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How to apply for a UK student visa

If you’ve been offered a place on a higher education course and you don’t live in the UK, EU, EEA or Switzerland yet, you’ll need a student visa to study in the UK.

There are a few different types of student visas for the UK, but for full-time university study you’ll usually need a Tier 4 (General) student visa. A UK student visa costs around £348 if you apply from outside the UK, and you’ll also have to pay a healthcare surcharge; the cost of which can vary depending on your home country.

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UK student visa application process

You won’t be able to start your Tier 4 (General) visa application more than three months before your course start date. When you’ve received an offer from the university of your choice, follow these steps to apply for your UK student visa:

  1. Accept your offer: pay any necessary deposits for your course or accommodation to the university. In return for accepting your offer, you’ll receive a unique Confirmation as Acceptance of Studies (CAS) reference number
  2. Gather your documents: for the student application you’ll need proof of being able to financially support yourself, your CAS details, and an ATAS certificate if necessary
  3. Complete the online application: during the application you’ll book your visa application center appointment for your biometrics to be taken and to show your documentation
  4. Attend your visa appointment: submit your supporting documents and receive your visa sticker permitting travel into the UK
  5. Receive your result: you’ll usually have your visa decision in around three weeks time, however this varies depending on your home country
  6. Collect your BRP: within ten days of your arrival in the UK you will need to collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) which contains your full visa

UK student dependent visa

Rules for bringing dependents to the UK to live with you are strict, and as a student, it is unlikely you will be eligible unless your course is full-time, at a postgraduate level, and for nine months or more.

In the case you are able to bring dependents with you, your financial proof will also have to include how you plan to support them, in addition to yourself.

UK student visa requirements

At some point during the different stages of getting your UK student visa, you’ll need to provide the following:

  • Current valid passport
  • Proof of funds for a year’s tuition and living costs
  • Tuberculosis test results if required
  • CAS number, and information such as language test results

ATAS for UK visa

Whether or not you need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certification depends on the level of study you are coming to the UK for, and the subject matter of your degree.

Postgraduate students studying sensitive topics in the areas of science and technology may need an ATAS in order to apply for a student visa. Your chosen university will be able to advise if your course needs an ATAS or not.

If you’re not currently studying in the UK on a visa and need an ATAS certificate, you will need to get this before applying for a Tier 4 visa. You can apply for an ATAS certificate up to 9 months before the starting date of your course, however it is only valid for 6 months so you must complete your Tier 4 visa application within this time.

UK student visa processing time

It usually takes around three weeks to get a decision, but it can take longer if there are any delays, or if it's a busy period.

It's worth starting your application as soon as possible to avoid running the risk of not getting your visa in time. If you're applying from outside the UK, you can apply six months before you start your course. The earliest you can apply from inside the UK is three months before your programs starts.

Being refused for a UK student visa

Many reasons for UK student visa refusals revolve around finances. You may not have shown that you have enough money, or the funds have been held for 28 days.

If your application is refused, you'll get a letter or email explaining why you were unsuccessful. Your letter will also let you know if you have the right to either an administrative review or an immigration decision appeal.

You'll need an administrative review if you're applying from outside the UK. You can apply online within 28 days of your rejection and you will need to pay a fee £80. It can take up to six months to get a decision, but the UK Home Office will contact you after three months with an update.

UK student visa working hours

On Tier 4 (General) UK student visa, international students studying at the bachelor’s level and above are able to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during vacations. This includes all paid, unpaid and voluntary work.

Currently, international students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland are able to work in the UK with no restrictions.

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