Interested in studying in the UK? Before you do anything, you’ll need to first see if you’re eligible for a UK student visa. It may sound overwhelming, but don’t worry! Here’s everything you need to know about getting a Tier 4 Student Visa for the United Kingdom.
With Brexit looming ahead, rules, policies and visas may change. Make sure to check the UK Government Website before you apply for any visa.
What are the steps to get a UK student visa?
First thing you’ll need to do before you apply for a Tier 4 General Student visa is to check if you are actually eligible. This type of studying visa isn’t available to everyone.
As per the Gov.UK website, the main visa requirements are that you:
- Are 16 years old or older
- Have been offered a place on a course
- Can speak, read, write and understand English
- Have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course (the amount will vary depending on your circumstances
- Are from a country outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland
- Can meet the other eligibility requirements
What is the age limit for a UK student visa?
You must be at least 16 years old for the UK student visa, but currently there is no age cut-off. If you are aged 4-17 and want to study at an independent school in the UK, you could apply for a Tier 4 (Child) student visa.
The general steps and application process you can expect for the UK student visa is:
- Make sure you’re eligible for the visa
- Prepare all your documents required
- Apply for the visa
- Attend your appointment (You’ll have your fingerprints and photograph taken. This info will be added to your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP))
- Receive a decision about your visa
- Make sure to check what you can bring with you to the UK (if you’re bringing a dog to the UK, you’ll need extra documentation)
- Check what documents you’ll need to show at the UK border
- Arrive in the UK and pick up your BRP
When can you submit your student visa application?
The earliest you can apply for a UK student visa is three months before you start your course. You cannot submit your application any earlier than that. Typically, you’ll get an answer on your application within three weeks.
Everything feeling a bit overwhelming? That’s OK! You are definitely not alone. If you’re feeling a bit stressed about travelling, make sure to check out my article: Travel Advice for a Stress-Free Trip.
Is there a way to track your UK Tier 4 student visa?
Like other working visas for the UK, you cannot track your Tier 4 Student Visa step by step. Once your application has been submitted, you should receive an automatic email that your documents and application has been received. If UK Visa and Immigration personnel need more information for your application, they will contact you directly.
Otherwise, you won’t hear back until your visa has been approved or denied. This is the same process for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa. You should receive confirmation of acceptance by email, usually within three weeks of submission.
How much does a Tier 4 visa cost?
To apply for this visa outside of the UK, the Tier 4 currently costs £348. In addition to the visa fee, you’ll also need to pay for the healthcare surcharge. This fee can change, so it’s important to check how much you’ll need to pay before applying for the visa. You must pay the health surcharge as part of the application.
As part of the healthcare surcharge, you’ll be able to register with a UK doctor like a British citizen. It’s important to do this once you’re settled in your new (temporary) home.
What documents are required for a UK student visa?
When you apply for the student visa, you must be able to provide:
- Current passport or other valid travel documentation (You need a blank page in your passport for your visa)
- Proof that you can support yourself and pay for your course (this will vary depending on your circumstances)
- Proof of parental or other legal guardian consent if you’re under 18
- Your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test
- Proof of your relationship with your parent or guardian if you’re under 18
- You may also need to provide additional documents depending on your circumstances.
Top tip: Read the guidance for the full list of documents and how much money you’ll need according to your situation. Every course, situation, country and program can be slightly different, so it’s important to read the full list.
How long can you stay in the UK on a student visa?
How long you can stay in the UK depends on what kind of course or studying you’re doing. However, there are guidelines on how early you can arrive.
You can arrive in the UK up to one week before your course starts if the course lasts six months or less.
You can arrive in the UK up to one month before your course starts if the course lasts more than six months.
What can you do on a student visa?
While on this particular type of visa, you can:
- Work as a student union sabbatical officer
- Apply from inside or outside the UK
- Apply to extend your stay
- Work in most jobs (depending on what level your course is and what kind of sponsor you have)
However, you cannot:
- Get public funds
- work in certain jobs (Ex. professional sportsperson or sports coach)
- Study at an academy or a local authority-funded school (also known as a maintained school)
Why does the UK exclude India from relaxed student visa rules?
Recently the UK announced that it would relax some visa rules for the Tier 4 visa for 25 countries. This means that those international students would have an easier time coming to the UK to study. Some of these continues included China, Serbia and Indonesia. Countries already on the list included New Zealand, the United States and Canada – all considered “low risk.”
However, India was not included in this list of relaxed student visa rules. It’s unclear why India was excluded from the relaxed student visa rules.
What happens after my UK student visa expires?
Typically, once your visa is over, you must leave the UK. However, you may be able to extend your visa further, or switch to a different one. This could happen if you’re offered a job by a UK employer who can sponsor you after your studies have finished. You would switch from the Tier 4 General Student Visa to a Tier 2 General Working visa.
To be able to stay longer to continue your course in the UK or to study a new course, you must:
- Meet the eligibility requirements of this visa
- Still be in the UK
- Have a sponsor
You can only apply to extend your visa if your current sponsor is:
- A higher education institute (HEI)
- An overseas HEI
- An embedded college offering pathway courses
- An independent school
UK Student Visa – Is it worth it?
If you can meet all these requirements, is the hassle of applying for this visa really worth it in the end? It’s all up to you. Some people love living abroad and being an expat (even for a short amount of time) Some people find that living away from home isn’t for them.
It’s all about you and your decision.