Applying for a Student route visa outside the UK

Last modified: 21 October 2020

On 5 October 2020 Tier 4 (General) immigration permission was re-named Student immigration permission, and Tier 4 (Child) became Child Student. All new applications are now under this new Student route, including European Economic Area nationals who will be entering the UK for studies from 1 January 2021 .

This page has been updated to reflect visa applications under the new Student route and specific special arrangements brought in during the Coronavirus pandemic. See also our dedicated page Coronavirus (COVID-19(: information for international students.

There are some minor changes to the visa eligibility which we explained in our 11 September news item about the 5 October changeover from Tier 4 to Student. 

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: 15 October 2020

EEA and Swiss nationals who are coming to study in the UK on or after 1 January 2021 will need a visa. See  Brexit - immigration.

Most people who already have immigration permission (a visa) for the UK, for example as a worker, a dependant, 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 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. This page is all about the Student visa. If you are coming to the UK to study for a maximum of six months, or 11 months if you will be studying an English language course), see Short-term student visas.

Some short courses may require a Student visa, for example if they include any work placement. Some short courses may make you eligible for either type of visa. Speak to the course provider for their advice on which visa you can apply for.

Where can I study with a Student visa?

Last modified: 15 October 2020

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 school, college, university or other educational 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. A degree studied at a Student Sponsor - Track Record will be one of the requirement for the Graduate immigration route which is expected to launch by summer 2021.

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: 15 October 2020

The introduction of the Student visa route from 5 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 start or continue the studies for which it was issued.

You can also use a still valid ("extant") Tier 4 or Student visa to re-enter the UK after your studies have finished, for example to make a new Student route application in the UK for a new course, if you wish and if you are eligible. If you prefer, you can also apply for the new Student visa in your home country. You can apply in your home country at any time, whether your previous Tier 4 visa has expired or not.

Warning: The provision to re-enter the UK on an extant Tier 4 or Student visa after your sponsored course has finished is not a general principle that applies across all types of visa. For example, someone with a Tier 2 visa for sponsored work can only use it to enter the UK to start or continue their sponsored work, not for a different purpose if they are no longer working.

If you do intend to travel to the UK on an extant Tier 4 visa, we advise that you make three checks before using it to travel to the UK:

First, check that you are eligible to 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, interrupted your studies, or having not enrolled.  If the institution that sponsored your current Tier 4 visa has reported one of these matters, it is likely that your visa might already have been 'curtailed' and is no longer valid; 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: 15 October 2020

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:

  • the type of institution you intend to study at: school, college or university. Only an Independent School can 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: 15 October 2020

This summary and checklist is designed to help you with the 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 checklist is generic 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:

  • read and understand the Home Office's guidance
  • check that you meet all the requirements
  • allow plenty of time to obtain the documents required to make your application
  • provide your supporting documents in the exact format required by the Home Office, as explained in the policy guidance and on the application form
  • complete all sections of the form, fully and accurately
  • check your application will not risk being refused under the general grounds for refusal
  • check with an adviser at the institution (school, college or university) where you intend to study, for any further changes that might affect your application.

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, 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 varies from institution to institution, so enquire with your institution whether you need to provide further information or documents to support your request for a CAS. A CAS is only 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 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 you meet the English language requirement, or are exempt from the requirement
    • 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 (*)
    • 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 and pay the immigration health surcharge (if applicable). See Where, when and how to apply for more information
  9. Book an appointment at the VAC (if an appointment is required)
  10. Attend the VAC and pay the application fee (if you haven’t already done so), provide your biometrics and submit your supporting documents (in some countries this is done by post). Many visa application centres will scan your supporting documents for you and give these back to you on the day (but your passport might be retained).
  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: 21 October 2020

Where and how do I apply?

When should I apply?

Application fee

Immigration health charge



Medical check

When your visa is issued

Last modified: 21 October 2020

Your visa is issued as a vignette (sticker) in your passport, which you use to travel to the UK. After you arrive in the UK, you will collect a biometric residence permit 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. This is a recent change -- under the 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.

In most circumstances you will be travelling to the UK well before the end date of the 90 day vignette. If you do not travel to the UK during the validity of the vignette, it will expire and you will need to apply for another vignette if you still wish to travel to the UK.  You will also need to do this if you lose your vignette before you travel to the UK. See our information on Vignette lost/stolen/damaged outside the UK for guidance on applying for a new vignette.

Your institution should tell you the latest date that you will be allowed to enrol on your course. This date might have been included in your CAS statement. Do not travel to the UK if you will not be able to arrive at your institution before the last date of enrolment. Instead, contact your institution immediately if you will not be able to arrive in time for the start of your course for further advice. 

Start and end dates

Is your visa correct?

Collecting your BRP

30-day Tier 4 vignette expired before you could travel?


Last modified: 15 October 2020

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 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