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An Expat Student Guide to UK Visas

Following on from our Australia visa options for students, we decided to bring things closer to home and discuss visa options for overseas students visiting the UK to study.

In 2016, the UK government tightened up rules on UK student visas, making a few changes to the Tier 4 General student visa. Discussions have also set out plans to diminish the number of UK student visas granted to reduce overall net migration into the UK. With Brexit also under a year away, things are set to change further for students wishing to carry on their education in the UK. Currently, foreign students wanting to study in the UK will need to abide by the following…

EU/EFTA Nationals

If you hail from one of the following countries, you can come to the UK freely at any time to study without needing a visa:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Non-EU/EFTA Nationals

Anybody not from one of the countries listed above will need a visa to study in the UK.

UK Family Visa

If you are planning on studying in the UK and move to the country on a UK family visa you are entitled to study.

Types of UK Student Visas

The following types of UK student visas are available:

Tier 4 (General) Student Visa

This is the standard UK student visa for non-EU or EFTA citizens to allow them to study in the UK for courses lasting long than 6 months. You must have been offered a place on a course to apply for the visa. You will also need to prove you understand English to an appropriate level and have the finances to support yourself during your studies.

Your UK visa student length will depend upon your course, but it can be extended after this period.

Short-term Study Visa

If you are a non-EU or EFTA student and wish to take a short course lasting 6 months or less (or up to 11 months for English language courses if you are over 18) you must apply for a short-term study visa. This is also the visa to apply for if you are conducting research overseas as part of your course in another country.

You must have already been offered a place on a course to apply for this visa and it cannot be extended. You must also prove you have suitable finances to support yourself for the months you are in the UK.

Tier 4 (Child) Student Visa

Children aged 4 to 17 who wish to study at an independent school in the UK will need the child version of the Tier 4 student visa. Applicants for this visa must already have a place confirmed in a school, have the consent of their parents, and proof that finances are covered.

This visa is valid for the length of the course, up to a maximum of six years. This type of visa can also be extended.

UK Student Visa Costs

The current UK student visa fees are:

Tier 4 (General) student visa   £328

Tier 4 (Child) student visa   £328

Short-stay visa (6 months)   £89

Short-stay visa (11 months for English language courses only)   £170

How to Apply for a UK Student Visa

For any UK student visa application, you will need to provide the following:

  • Passport or travel ID
  • Proof that you can cover your course and living costs
  • Proof of parental or guardian consent if you are under 18
  • Proof of acceptance onto your course
  • Proof of payment of healthcare surcharge

Students visiting the UK from any of the following countries will also need to undergo a tuberculosis test:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brunei, Burma, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Cameroon, China, Congo, Cote d’Ivorie, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, Equitorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakstan, Kenta, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Liberia, Macau, Madagascar, Malawi, Malyasia, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Togo, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

There are two places where students can apply for a UK student visa. You can apply at the UK visa application centre in your home country or through the UK Home Office Visas and Immigration Service website.

UK visa processing times vary from country to county so make sure you allow enough time for approval before you begin your studies.

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