Visas

UK visas - what you need to know

There are two different types of visa for which students may be eligible.

Points-based visas, including the General Student Visa, are necessary for longer courses but students have to fulfil more requirements to be eligible. These visas can only be offered by education institutions on the Register of Sponsors.

Extended Student Visitor Visas of 6-11 months are available for English language students only, with no requirements about language level.

Students who want to study in the UK must apply for one of these specialist visas: it is no longer possible to do so on any other type of visa, such as a family or general visitor visa.

Points-based visas

The UK has had a points-based visa system since 2009, and the student part of it is called Tier 4.  There are two types of Tier 4 visas: the General Student Visa (GSV) and the Child Student Visa. Students have to prove they have enough money to live in the UK and pay tuition fees, that they have reached level B1 on the CEFR, and have a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), which is a valid offer of a place at a UK educational institution on the Register of Sponsors.

Non points-based visas

The Student Visitor Visa, Extended Student Visitor Visa, Child Visitor Visa and Prospective Student Visa are not part of Tier 4 and have a different set of rules. They are very useful for students on shorter courses or with low starting levels of English.

As all schools and education providers (also known as sponsors) must be accredited, a very high standard of education is guaranteed. If you are a non-EEA (European Economic Area) student, here's some information on what you will need to have in place in order to obtain your study visa for the UK.

For any further information that you require, you should visit the Home Office website.

* Please note that this information is intended as a guide only. As visa rules and regulations are often subject to change, English UK cannot be held responsible for any mistakes or inaccuracies. We would advise you to visit the Home Office website above or contact your course provider, agent or local visa application post for the most up-to-date information.

Firstly, how do I make sense of all the acronyms and jargon?

It's easy with our helpful glossary!

CAS

Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies – a unique identification number generated electronically through the SMS, required for all visa applications under the PBS - charge will be £14 per CAS

CSV

Child Student Visa – for long-stay junior students (under 18s) coming to UK independent (boarding) schools

CVV Child Visitor Visa – for juniors (under 18s) visiting the UK for a range of reasons for under 6 months, including summer English courses
ECO

Entry Clearance Officers – Home Office staff based in British Embassies around the world who decide on visa applications

ESVV Extended Student Visitor Visa – similar to the SVV (see below), but it is only for those wanting to study English language courses that are longer than 6 months and shorter than 11 months, and provides no entitlements such as work rights or the ability to extend the visa
GSV

General Student Visa – the visa for those students who want to stay for more than 6 months, or less than 6 months but intend to work and/or extend their stay at the end of their course

PBS

Points Based System – a system of basing visa decisions on objective rather than subjective criteria, with each criterion counting for a number of points towards a target total

RoS

Register of Sponsors – a public list of all those organisations approved by the UK Border Agency as 'sponsors' of employees or students for their visa applications; education institutions must be accredited by a Home Offcie-approved accrediting body such as Accreditation UK

SMS

Sponsor Management System – a secure IT system that sponsors use to issue CASs and update student records; it is also accessed by ECOs as part of visa processing

SVV

Student Visitor Visa – a form of tourist visa (maximum six months) intended for students who want to take a short course with no other entitlements such as work rights or the ability to extend the visa; it is outside the PBS

Tier 4 The part of the PBS that covers students
The Home Office

The Home Office is a UK government department and the key body responsible for all matters affecting migrants to the UK whether short-term or permanent (this was formerly carried out by the UKBA - an executive agency of the Home Office)


Which visa should I apply for?

Firstly you need to decide on how long you are planning to come to study in the UK:

Less than 6 months

If you will be staying for less than 6 months and do not intend to work or extend your stay, you should apply for a Student Visitor Visa. The student visitor visa route is outside the points based system and the rules for application have not been amended. For more information, please click here

Similarly for those under 18 staying for less than 6 months, typically wanting to do summer courses, they will need to apply for a Child Visitor Visa (CVV) which is outside of PBS and it has no entitlements. For more information on the CVV, please click here.

More than 6 months

You can choose the Extended Student Visitor (ESVV) if you are coming for an English language course only and do not intend to work. 

However, if you intend to stay for more than 6 months or less than 6 months but intend to work and/or extend your stay at the end of your course, and you meet the minimum level requirement (CEFR B1), you will need to apply for a Student Visa under Tier 4 of the Points Based System:

  • If you are under 18 you need to apply for a Child Student Visa (CSV)
  • If you are over 18 you need to apply for a General (Adult) Student Visa (GSV)
  • If you are 16 or 17 you can choose whether to apply for a child or general student visa. However you will need a written letter of consent from your parent or legal guardian if you choose to apply for a General student visa. As a general rule, 16 and 17 year olds applying to study English will need to apply for a GSV.
  General Student Visa Student Visitor Visa Extended Student Visitor Visa
Type of Course Any Any English language course
Duration Maximum 4 years Maximum 6 months Maximum 11 months
Extension? Yes, up to the maximum No No
Right to work?

Yes, part-time in term time and full-time in holidays and only if studying at a publicly-funded institution

No No
Ability to switch to another visa category Yes No No
Can bring dependents (partner, children)? Yes No No
Must attend accredited centre? Yes Yes Yes
Must attend centre on the UKBA Register of Sponsors? Yes No No
Assessment of visa application Need 40 points, mainly documents in support of application Test of ability to take course, intent to return home, etc. and interview Test of ability to take course, intent to return  home, etc. and interview


How does the new system work?

The new system is a points-based system so students need to have enough points in order to come to study.

Number of Points needed for a General or Child Student Visa

In total you will need 40 points:

  • 30 points: a CAS which confirms your place on a course with an approved education provider
  • 10 points: enough money to cover course fees and monthly living costs

To obtain the points you will need to comply with certain regulations and provide certain documents.

