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The Complete Guide to UK Student VISAs by G8Way

There’s no denying that coming to the UK to study can be an exciting prospect. However, while you might be looking forward to getting stuck into your course, there is a lot to think about first - especially when it comes to your student visa.

If you’re struggling to get your head around what’s what, we’re here to help. At G8Way, we have the all Tier 4 student visa and short-term study visa advice and information you need.

What is a Tier 4 visa and why do I need one?

If you are a national of a non-EU/EEA country or Switzerland and you are planning to come to the UK for the purpose of studying a full-time course that is longer than six months, you will need to obtain a Tier 4 student visa. This visa gives you permission to live and study in the UK for the duration of your programme. It’s important to note that visas are not issued for part-time courses.

For more student visa help and information, you can visit the UK Home Office website.

How do I know if I’m eligible?

Your eligibility for a Tier 4 visa is calculated using a points-based system. You will need 40 points to apply for your visa. To achieve these points, you will need to follow a specific application process and provide the relevant documents when needed. For example, you must provide evidence funding and prove how you intend to pay for both your course and your tuition fees, as well as your living costs. This is usually worth 10 points.

You will also need to obtain a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). This must be received from a university that is recognised by UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI). It’s important that you receive this before you start the visa application process. This is usually worth 30 points.

For more Tier 4 guidance and information about the points system and the full eligibility criteria, we recommend you visit the UK Home Office website. You can also find Tier 4 advice on the UK Council for International Student affairs website.

How can I apply for my visa?

To get your Tier 4 student visa, you will need to complete an online application. Students from all countries, except North Korea, can apply by visiting the UK Visa and Immigration website. You will also be required to provide biometric information, including a photograph of yourself and readings of your fingerprints. This is done at a visa application centre as part of the application process. You can find your nearest application centre online.

How much will it cost?

If you are applying for your Tier 4 student visa from outside of the UK, it will cost you £355 plus the Immigration Health Service Charge.

If you are already in the UK, you will have three options to choose from. You can apply for the standard service which costs £457 and takes eight weeks to process, the priority service which costs £916 and takes 10 days or the premium ‘same-day’ service which costs £1,047.

What is the Immigration Health Service Charge?

If you are coming from outside the EU to live in the UK for longer than six months, you will be required to pay a health surcharge. This will give you access to the National Health Service during your stay in the UK. The Immigration Health Service Charge is £150 per year. It is required to be paid upfront, in full when you submit your application online.

When can I apply for my visa?

Before you can apply for your Tier 4 visa, you will need to have received a CAS from your chosen institution. It’s also important to note that you can only apply for your student visa three months before your course is due to start. So, for example, if your course starts in September, you should receive your CAS in June and you will then be able to submit your visa application.

Can I bring my family with me to the UK?

Yes - you will be able to bring your family to the UK, as long as you meet a certain set of criteria. Your partner and children can accompany you as your Tier 4 dependents if you are a student sponsored by the government and your course duration is longer than six months. You may also bring them if you are enrolled on a postgraduate level programme that is at least 12 months long and you are attending a Higher Education Institution or a ‘recognised body’. A list of these ‘recognised bodies’ can be found online.

Can I work in the UK during my studies?

You are permitted to work in the UK as part of your Tier 4 visa. You will be able to work for up to 20 hours per week during your studies, and you are also allowed to work full-time throughout the holidays between term times. Having a job is a great way to earn some extra money to support yourself while you study. It can also help strengthen your CV, giving you the chance to gain work experience and develop new skills.

It’s important to note that this is only applicable if you are going to be enrolled on a degree level course for more than six months at a UK higher education institution. The college or university you are attending must be featured on the official UKVI sponsor list and the list of ‘recognised bodies’.

You will not be permitted to work in the UK during your studies if you are enrolled on a lower level course or if you are studying at a further education college. You also cannot work if your institution is not featured on the UKVI sponsor list or the list of ‘recognised bodies’.

Can I work in the UK after I’ve graduated?

Once you have successfully completed your studies and graduated, there are a number of options available to you if you wish to stay and work in the UK. You must apply for one of the following work visas from UKVI:

Tier 2 (General) Visa

This type of visa is available for recent graduates with a Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD or PGCE qualification from a recognised university in the UK. In order to apply, you will need to have been offered a job from a licensed employer with a salary of £20,800 or more. After five years, this visa gives you the opportunity to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK. This is providing you earn a salary of at £35,000 and you meet the eligibility criteria.

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) Visa

This visa is an option for students who wish to pursue their own business idea. To acquire this visa, you will need to be recognised by your university as having the capability to create and develop your idea into a business within the UK, and they will act as your sponsor too. This is available to all students of any subject discipline. There is also an additional government-backed route that has been specifically designed for Master of Business Administration students.

Tier 4 (Student) Visa

If you are a student who has completed a PhD at a higher education institute, this visa gives you the opportunity to stay in the UK for an additional 12 months. This begins once you’ve reached the course completion date. Your university acts as your sponsor and you will have unrestricted work rights. However there are some exceptions in place regarding certain occupations, such as dentists and doctors.

Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) Visa

This type of visa is available for students of certain nationalities and gives you the opportunity to work in the UK for up to an additional two years. In order to apply for this permit, you must meet a specific set of criteria. For example, you must be aged between 18 and 30, have a certain amount of money saved and be from one of the countries listed on the UK Home Office website.

Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Visa

This visa gives you permission to work in the UK for up to 12 or 24 months, depending on which scheme you’re applying for. If you are offered a job by a licensed sponsor in one of the following fields - unpaid voluntary work, creative and sporting, religious work, government authorised exchange and international agreement - you will qualify for this visa.

In regards to the Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) visa, you can apply by switching your Tier 4 visa from within the UK. For all other Tier 5 visas, you will have to apply from outside of the UK.

What is a short-term study visa?

If you are planning to study in the UK, a short-term study visa could be another option for you. You can apply for this visa if you are enrolling onto a short course lasting up to six months, or for a period of research if you are over the age of 18. You may stay for 11 months if you are over 18 and are taking an English language course.

You must also meet the relevant eligibility criteria. For example, you must have been offered offered a place on a course at an accepted institution, have enough money to support yourself while you study and be able to pay for your onward or return journey. If you are under 18, you must obtain permission from your parents or guardian and make arrangements for your travel and stay in the UK.

It’s important to note that, unlike the Tier 4 visa, the short-term study visa does not permit you to work in the UK while you study. Also, you are not allowed to bring family members with you, extend your visa, receive public funds or study at a state school.

For short-term student visa advice, you can visit the Home Office website or speak to your college or university directly.

Disclaimer: While we hope our guide helps and we have gone to every effort to make sure the information provided is accurate, it’s important to note that we are not a professional visa service. For further Tier 4 visa guidance or advice about short-term study visas, you should contact your college or university directly. You can also find Tier 4 visa help and advice on the UK Home Office website.


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