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.

Types of UK student visa

If you’re studying a short course and are over 18 years old, you may be eligible for a short-term study visa. This is valid for 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 Tier 4 Sponsor License. You can either apply for a Tier 4 (Child) student visa (if you’re aged 4-17 and want to study at an independent school in the UK) or a Tier 4 (General) student visa for those aged 18 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 the 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 student 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 Tier 4 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 bypassing 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 aUK 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 £1,015 per month for living costs if studying in the UK outside of London, and £1,265 a month for living costs if studying in London.

You may also be required to produce documents showing your academic qualifications, and to attend 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 apply online for the Tier 4 (General) Student visa, ensuring you’ve read the full guidance here. You can apply for up to three months before the start of your course.

UK student visa fees

The current fee for the Tier 4 (General) student visa is US$478 with an additional US$478 fee per person for any dependents. You’ll also need to pay a healthcare surcharge of £300 per year in order to access the International Health Service (IHS) during your stay.

Using your UK student visa

When you enter the UK, a UK Border Agency officer will put a stamp on your passport

Before you arrive, you must make sure you are fully immunized, remembering to pack your immunization 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

All International students can work while studying in the UK. Students of publicly funded higher education institutions on Tier 4 student visas can work for up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during breaks.