Which courses can I apply for?

To apply for a PBS visa (GSV) to follow an English language course, students will need to prove that they have previously studied English. Complete beginners will not be able to apply for a General Student Visa (GSV). Beginners will have to come to the UK via the Student Visitor Visa (SVV) route for a maximum of 6 months or the Extended Student Visitor Visa (ESVV) for a maximum of 11 months.  You can use the English UK website to help you search for a course with an accredited course provider by clicking here.

The minimum course levels for the GSV are below – the school or education provider will be able to confirm the levels of the course you have applied for.

Minimum levels:

  • National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 3
  • For English language students - Level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

There are rules surrounding the type of course students can take, including the length of the course and how many hours per week:

Courses must:

  • Be full-time and lead to a UK recognised bachelor or post-graduate degree, or
  • Be an overseas Higher Education course which is recognised as being equivalent to a UK degree / Higher Education qualification, or
  • Be a course of study below UK degree level that involves a minimum of 15 hours (excluding breaks) per week organised daytime study (between 8am and 6pm Mon - Fri) - this applies to English language courses.

Only students studying at publicly funded institutions will be able to work on a GSV. For more information please visit www.gov.uk/tier-4-general-visa.

Child Students

Child students on a CSV can do courses that are:

  • Taught in line with the national curriculum or; 
  • Taught in line with the National Qualification Framework (NQF) or; 
  • Accepted as being the same level as the national curriculum or NQF or; 
  • Taught in line with existing Independent School inspection standards or; 
  • A pre-sessional course to prepare the child for study – but the main course must comply with the above stipulations

What is a CAS?

Once you have decided which course you want to take, you need to apply to the school for a place on this course. Under the new rules you can only study at an institution that is either on the Home Office list of Registered Sponsors or accredited by one of the accrediting bodies approved by the Home Office. The Home Office Register of Sponsors can be accessed here.

Once you have applied for a place on a course and your application to your chosen education provider has been accepted, the school will issue you with a CAS. The CAS is a unique reference number, not a paper document, and is issued from the web-based Sponsor Management System (SMS). You will need this number when filling in your application form for your visa. Each CAS will cost you £14.

How much money do I need to have in my bank account?

Students need to show that they have enough money to cover the below:

  • Course fees for the first year of study
  • Living costs for each month of the length of the course up to 9 months

The money must be held in cash. Shares or bonds will not be accepted.

You will need to show that you have held the money for at least 28 days and the end of this 28 day period must not be more than one month before the date of your application.

You have to show that you have the following amount of money:

  • £1000 per month if they are studying in the inner London boroughs (Camden, City of London, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster)
  • £800 per month if they are studying outside London (or outside of the above inner London boroughs) 

You will need to have the total amount of living costs and the course fees in your bank account if you have not already paid for your course fees and/or accommodation in advance.

If you are already in the UK and are extending your current visa you may only have to show a reduced amount of funds. You may need to show a lower amount of money for your living costs if:

  • you have done a course of study in the United Kingdom in the last four months before you apply, or you are currently studying and need more time to finish your course;
  • that course was six months or more in length; and
  • you want to apply for permission to stay for a further period as an adult student

If you meet these requirements, you will only need to show two months worth of living costs together with your full course fees for the required length of time.

You cannot apply showing the lower amount of money if you:

  • finished your course more than four months ago; or
  • the course you finished was less than six months long.

You can find more information on the amount of money you must show on the Home Office website

Proof of money

To prove you have enough money you have to show that you have either:

  • The money in your account, or
  • A loan in your name, or
  • Official financial or government sponsorship

Child students can use an account in their parents or legal guardian's name.

How much does a visa cost?

The student visa application fee depends on where you apply from:

General Student Visas / Child Student Visas

  • Inside the United Kingdom by post -  £422
  • Inside the United Kingdom at a Public Enquiries Office - £822
  • Outside the United Kingdom - £310

Student Visitor Visas / Extended Student Visitor Visas

  • Student Visitor Visa - £83
  • Extended Student Visitor Visa - £150

You must provide payment or your application will be invalid and will not be considered.

How to apply

Having read the above guidance you can now think about applying for your visa.

The next steps set out how to apply for your visa – there is more detailed information about applying available on the Home Office website.

Applying from outside the UK

  • Choose your course and check it's the correct level
  • Check the education provider is properly accredited
  • Work out how much money you need
  • Obtain a CAS from your education provider
  • Get all your documents together for your proof of funds
  • For GSV or CSVs, include the documents for your proof of level of your English (your education provider will also request to see these before they produce your CAS)
  • Complete your application form
  • Go to the visa services website to find out the method of application for your country
  • Take your form to your local visa application centre/visa office. You will also need to give your biometric data - more information below.

If you are an extending student and applying from within the UK, there is information on how to apply on the Home Office website.

Applications outside of the UK

If you are applying for a general or child student visa under Tier 4 the correct form to use is VAF9 – PBS Migrant. Additionally you will have to complete and submit a self assessment form. 

Self assessment forms:

Applications from inside the UK

What about biometrics?

  • For your student visa you must provide your biometric data which includes your photograph and your fingerprints. 
  • If you are applying from overseas, you will need to check the UK Visas website for the method of booking your biometric appointment in your country. 
  • Then read the information provided by the visa issuing centre in your country.
  • If you are applying from inside the UK, when you apply to extend your stay, you will have to make an appointment to go to one of the biometric enrolment centres. Click here for more information.
  • If you apply by post, after you have submitted your application you will get a letter from the Home Office telling you how to book an appointment to give your biometrics. If you submit your application by appointment at one of the Public Enquiry Offices, you will be able to give your biometrics at the same time. You will be provided with your ID card once your biometric data has been processed.