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The basics
THE UK: Visa Guides - Must read

How to apply for a student visa in the UK

Applying for a student visa is a crucial part of any international student’s journey. Sometimes it may seem like a confusing or complicated process. We can help with a step-by-step guide to applying for a UK student visa.

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Well known worldwide for its academic institutions and extensive choice of course options, the UK is a popular destination for many international students. The British higher education system is one of the oldest in the world, and with it comes an excellent study experience. International students in the UK do well in the diverse, vibrant cities full of culture and history.


Although the UK student visa application procedure may seem long, don’t be put off! We are here to guide you step by step through the process.


Which visa should I apply for?

Before you begin your application, use our helpful table to check which type of visa is the best for you.


Which visa is right for me?

I want to study…

Visa type

in the UK for less than 6 months

Standard Visitor visa

an English language course in the UK for 6-11 months

Short Term Study visa

a further or higher education course in the UK for more than 6 months

Student visa



This article will show you the process of applying for a UK student visa.


What courses can I study on a UK student visa?

Course type


Additional requirements

A course leading to a qualification below degree level (RQF level 3, 4 or 5)


The course must include at least 15 hours a week of organised daytime study.

A course leading to a qualification at degree level or above (RQF level 6)



A course leading to a qualification above degree level (RQF 7 or above)

Full-time or part-time


A recognised foundation programme for postgraduate doctors or dentists


You must have received a UK degree in medicine or dentistry from a registered student sponsor and spent your final year and at least 1 other year of studying for that degree in the UK.

Part of a longer overseas course at degree level or above (RQF level 6, 7 or 8)


The overseas course must be equivalent to a UK higher education course.

An English language course at CEFR level B2 or above






What does a UK student visa allow?


Typically, a student visa will permit you to study and live in the UK for a period of two or five years, depending on your course. International students may be able to bring their partner and children with them to the UK as part of the family member’s allowance.



Most international students in the UK are permitted to work in certain jobs while they study. Work is limited to 20 hours a week during term-time (unlimited during study breaks). If your course is part-time, you are not allowed to work in the UK.


Other rules

You must be 16 or older to apply for a UK student visa. A UK student visa does not allow you to:

  • receive any social welfare (government) payments or pensions
  • be self-employed
  • study at an academy or a local authority-funded school.


Be aware that every visa is unique. Visas are given on a case-by-case basis. Yours may include other conditions depending on your circumstances.


Get ready

Before you apply for your UK student visa, you will need:


  • a current passport (or other valid travel documentation); and
  • a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies, known as a CAS.


Your CAS

To get a CAS, you must receive an unconditional offer on a course with a licensed student sponsor. Find out more about licensed student sponsor institutions.


Your CAS statement will contain information about your studies which UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will use to assess your application. You will need to enter your CAS reference number into your visa application for it to be processed.


When to apply

You must apply for your visa within (no later than) six months of receiving your CAS. If you live outside the UK, you should apply for your student visa no more than six months before you start your course.


If you already live in the UK, your course must begin within (no later than) 28 days of your current visa ending. You should apply for your student visa:


  • no more than three months before you start your course
  • before your current visa ends.



The costs associated with a UK student visa vary depending on your course and where you apply from. These can be seen in the below table:


What will I need to pay for?


Applying for a student visa (from outside the UK)

GBP 363

Extending or switching to a student visa (from inside the UK)

GBP 490

Healthcare surcharge (all applicants)



You may also need to prove that:


  • you can afford to pay for at least the first year of your course
  • you have enough money to support yourself, either:
    • GBP 1,023 per month for courses outside London
    • GBP 1,334 per month for courses in London.


If you have received financial sponsorship for your course fees and living costs in the last year, you may need to provide written consent (agreement) for your application from your sponsor.


You must find out whether you will need to prove you have money to support yourself. We have helpful articles available about the UK cost of living and tuition fees.


Knowledge of English

International students may also need to be able to prove an understanding of the English language when applying for a UK student visa. The level of English you will need to be able to understand depends on your course. Our table below outlines this in more detail.


Level you’re studying at

CEFR level (or equivalent)

Degree level or above

At least B2

Below degree level

At least B1


Check whether you will need to prove your knowledge of English and how you can prove it.


Other requirements for a UK student visa



You will need to either:

  • give your fingerprints and a photograph at a visa application centre close to you; or
  • scan your existing identity document into your account on the UKVI system (this can be done using an app).



Depending on where you live, you may need to supply tuberculosis test results. Find out more about tuberculosis testing and requirements.


ATAS Certificate (for relevant courses)

Depending on your nationality, you might be asked to provide an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS). You can verify whether you will need this using the UK government website.  


Under 18s

If you are not yet 18, you will also need written consent from your parent(s) or legal guardian(s) and a copy of your birth or adoption certificate stating their names.


Completing your application


You will need to complete your application form online. Make sure you have your credit or debit card ready to pay the fees associated with your application. You can visit the UK government website to start your application for a UK student visa.

If you are applying from inside the UK and need to switch your existing visa to a student visa, you can complete the visa application switch online.


After you apply

A decision is usually made within (no later than) three weeks (eight weeks if you are applying from inside the UK). Occasionally, UKVI may ask you for more information or to attend an interview, but this is usually only for more complex applications.


Don’t forget!

Check your visa dates and conditions when you receive it. These will tell you what you can and cannot do when you are in the UK. If you think there has been a mistake on your visa, you must contact UKVI within (no later than) three months for it to be amended.


If you need to extend your student visa, you can do this online with a visa extension application.


Now that you know all about applying for a visa, it’s time to explore universities in the UK.




  1. Licensed Student Sponsor: This is a university or institution that has been approved by the government to allow international students to study in the UK.
  2. Academic Technology Approval Scheme: This government created scheme certifies the right of international students to study in sensitive technology-related fields.
  3. RQF: A framework designed to evaluate the complexity and difficulty associated with studying a particular qualification.

Study in the UK


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