What is the UK Student Visa (previously Tier 4 Visa)?
The Student Visa is the visa category by which eligible candidates can come to the UK to study on an approved course at a registered educational institute.
Since October 2020, the Student Route has changed from Tier 4 Student Visa to the Student Visa. One of the biggest changes has been that EU and EEA student applicants must now apply in the same process as non-EEA applicants.
The Student Route is part of the new points-based immigration system in the UK. If your Tier 4 Student Visa was previously granted, it will remain eligible.
International students are advised to apply for the new visa in mid-2021 when the system begins accepting applications.
In order to apply for the visa, you should be in receipt of an official offer from a UK college or university.
Your university will provide you with a Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) that you may use to submit with your application.
Who can apply for a UK Student Visa?
A person may only come to the UK through the Student Route if they have been issued a Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from an approved institution with a valid sponsor licence. The register of Student sponsors can be viewed on the Gov.uk website.
A person aged 16 or over may apply for this visa if they plan to study on a valid higher education course, pre-sessional English language course, foundation programme, or Doctorate Extension Scheme.
If the applicant is aged between 16-17 and wishes to study at a registered Independent School on a Regulated Qualifications Framework Level 3 course, they may apply for a Student or a Child Student Visa.
International students wishing to undertake a course that is 6 months or less in duration should apply for a Visitor Visa. Similarly, a person over the age of 16 seeking to study on an English language course lasting between 6-11 months may apply for a Short-Term Study Visa.
In some cases, a student may submit an application for a dependent partner and children to accompany the applicant during their stay in the UK.
Can you bring dependents on a Student Visa?
Not all students may bring a dependent with them on their course of study in the UK. The below outlines the main cases where a dependent will be allowed.
Under normal circumstances, a student may apply for a dependent if:
- The applicant has been offered a government award and is completing a full-time course lasting at least 6 months
- They have been accepted to a postgraduate course of study lasting nine months or longer
- The applicant currently has, or was recently granted an immigration permission as a Student on a full-time course lasting at least 6 months and some other circumstances apply to the case
In order to add a dependent to a Student Visa, the dependent must also meet specific criteria. In general, a dependent must be:
- A husband, wife, or civil partner
- An unmarried partner where the Student and the dependent have been living together in a similar relationship to a married couple for at least two years
- A child (aged under 18)
It may be necessary to show that the relationship between the couple is ‘genuine and subsisting. Further, if a child is to be recognised as a dependent to a person on this visa, there is a requirement for the parents to show that there is a ‘serious and compelling’ reason why the child should live in the UK.
What documents do you need?
There are specific documents you must provide as part of your application for this visa. These include the following:
- A valid passport or travel document
- A Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) document issued by a valid course provider
The Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) certificate is a very important document for the Student Visa application.
It is an electronic document issued by the university for Home Office immigration purposes. Within this document, you will receive a unique CAS number and statement, with the details of your course of study.
The document will outline your contact details, qualifications, English language level, course tuition fees, and other relevant information. After being issued your CAS, you must enrol on your chosen course within 10 days of the course start date.
Student Visa application required documents:
- Evidence of your ability to support yourself financially for the duration of your course
- Where relevant, a valid ATAS certificate
- Evidence of parental or guardian consent (if the applicant is under 18)
- Where relevant, tuberculosis test results
- Where the applicant has a financial sponsor, written consent for the application from the sponsor should be submitted
- Evidence of English language level
- Police registration certificate
Your passport or travel document must contain at least one blank page (front and back). If you are required to submit biometric information as part of the application, you may need to do this at a visa application centre or via a smartphone app.
How to apply for a UK Student Visa
Below is what you can expect from the visa process. As with most applications, the student visa process can involve a lot of complexity. If you have any doubts about your application, contact an immigration specialist for bespoke support or further advice with your individual case.
How to apply for a UK Student Visa
- Use the Gov.uk website to start the application process
- Pay the immigration health surcharge, biometric fee and application fee
- Book an appointment at a visa application centre
If you are outside the UK, you can only apply for a visa six months in advance of your course starting date.
Applicants are also required to pay the healthcare surcharge fee (£470 per year or £235 per six months).
As part of your application, you must provide your biometric information (facial photograph and fingerprints).
Depending on your circumstances, you may be asked to provide this information at a centre or smartphone app.
When you begin your application, you will be notified of which option you should follow.
If you are asked to provide your biometric information at a visa application centre, you may be able to receive a quicker decision on your application by paying a fee for a priority service.
