Everything international students need to know about UK student visas – Times Higher Education

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This guide to UK student visas details everything you need to know about deadlines, costs, language requirements and post-study work options
The UK is a top study destination for international students because it is home to some of the most prestigious universities in the world.
Students often think the process of securing a visa is difficult, feeling overwhelmed by various deadlines and the need to produce supporting documents. But you shouldn’t let that put you off studying abroad. Once the visa process is complete, the experience of studying abroad will outweigh any headaches you may have faced during the visa application process.
In this article we will look at:
How to get a UK student visa
Applying for a UK student visa
How much a UK student visa costs
The type of visa required
How to overcome problems in the application process
The student visa, previously known as a Tier 4 visa, refers to the immigration permission granted to international students, 18 years old or over, who want to pursue full-time, part-time or long-term higher education study in the UK.
All guidelines are updated regularly on the student visa government web page.
There are three student visa types in the UK:
1. Student visa (formerly Tier 4 general) – ideal for individuals aged 18 and above pursuing full-time degree-level education in the UK.
2. Child student visa (also Tier 4) – tailored for individuals aged four to 17 seeking education in the UK.
3. Short-term study visa – designed for short courses, such as language programmes, with flexibility in course types. Typically granted for six months (or 11 months for English language courses). Suited for those not planning an extended stay.
To help with your applications, we’ve put together this easy-to-use table for a quick overview of the key things you need to know about applying for a student visa for the UK.
UK student visa requirements
What type of visa is required?
Student visa
How much does a visa application cost?
£490 when applying from outside the UK, and £490 to switch to a student visa when inside the UK.
What are the language requirements?
An English level of at least B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This can be demonstrated by passing an English language test or having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English, gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18. Universities may require a higher language standard for acceptance on to certain courses – and you will often have to vouch for your language abilities on your visa application. Students from some countries do not have prove their English language proficiency; the full list can be found here.
What money do I need to have to prove that I can support myself?
Course fees for one academic year, plus £1,023 per month (when studying outside London) for up to nine months, £1,334 for students studying in London. However, students from certain countries may not need to prove that they have this money. More information here.
Are there any additional charges?
A healthcare surcharge of £776 per year.
Can I work while studying?
Students with full-time visas can work up to 20 hours during term time and full-time during vacation. The sponsoring university must have a record of immigration compliance. Some types of work, such as self-employment, are excluded.
What are the post-study work options?
Students who have completed their degree in the UK will be able to apply for a Graduate Route visa, which will allow them to stay in the UK to work or look for work for two years for bachelor’s and master’s students, three years for PhD students.
When should I apply for my student visa?
Up to six months before starting your course when applying from outside the UK, and up to three months before when applying from inside. Students now may apply only online for their visas, and this can sometimes be called an e-visa.
1. Apply to a university course and receive an unconditional offer from the university
The first step to applying for a UK student visa is to secure your place at a UK university. Research courses and institutions and apply to up to five universities through Ucas. Once you receive an unconditional offer, you can begin preparing for your visa application.
2. Obtain your CAS document (Certificate of Acceptance of Studies)
Once you have secured an unconditional offer, the university will issue you with a CAS document. This document contains essential details about your course, the duration of your studies and other relevant information.
To obtain the CAS, you may need to provide additional documentation, such as proof of finances and language proficiency. The CAS is a key component for your visa application, so ensure that the information on it is correct before proceeding to the visa application.
3. Start your visa application
With your CAS document, you can begin your UK student visa application online. Complete the application form, providing accurate and truthful information. Prepare supporting documents, including your CAS, passport details, academic transcripts, proof of funds, and language proficiency test results. Pay attention to the specific requirements outlined by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and follow the guidelines.
4. Calculate and pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)
As part of your visa application, you must pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This contribution gives you access to the National Health Service (NHS) during your stay in the UK. The amount varies depending on the duration of your course, and payment is made online as part of the application process.
