route (introduced on 5 October 2020) without having to apply for the Student visa.

You can extend your visa under the Student visa route for 5 years (please see below). You will need a new CAS number to extend your visa (please see above).

Student visa route – effective 5 October 2020

What is the Student visa route?

From 9.00am on 5 October 2020 applications for Tier 4 (General) student visas are no longer permitted and the visa route will be replaced by the “Student visa”.

The Student visa is aimed at applicants aged 16 or over who want to study in the UK on a course of further or higher education, a pre-sessional English course, a recognised foundation programme, on the Doctorate Extension Scheme or to take an elected post as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer.

This is a new visa route but simply replaced and improves upon the Tier 4 (General) student visa route. It has been introduced as part of the UK’s switch to a new post-Brexit immigration system.

Further information on the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system can be found on our hub here.

These questions focus on applicants for higher education courses. For other types of student visa application including doctorate extension scheme, child visas and short-term visas, please contact us.

Who does the Student visa route apply to?

The Student visa route applies to everyone apart from UK citizens and so is applicable to EEA nationals and non-EEA nationals.

How is the Student visa route different to the old Tier 4 (General) Student visa route?

The key changes to student visas are as follows:

  • The Student visa route applies to both non-EEA and EEA nationals who wish to come to the UK to study.
  • EEA nationals applying from within the UK will only be able to make an application from 1 January 2021.
  • The list of countries which are exempt from the requirement to provide an ATAS certificate (see below) has been extended to include EEA countries and Switzerland.
  • You can apply for your visa up to six months before the start of your course if you are applying from outside the UK (see above).
  • There is no longer a time limit on studying courses at postgraduate level but the 5 year limit for degree level courses still remains.
  • You are not required to provide evidence of academic qualifications used to obtain sponsorship if you will be studying at a higher education provider with a track record of compliance.
  • The rules in relation to switching to a student visa from within the UK have been expanded (see below).
  • There are now more ways in which you are able to satisfy the English language requirement (see below).
  • There are also more ways in which you can satisfy the maintenance/financial requirement (see below).

I am an EU citizen, do I need a visa to study in the UK?

If you arrive in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 you should apply under the EU Settlement Scheme to remain in the UK.

If you will be arriving in the UK on or after 1 January 2020 to study, you will need to apply under the Student visa route (please see below for further information).

What is the financial requirement for the Student visa route?

The financial requirement to be met is quite complicated and depends on a number of factors.

The starting point is that if you are applying for a student visa to come to the UK or to remain in the UK where you have been here with a previous visa for less than 12 months, you must provide evidence to show that you have at least:

  • £1,265 for each month of your course, up to a maximum of 9 months where you are applying to study in London; and
  • £1,015 for each month of your course, up to a maximum of 9 months where you are applying to study outside of London.

You must also show that you have sufficient funds to pay any outstanding course fees as stated on the CAS.

If you have already been living in the UK with a valid visa for 12 months or more at the time you apply, you will automatically meet the financial requirement and do not need to provide documentary evidence.

In addition, students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland are not required to meet the financial requirement, nor are students applying as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer or to study on a recognised foundation programme as a doctor or dentist in training.

For further information about deposits that can be offset from this financial requirement and what evidence to provide to show that you meet the requirement, please contact us.

What is the English language requirement for the Student visa route?

Unless an exemption applies, for courses of study at UK bachelor’s degree level of above, you must meet level B2 on the CEFR in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

You can meet this requirement by:

  • being a national of a country approved by UKVI as being a majority English-speaking country;
  • passing an approved English language test;
  • having successfully met the English language requirement in a previous UK visa application;
  • having a qualifying academic qualification awarded in the UK or taught or researched in English
  • having obtained a GCSE, A level or Scottish Highers in English in the UK when you were under 18 years old; or
  • being assessed and approved as meeting the requirement by your sponsor.

What is the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)?

