Applying for a Student route visa outside the UK

Last modified: 26 March 2021

Tier 4 (General) immigration permission was re-named Student immigration permission on 8 October 2020, and Tier 4 (Child) became Child Student. All applications are now under this new Student route, including European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who will enter the UK for studies from 1 January 2021 .

This page has been updated to reflect visa applications under the new Student route, including applications by EEA nationals, and specific special arrangements brought in during the Coronavirus pandemic.

This information is based on the Immigration Rules, and on the policy guidance and application forms issued by the Home Office. We update it as soon as possible after any changes.

Do I need a visa?

Last modified: 02 February 2021

Most people who already have immigration permission (a visa) for the UK, for example as a worker, a dependant, under the EU Settlement Scheme, or in most other categories, can study with that existing visa. Some immigration categories do restrict the study you can do (Standard Visitor, Short-term student, Tier 4 and Student route) and in some rare situations you cannot study at all.

If you want to check whether your current permission already allows you to study your chosen course, ask for advice at the institution where you intend to study. See also I already have a Tier 4 or Student visa that is still valid. Can I use it to enter the UK?

There are two types of visa specifically issued for studying in the UK: a Student visa or a short-term student visa. A Standard Visitor visa can also be used to come to the UK for a short period of study. See our separate guides to Short-term student visas and Visitors.

Where can I study with a Student visa?

Last modified: 02 February 2021

A Student visa is not generic permission to study in the UK as you wish. It is issued for a specific course of study at a specific institution.

Check with the education provider where you intend to study that they have the appropriate license to sponsor a Student visa for the course you wish to do. They will need to issue you with a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) to support your visa application.

There are four types of license: Student Sponsor - Track Record, Student Sponsor, Probationary Sponsor, and Legacy Sponsor. A Student Sponsor - Track Record can offer the widest range of courses with sponsorship for a Student visa. You can check what kind of licence your institution or your prospective institution holds on the UK government's Register of licensed sponsors: students.

I already have a Tier 4 or Student visa that is still valid. Can I use it to enter the UK?

Last modified: 02 February 2021

The introduction of the Student route in October 2020 does not affect existing Tier 4 visas. If you already have a Tier 4 visa you can use it to enter the UK at any point during its validity to continue the studies for which it was issued.

You can also use a valid ("extant") Tier 4 or Student visa to re-enter the UK after your studies have finished, for example if you want to make a new Student route application in the UK for a new course. If you prefer, you can also apply for the new Student visa in your home country. 

If you plan to travel to the UK on an extant Tier 4 visa to apply for a Student route visa there, rather than applying for your new Student visa in your home country, you need to make three checks.

First, check that you can apply for under the Student route within the UK anyway (see Making a Student route application in the UK). If not, you will need to apply from your home country.

Second, check that you meet all of these requirements:

  • the institution you are returning to study at has a Student sponsor licence, and they have agreed to sponsor you (or continue to sponsor you); and
  • you have not been reported to the Home Office as having finished your most recent course early, having  interrupted your studies, or having not enrolled.  If the institution that sponsored your current Tier 4 or Student visa has reported one of these matters, it is likely that your visa has been cancelled; and
  • you are eligible and can meet the requirements to make Student route application from within the UK

Third, carry in your hand luggage evidence to show the Border Force Officer that you will be making a new immigration application before your current permission expires. At the minimum, this would be evidence that you have already been issued a CAS from your new sponsor institution. If you have other evidence, for example some of the documents you will be providing as part of your upcoming Student route application, keep them in your hand luggage for possible checking.  The Border Force Officer cannot issue you with a Student visa on arrival, but they can allow you to enter the UK in order to make the application.

Under 18s

Last modified: 02 February 2021

Students under 16 can apply for a Child Student visa to study at an Independent fee-paying school. Ask your school for information about how to apply.

If you are 16 or 17 years old, you can sometimes choose to apply either as a Child Student or as a Student. This will depend on:

  • studying at an Independent School. Other types of institution cannot sponsor a Child student application
  • the type of sponsor licence the institution holds: there are separate licenses for the Student and Child student routes. The sponsor's listing on the Register of sponsors: students says which route(s) they can sponsor.
  • the level of the course.

We recommend you always speak to your school directly if you are applying as a Child student 

For a short course, including an English language course which lasts no more than 11 months, you may be eligible to apply to enter the UK as a 'short-term student' (or as a 'short-term student (child)' if you are under 16 years old). See Short-term student visas for more information.

Preparing your application

Last modified: 02 February 2021

This summary and checklist is designed to help you with the stages and timeline of application process. It includes links to external websites where appropriate. This checklist by itself does not contain enough information to make a successful application. It is only a summary of the steps involved in applying for a Student visa, and does not contain detailed information about the requirements.

This is a generic checklist for all applicants. Most universities, colleges and schools publish detailed guidance for their own students on applying for a Student visa, and they may offer individual advice on the application. We strongly advise that you use these resources offered by your sponsor when preparing your Student visa application.

If you want to make a successful application, it is extremely important that you:

  • check that you meet all the requirements
  • allow time to obtain any supporting documents you need to provide 
  • provide your supporting documents in the format required  
  • complete all sections of the form, fully and accurately
  • follow any specific guidance from your sponsor institution

You should wait until you have obtained your Student visa before you book any non-refundable tickets for travel. 

