Most international students need a student visa to study in the UK. Finding out whether you need a visa to study is easy, simply check the UK government website.
Your visa will allow you to live and study in the UK for the duration of your course.
Applying for your student visa
If you are 16 or over and want to study a course at higher education level in the UK lasting longer than six months, it is most likely that you will need to apply for a student visa through the Student Route.
Follow this step-by-step guide to applying for your student visa:
- Step 1: Apply to your chosen university (or universities) and receive an unconditional offer.
- Step 2: Once you have received your unconditional offer, and you have accepted it, your university will give you a document called a Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (or CAS).
- Step 3: Once you have your CAS, you can begin the visa application process. You can apply for your visa up to six months before your course starts. You will need to pay an application fee (£363 for students) and have a current passport.
- European students: If you’re from an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you can use the UK Immigration: ID Check app on a smartphone to complete the identity stage of your application.
- Step 4: As part of your application, you will need to pay a fee called an Immigration Health Surcharge. This gives you access to the UK’s National Health Service. Students receive a 25 per cent discount on the usual cost, so the rate for student visa holders is £470 per year.
- European students: If you have an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you may be able to apply for a refund of the cost of the Immigration Health Surcharge. Check the GOV.UK website to find out if you are eligible to apply for a refund.
- Step 5: As part of your student visa application, you may need to prove your knowledge of the English language. Different universities have different requirements, so make sure you check what form of English language evidence you will need with your university.
- Step 6: You will need to complete your application and have it accepted before you arrive in the UK.
Your university will provide you with advice about your visa application, so don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Some universities have dedicated immigration advisors that are on hand to support international students with their visa application.
Other types of visa
If you’re studying in the UK at an accredited institution for less than six months, you can do this as a visitor. Many students (including those from the European Union and other eligible countries) won’t need a visa for courses lasting less than six months.
Students from some countries will need to apply for a standard visitor visa to do a short course in the UK. Check if you need a visa to study in the UK.
If someone you know is coming to visit you on holiday to the UK, they may need to apply for a visitor visa. Find out more about a visitor visa.
Short-term Student Route
Short-term student visas are available to students who want to study English language courses that are between six and 11 months long. Find out more about the short-term study visa.
Child Student Route
If you're aged between four and 17 years old, you can apply for a child student visa to study at a school in the UK. Find out more about child study visas.
Can I work in the UK on a student visa?
Many international students in the UK take a part-time job, work placement or internship alongside their studies. For most courses, you will be allowed to work for up to 20 hours per week during term time. Before you consider looking for work, check your visa and biometric residence permit and check your university’s rules to see if there are any restrictions to the type of work or number of hours you can do.
European students: If you do decide to do part-time work in the UK, this could impact your eligibility for a refund on your Immigration Health Surcharge payment, so make sure you consider all of this when thinking about if you need to work alongside your studies in the UK.
Find out more about the hours and types of work you can do on the UKCISA website.
Can I stay in the UK after I graduate?
The date your student visa ends depends on the length of your course. Make sure you know when your visa is due to expire so you can plan your next steps accordingly.
You may be able to extend your student visa if you’re eligible, for example, to continue your studies in the UK. You may also be able to switch to another type of visa if you want to stay and work in the UK.
Visit our after your studies pages to learn more about your options after you graduate.
Where can I find more information?
If you are looking for the latest updates and advice about student visas in light of Covid-19, visit our Covid-19 information page.
Many British Council offices run pre-departure briefings for students who are due to travel to the UK. At these events, you can find out more about everything you need to prepare, and you may pick up some helpful tips for applying for your visa. Check our events page or visit your local British Council website to find an event near you.
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