If your stay is six months or less, you will be required to pay £388. However, if you are due to stay longer than six months, you will be charged £776 per year to cover your IHS. Once you have paid this, you will have access to
European students with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) may be able to apply for a refund for the cost of the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). Check the GOV.UK website to find out if you are eligible to do so. Note that working on a student visa in the UK during your studies could impact your eligibility for a refund, so consider this before requesting the refund.
The current cost for a student UK visa is £490 per applicant, any person studying at an institution of higher education requires this visa. It also costs £490 for students applying from outside the UK or switching to a student visa from another visa type.
If you need faster processing through priority or super-priority services, it will cost extra. For the priority service students will have to pay an additional £500 on top of the application fee. The super-priority service, for both overseas and in-country applicants, is an additional £1,000.
Applicants must also prove they have the financial means to live in the UK. As of April 2023, the minimum living cost requirement is £1,334 per month for those studying in London and £1,023 per month for those outside London. Students will also need to show evidence that they have the funds to pay for one year’s worth of tuition fees, which can vary between courses and universities for international students.
The cost of studying at a university in the UK
Scholarships available in the UK for international students
How can you study in the UK

If you are applying from outside of the UK, you can start the process as early as six months before your course is due to begin. Application responses aim to come back within three weeks, but this is subject to application numbers at the time.
If you are applying for a new visa from inside the UK, the earliest you may apply is three months before your course begins. You must submit the application before your existing visa expires, and your new course must start within 28 days of the existing expiry date. You should then receive an answer within eight weeks of your application.
These timelines are suggested to allow you with extra time should there be any delays.
The Home Office has changed the regulations around bringing in family members on a student visa.
Most students are not allowed to bring their partners and children to the UK, called “dependants”, on their student visa.
However, there are some exemptions to this. Students enrolled on specific postgraduate courses categorised as research programmes – including PhDs, other doctoral qualifications, or master’s programmes that involve research and the creation of original work – are able to bring dependants into the UK.
This means that no undergraduate students or students on taught postgraduate programmes are permitted to bring family members into the UK with them.
The restriction on bringing dependants began from 1 January 2024.
After you have had your student visa application approved, the next crucial step is obtaining the Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card. This permit serves as an official identification document, containing essential details such as your visa expiry date and other visa conditions.
Each BRP issued to a student has a unique residence permit number. This number is linked to an individual’s visa and is used in various official documents and processes. Students should familiarise themselves with this, as they will use it often.
As part of the UK student visa application process, applicants are required to provide biometric details, including fingerprints and a photograph. This information is crucial for identity verification and is used to generate the BRP. Applicants must attend a designated visa application centre to undergo the biometric data collection process.
It is common for students to encounter delays and complications during the visa process. These issues can be a result of high application volumes, administrative issues or unforeseen circumstances. Preparation and strict adherence to the guidelines is the best way to try to avoid these from impacting your application.
Application delays can impact students significantly when applying for a student visa. It can lead to disruptions in travel plans, delayed course start date and anxiety for the student themselves.
The best way to avoid these delays is to apply for your visa as early as possible and to keep on top of your application. Set up a spreadsheet with key dates, and keep checking your emails to make sure  that you are sending all your documents as soon as they are required.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with the student visa office if you need an update on your application at any point in the process.
Delays or personal difficulties may prompt students to withdraw from their intended course and to cancel their visa application.
Refunds depend on the stage your application is in when you cancel. Exceptions exist if you only want your documents returned or if you applied from within the UK and now wish to apply for a different visa.
It’s important to note that once the cancellation is received by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), it cannot be reversed, and if you are in the UK, cancelling may affect your permission to stay. The cancellation process and refund eligibility will vary depending on how you were instructed to prove your identity during the application.
If you were told to attend an appointment, you will need to fill an online form to withdraw the application. If you used the “UK Immigration: ID Check” smartphone app, you can cancel online through your account.
If you do choose to cancel your application, ensure that you cancel any appointments at the visa application centre as this will free up the schedule for other students.
Please note that all costs and conversion rates were correct at the time of publication. These may vary over time.
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