  1. Choose institution and course, apply for admission on the course, and receive an unconditional offer and accept your offer
  2. Apply for ATAS clearance (if applicable)
  3. Request a ‘Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies’ (CAS) number from your institution and check the information on your CAS is correct when you receive it. The CAS issuing process can be vary between institutions. A CAS is valid for six months and you must make your visa application within this time. You can only use your CAS for a visa application once.
  4. Check the visa process in your country of residence and the current visa processing times. If there is more than one Visa Application Centre in the country where you live, decide where to apply.
  5. Book and take a TB test (if applicable)
  6. Check that you meet the requirements
  7. Make sure that you have all of the necessary supporting documents, including:
    • Valid passport
    • ATAS clearance certificate (if required)
    • Valid TB test certificate showing you do not have TB (if required)
    • Evidence of qualifications listed on your CAS, unless you are a low-risk applicant*
    • Evidence that shows you meet the English language requirement, or that are exempt from having to meet it
    • If you will be under 18 on the date that you apply for your visa, you will need a letter from your parent/legal guardian confirming their relationship to you and that they consent to your study and living arrangements in the UK and your travel arrangements. You will also need evidence of your relationship with your parent/legal guardian (e.g. birth certificate, certificate of adoption)
    • Receipts for any tuition fees and/or accommodation costs that you have already paid to your institution, if this information is not included on your CAS (*)
    • Evidence that you can meet the strict financial requirements, unless you are a low-risk applicant* and/or you are applying to study at degree level or above with a Student Sponsor - Track Record** (see below).
    • Translations of any documents that are not in English or Welsh

    * Low-risk applicant:
    For who is a low-risk applicant, see our guide to Evidence. You must confirm on your application form that you have these documents but you do not need to submit them with your application. You might be asked to provide them at a later date.

    ** Student sponsor - Track record:
    if your sponsor is listed on the Register of licensed sponsors: students as "Student sponsor - Track record", you are not required to submit evidence of your qualifications or references if you are applying to study at degree level or above.

  8. Complete the application form, submit it and and pay the application fees and the immigration health surcharge (if applicable), and upload your documents. See Where, when and how to apply for more information
  9. If required, book a Biometrics appointment at the VAC.
  10. If an appointment is required, attend at the VAC and pay the application fee (if you haven’t already done so), provide your biometrics.
  11. Attend an interview, if you are asked to do so. You may also be contacted to have a further interview which you must attend.
  12. Wait for the outcome of your visa application. Your passport (and supporting documents, if these were retained at your appointment) will be returned to you by post, or you will be instructed to collect them.

Where, when and how to apply

Last modified: 26 March 2021

The Coronavirus pandemic is affecting many areas of life, including some aspects of applying for a Student visa. Where are there some special arrangements or specific issues we have included guidance here.

Where and how to apply, including Coronavirus updates

When to apply, including Coronavirus updates

Application fee

Immigration health charge

Biometrics, including Coronavirus updates

Interview

Medical check, including Coronavirus updates

When your visa is issued

Last modified: 03 February 2021

EEA nationals who have used the UK Immigration: ID check app receive their visa in the form of an online digital status. This can be shared with anyone who needs to check your visa status.

Other applicants will receive a 90-day vignette (sticker) in their passport. You use this to travel to the UK. After you arrive in the UK, you will collect a biometric residence permit (BRP) showing the full length of your visa. Your vignette will be accompanied by a letter. Keep the letter, and bring it to the UK with you. 

If your visa application is for six months or less your vignette will be valid for your whole stay in the UK. Otherwise, the vignette in your passport will be valid for 90 days. Previously, under the old Tier 4 visa route the vignette was only valid for 30 days.

The 90 days will start 30 days before the course start date on your CAS or seven days before the date that you specified on your application as your intended date of travel to the UK, whichever is later.

It's important to realise that if the intended date of travel that you state on your application form is less than one month before the course start date listed on your CAS then you will not be granted the maximum period of leave possible before the start of your course.  Instead your visa will start seven days before the intended travel date on your visa application; you will not be able to travel to the UK before this date that you stated in the application.

 

   

Start and end dates

Is your visa correct?

Travelling to the UK

Collecting your Biometric Residence Permit

 

Refusals

Last modified: 15 January 2021

If your application is refused we strongly advise that you contact your institution for advice. The immigration adviser or international student adviser there can tell you to what extent they can assist you with your options following a refusal. 

If you think the refusal was incorrect, based on the evidence you submitted with your application, you can ask the Home Office for an 'administrative review' of the decision to refuse it. There is no fee for this but you must request the administrative review within 28 days of the date you receive your refusal notice. Your refusal letter should detail why you are refused and give instructions for requesting an administrative review. The administrative review request notice and accompanying guidance can be accessed on the Gov.uk website.

You cannot produce new or different documents for an administrative review unless:

  • your application was refused on grounds of deception, breach of conditions, or overstaying your previous leave; and/or
  • your application was refused on the grounds that it was submitted outside of the permitted time limits; and/or
  • the Home Office made an incorrect decision not to request additional evidence under paragraph 245AA of the Immigration Rules. This paragraph states that the Home Office can request missing documents if you submitted necessary documents but:
    • a document did not contain all of the specified information
    • a document was in the wrong format (for example, if a letter was not on letterhead paper as specified); or
    • evidence was missing.

    There are very limited circumstances in which the Home Office can exceptionally grant an application without requesting additional documents. If you think that this paragraph of the Immigration Rules should have been applied to your application then you should seek advice from a specialist adviser before applying for an administrative review.

You cannot submit a new entry clearance application at the same time as requesting an administrative review of an earlier entry clearance application. If you make a new visa application while you have an administrative review pending then your administrative review will automatically be withdrawn.

If you make a further application for immigration permission you are likely to be asked whether you have ever been refused immigration permission in the past. It is very important that you do declare any refusals, as requested.

If your visa is refused your application fee will not be refunded, however if you have paid the immigration health surcharge then this will be refunded.

Students' experiences: video stories

Last modified: 15 March 2018

The University of Sheffield commissioned the following videos about students from China and India as they prepare to make their visa applications for study in the UK, and then prepare to travel here.

Applying in China

Applying in India


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