International students from countries other than EEA or Switzerland will need a UK Student Visa to come and study in the UK. Students can check if they need a visa by working through the series of questions on the government visa and immigration website.
UK Student Visa Categories
There are a number of different visas a student can apply for entry into the UK and they need to ensure they apply for the correct one. The following may be appropriate for a student, depending on their circumstances:
- Tier 4 (Child) student visa, for students aged between 4 and 17 who want to study at an independent school in the UK.
- Tier 4 (General) student visa, for students who want to study post 16 education full time, leading to an approved qualification at any institution that has been granted a Tier 4 Sponsor licence.
- Short-term study visa, for students wishing to take a short course of study with an education provider that holds a Tier 4 sponsor licence.
For students who want to study an English language course lasting up to 11 months can apply for a Short-term study visa. Students can enter the UK as a short-term student for a period of up to 11 months studying exclusively on an English language course if they are 18 years or older. For other short courses the current limit is 6 months. It is not possible to extend their stay in the UK after they have arrived. Therefore, students should only come as a ‘short-term student’ if they are absolutely certain they will not want to work in the UK and will not want to stay for longer than six months. ‘Short-term students’ do not have to study full-time. There is no requirement for the course to lead to an approved qualification.
Click the link for UK Visas and Immigration Guidance on Application for UK Visa as Tier 4 Student which provides detailed information for applications to stay or come to the UK under Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child). Click here for UKVI guidance for applying for a UK student visa. You can check requirements here for the form and guide to go with the VAF9 visa application form used when applying to come to the UK as a student under Tier 4 (General).
In order to be eligible for a Tier 4 (General) student visa, students will need to demonstrate an approved level of English Language proficiency through a secure English language test (SELT).
- For education courses below degree levels, an IELTS score of 4.0-5.0 or equivalent to CEFR (Common European Framework for languages) level B1 is usually required.
- For degree courses or above, an IELTS score of 6.0-6.5, or equivalent to CEFR level B2 is required. Independent schools accepting children on Tier 4 (Child) visas usually determine the level of English required.
- Students who are issued a joint CAS for a pre-sessional course followed by a degree level course can have an English language level of B1 (not B2). These students must have a SELT to demonstrate that they meet the English language requirement of CEFR B1.
- Students wishing to attend exclusively English language courses in the UK can apply for a short-term student visa allowing them to stay for up to 11 months. To be eligible for this visa, they must study a course at an education provider that has been accredited by government-approved organisations.
Students must be able to demonstrate they can speak English to the required standard (B1 or B2), when interviewed by UK Visas and Immigration officers. If the student cannot hold a simple conversation without an interpreter the student may be refused. These interviews can take place at the Visa office in the students` home country by Skype, but they may also be interviewed on arrival to the UK by immigration officers.
Click here for the list of tests and test centres approved by UK Visas and Immigration to show that applicants have the required level of English for their visa.
‘Caps’ on Length of Study
There is a maximum time limit (‘cap’) allowed on studying with a Tier 4 visa.
- Below Degree level: the 2-year cap:
Below degree level there is currently a 2 year cap on the length of time a student can study in the UK, and the leave to remain both before and after the course is included in the 2 years. In the circumstances that they have never studied in the UK as a Tier 4 (General) student before, or they are applying for leave to study a two year course, the cap is extended to two years and eleven months.
- Degree level: 5-year cap:
Generally, a person can only study for 5 years in the UK whilst on a student visa. In summary, the following limits apply:
– a maximum of 5 years in the UK on a Tier 4 (General) or student visa studying at degree level or above;
– a maximum of 6 years in the UK if the student studied a 4 year degree course and wishes to follow it with a Masters.
– A maximum of 8 years in the UK if the student has already completed a PhD.
– Study on the courses of Architecture, Medicine, Dentistry, Law, Veterinary Medicine and Science does not count toward the 5 year cap.
There are a number of visa routes available to international students if they wish to stay in the UK to work after their studies. For example, to switch to Tier 2 (General) if they are a graduate with an offer of skilled work which pays an annual salary of more than £30,000, or switch to Tier 1 (Graduate entrepreneur) if they have developed a business idea while studying and wish to put it into practice after graduating. Click the link to read more about UK immigration routes.
We can provide integrated visa application and immigration services for international students coming to study in the UK. Check it out below for UK education programmes and other education services that we provide.