Fees, waiting time and restrictions
The current application fee for the visa is £348. You will be required to own a valid passport or travel document to enter the UK.
There are other costs associated with the visa. One of these includes the Immigration Health Surcharge (currently £470). Within this, you will have access to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
The expected waiting time for this visa (where the application is made outside the UK) is three weeks. This could be up to eight weeks for an application made inside the UK.
Like most visa categories, there are some restrictions on your activities while in the UK. You can find a full list of the conditions at the Gov.uk website.
If you wish to come to the UK on a Short-Term Study Visa (for example, on a short-term English language course), there is a different application process for this.
It is possible to work in the UK on this visa, but there are some restrictions on the type of work you can do and how long you can spend on the work.
Time limits on Student Visas
A person studying in the UK on this visa should not exceed a stay of over five years, with the exception of some courses, including architecture, medicine, veterinary medicine, dentistry, and some law courses.
There are no maximum requirements for international students applying for a course above degree level. The official guidance to the Home Office caseworkers states the considerations when making a decision on a visa extension.
These include how much time was originally granted to study on the course and the length of time requested for the new course. If the total time period will exceed the maximum length of stay allowed in this category, the application is likely to be refused.
Further information can be found on the Gov.uk site.
Extending or switching your visa
When you are issued with a visa to study in the UK, the length of your course and the visa expiration date will be listed on your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).
If your course lasts 12 months or longer, you will be granted leave to stay for up to four months after the end of your course.
If your course is between 6-12 months, you are permitted to stay for two months after the end of the course.
You must adhere to your conditions of stay and leave the UK when the visa expires. You should not overstay your visa or you will face the risk of not being allowed back into the country in the future, or other legal consequences.
However, depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible to apply for a visa extension or switch your visa category, allowing you to extend your stay in the UK.
From inside the UK, it costs £475 when extending or switching to a Student Visa.
‘Academic Progress’ requirement for Student Visas
If you wish to apply to extend your visa from inside the UK, you should be able to prove that your course meets the criteria of ‘academic progress.’
This means that you are unlikely to be granted a visa extension if you wish to study a course at the same level. If, however you wish to move from an undergraduate to a postgraduate course, you are more likely to be granted an extension.
In some cases, if you can show that a course at the same level is connected in some way to your original course and require further research.
You should submit proof in the form of a degree certificate, academic transcripts, or confirmation from the course leader that you have completed the course
EU Settlement Scheme
Under new immigration rules from the UK government, EU students in the UK who were granted this visa on or before 1 January 2021 should apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. Applicants who apply for this scheme will not need a visa if they apply before the deadline of 30 June 2021.
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A UK Student Visa application will cost £348 if your application is made from outside the UK. If you apply from within the UK, you can expect to pay £475 to either extend it or switch to it.
As well as the cost of the application, you will have to pay £470 per year for the healthcare surcharge.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to check the status of your application while it is being processed.
If you need to speak to the Home Office’s UK Visas and Immigration, you can contact UKVI directly. Bear in mind that there is a charge for both phone calls and emails. You will not be able to receive an update on your application from contact centre staff but they may put you in contact with the department dealing with your application.
For the majority of applicants, a Short-Term Study Visa will apply to English language courses between 6-11 months.
If you are engaging on a course of study of six months duration or less, then it is possible that you can complete this course on the Visitor Visa.
Requirements for Short-Term Study Visa applications:
- Aged 16 years or older
- Acceptance on an accredited English language course with an accredited provider
- The course does not last longer than 11 months
- The course is solely an English language learning course
It is essential that you apply for the visa three months before your date of travel. You may not work in the UK if you are granted this visa.
Under some limited circumstances, you may study in the UK with a Tourist Visa (also known as a Standard Visitor Visa). These circumstances include short 30-day courses that are an additional extra on your visit and not the primary reason for your visit.
There are allowances for recreational study courses, and you may also undertake a course of study if the short course has been offered by an approved provider.
As a holder of a Tourist Visa, you may also be eligible to take part in a research or exchange programme if you are an academic.
Other instances where you can undertake studying purposes on a Tourist Visa include:
- Attending a university course interview
- Attending a viva
- Re-taking student examinations
- Attending an in-person module of study as part of a distance learning course
- Attending a graduation ceremony
For further information on how you can use your Standard Visitor Visa for educational purposes, contact Newcastle Immigration lawyers on 0191 303 8965 or use the contact form to get in touch today.