Before you register with one of the many UK universities, read this guide to UK university rankings and visa fees so that you’re ready for the student visa application process.
If you are coming to study in the UK from abroad, your UK student visa requirements will depend on where you are coming from as well as the type of course you are enrolling in. If you are travelling from the EU or a European Free Trade Association (EFTA) country, UK student visa requirements are different than for other countries. However, following the Brexit vote in 2016, conditions are likely to change for EU/EFTA nationals from 2019.
The UK government has recently tightened up rules on UK student visas, making several changes to the Tier 4 student visa in 2016. There are further plans to reduce the number of UK student visas issued in order to reduce overall net migration to the UK.
This guide will look at who needs a UK student visa, along with:
- Types of UK student visas
- Applying for a UK student visa
- UK student visa fees
- UK university rankings
- UK student visa application for a biometric residence permit
- Working in the UK while you’re a foreign student
- Foreign graduates in the UK
- Family members of students in the UK
If you are an EU/EFTA national, you can currently come to the UK and study without a UK student visa. See our guide to EU/EFTA citizens moving to the UK for more information.
All non-EU/EFTA nationals will need a UK student visa to study a course that lasts for longer than 6 months. Nationals from countries that are able to enter the UK for a 6 month period without a UK visa are able to study a short course lasting less than 6 months without needing a visa. You can check your UK student visa requirements here. See our guide to UK visas and residence permits for more information on who needs a visa to enter the UK.
To obtain a UK student visa, you will first need to be accepted onto a course. You can find a list of UK universities, colleges and courses on the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) website here. There is also information available on the British Council website here. For most courses, you will also need to prove that you understand English to the required level.
You will also need to apply for a Biometric residence permit if you are staying in the UK for longer than 6 months.
If you move to the UK on a UK family visa to join relatives, you are entitled to study.
The following types of UK student visa are available:
Tier 4 (General) student visa
This is the standard student visa that is required for courses lasting for longer than 6 months. You can apply for the visa from inside or outside the UK provided you have been offered a place on a course, can understand English to a level appropriate for the course and are able to support yourself financially for the duration of the course.
The visa length depends on duration of your course and you can apply to extend it if you wish to stay in the UK to work or pursue further studies.
Tier 4 (Child) student visa
This is a student visa for children aged 4-17 who want to study at an independent school in the UK. The application needs to be made from outside the UK and is conditional on a placement in a school, consent of parent or guardian and proof that living and course costs can be covered.
The visa is valid for the length of the course, up to a maximum of 6 years, and can be extended.
Short-term study visa
This is a UK student visa for any short study course lasting 6 months or less (or up to 11 months for English language courses if you are over 18). It is also valid for short training courses and undertaking research as part of a degree if you are studying overseas. The length of this visa cannot exceed the length of your course and cannot be extended and is conditional on being offered a place on a course at a licensed place of study and proof that you can support yourself for the duration of the course without working.
A list of UK education institutions that are licensed can be found here.
The UK student visa application process differs slightly depending on the type of UK student visa you are applying for. Full information on the UK student visa application processes can be found on the UK Visas and Immigration website here.
The first step is finding an appropriate course to study at a licensed UK university or higher education institution. See our guide to choosing a university in the UK for information on undergraduate and postgraduate study, and our guide to where to study English in the UK for information on English language courses.
If you are applying for a Tier 4 (General) student visa to do either an undergraduate or postgraduate course, you can apply for courses through the UCAS website. You will need to provide your passport number and prove your English language skills. Once you have received an unconditional offer onto a course, you can make your visa application.
You can apply for a UK student visa at the UK visa application centre in your home country. You can find a list of UK visa application centres worldwide here. You can also apply for a UK student visa online through the UK Home Office Visas and Immigration Service website.
For your UK student visa application, you will need to provide the following:
- passport or travel ID
- proof that you can cover your course and living costs
- proof of parental or guardian consent if you are under 18
- proof of acceptance onto your course
- proof of payment of healthcare surcharge
You will also need to have a tuberculosis test if you are coming to the UK for more than 6 months and are from any of the countries listed here.
UK student visa processing times vary according to where you are applying from. You can check the standard processing time for your UK student visa here.
The UK Visas and Immigration website has information on managing your UK student visa application, containing information on things such as getting documents back and reporting a change in your circumstances, which can be found here.
When you arrive in the UK, you may need to register your UK student visa with the police. You should receive information about whether you need to register in your UK student visa sticker or letter from the UK Home Office. More information can be found here.
The current UK student visa fees are:
- Tier 4 (General) student visa – £328
- Tier 4 (Child) student visa – £328
- Short-stay visa for 11 months (English language course) – £170
- Short-stay visa for 6 months – £89
The UK university rankings are also known as the UK university league tables. For 2018 intake the top 5 universities are currently:
1. Cambridge University
2. Oxford University
3. St Andrews University
4. London School of Economics
5. Imperial College London
The UK universities are ranked according to entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects. More information about the top ranking universities can be seen here.
Citizens from non-EU/EFTA countries who want to stay in the UK for longer than 6 months need to apply for a UK biometric residence permit (BRP). The BRP is valid for the duration of your stay in the UK, up to a maximum of 10 years (23).
You can apply for a UK biometric residence permit from inside the UK at a post office or Visa premium service centre, or from outside the UK at a UK visa application centre. A list of Visa premium service centres in the UK can be found here.
Residents can apply for a permanent residence permit or for full UK citizenship after living in the UK for 5 years.
You can work on a student visa if you have a Tier 4 (general) student visa or a Tier 4 (child) student visa. You are not allowed to work on a Short-term study visa.
You can take up most forms of employment on a Tier 4 (general) student visa, depending on your course level and where you are studying. There are certain job fields e.g. professional sports and sports coaching, that you are now allowed to do.
You can work on a Tier 4 (child) student visa if you are aged 16 or over. You are allowed to work for up to 10 hours per week during term time and full-time during vacations. You are also allowed to take up a work placement as part of your course.
See our guide to UK work visas for more information on working in the UK.
After you’ve completed your studies, you can stay on in the UK if you find suitable employment or wish to continue studying. You need to either apply to extend your visa or switch to an appropriate work visa. You can apply to switch to any of the following work visas if you meet the necessary requirements:
- Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)
- Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)
- Tier 1 (Investor)
- Tier 2 (General)
- Tier 2 (Minister of Religion)
- Tier 2 (Sportsperson)
- Tier 5 (Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange)
You will need to ensure that your BRP is valid for the period of time you intend to stay in the UK.
Partners and children of those with a Tier 4 (General) student visa can apply to join you if you can prove that they can be financially supported while in the UK. They must go through the same process as with making a standard UK visa application from outside the UK.
You cannot be joined by family members if you have a Tier 4 (Child) visa. Parents of children studying on this visa can join if they apply for a Parent of a Tier 4 Child visa. This visa lasts for 6-12 months and can be extended if the child is under 12 years old. Working on this visa is not permitted.
It is not possible to be joined by any family members on s Short-term study visa. See our guide to joining a relative or partner in the UK for more information.
- Website for UK Visas and Immigration
- List of UK visa application centres worldwide
- Online application
- List of UK student visa premium service centres where you can apply for the UK biometric residence permit
- Website for the Universities and Colleges and Admissions Service (UCAS)
- List of licensed universities and places of higher education