Some applicants are required to obtain an ATAS certificate in order to be able to apply for their Student visa. This is required for courses which lead to a master’s degree, PhD or other postgraduate qualification or for periods of study or research which are part of an overseas postgraduate qualification. It applies to certain academic subjects only.

Nationals of the following countries, are exempt from the requirement to provide an ATAS certificate: UK, EU countries, EEA countries, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA.

Under the Student visa route, how long am I able to study for in the UK?

This visa permits you to study for up to 5 years for degree level courses and there is no limit on how long you can study at postgraduate level.

Can I switch from my current UK visa to the Student visa?

Yes, you can apply for a Student visa from within the UK if you are present in the UK and have a valid UK visa which is not one of the following visa types:

  • visitor
  • short-term student
  • parent of a child student
  • seasonal worker
  • domestic worker in a private household
  • visa granted outside the Immigration Rules

What documents do I need to provide with my Student visa application?

In addition to providing your CAS number, evidence of meeting the English language and financial requirements (if applicable), you will need to provide your passport and may need to provide additional documentation depending on your circumstances.

For further information regarding your personal circumstances, please contact us.

 

When is the earliest date I can apply for a Student visa?

EEA nationals making an application from within the UK under the Student visa route can apply on or after 1 January 2021. If you are applying from within the UK, you can apply up to three months prior to the start of your course.

EEA nationals making an application from outside the UK under the Student visa route can apply on or after 5 October 2020 to gain entry to the UK from 1 January 2021. If you are applying from outside the UK, you can apply up to six months before the start of your course.

As the UK’s transition period for leaving the EU does not end until 31 December 2020, EEA students who reside in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 do not need to apply through the Student visa route. They will be eligible to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme and they, and their dependants, must do so before the deadline of 30 June 2021.

Employment and post-study work visa

Can I be employed under a student visa?

Whether or not your student visa permits you to be employed will depend on your personal circumstances and the course that you are studying.

Generally speaking, if you are enrolled on a full time course of study, at degree level or above, you are permitted to work up to 20 hours per week during term-time.

If you or your employer are unsure about your ability to work under your student visa, please contact us.

Can I work full time with a student visa?

If your visa permits you to work (see above), you are usually permitted to work restricted hours during term-time and can then work unlimited hours outside of term-time.

If you or your employer are unsure about your ability to work under your student visa, please contact us.

What counts as inside and outside ‘term-time’?

Each education provider has a list of term dates and vacation dates for each course of study. These dates determine when your term time starts and finishes.

What information do I need to give my employer to prove that I can work?

Your employer will need to carry out a right to work check before your employment begins. Please see the Evidencing RTW Checks section of the visa hub.

What is the Post-Study Work visa?

The Post-Study Work visa is a new visa route which is being introduced in Summer 2021. It will allow eligible students to work, or look for work, in any role at any skill and salary level, for two years after completing their studies in the UK.

Am I eligible for the Post-Study Work visa?

To apply for the Post-Study Work visa, students will have to:

  • have a valid UK student visa;
  • have successfully completed a course of study at undergraduate level or above; and
  • studied at an approved UK higher education provider.

It is expected that additional eligibility criteria will be published in 2021.

If you have a student visa which expires before the Post-Study Work visa route opens in Summer 2021, you will not be eligible to apply.

What are my visa options after my course of study ends?

Most commonly, students switch to a Tier 2 General visa. This requires you to obtain a job offer from an employer which holds a sponsor licence. More information about the Tier 2 General visa can be found here.

If your plan is to start your own business in the UK, the start-up or innovator visa may be more suitable. For further information about these visas, please see here.

There are also alternative visa options including, but not limited to the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme and Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange visas. For further information about these visas and your options after your studies end, please contact us.

 

When can I apply for the Post-Study Work visa?

This visa route is not yet open for applications but is expected to open in Summer 2021.

Disclaimer

Given the fast pace of change, we would stress that this information is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

As a hub, we have included references to articles and explainers from third parties. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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