What do UK ELT providers need to know about the new Student visa route?
14 October 2020


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What do UK ELT providers and partners need to know about the new Student visa route?

From January 2021, most international students will enter the UK under one of three principal routes:

  • As a visitor if they are studying for less than six months
  • On an 11-month Short-term study visa: this is only available to students taking English language courses of between six and 11 months (we expect this route to be renamed)
  • On a Student visa: necessary for students who want to study English for more than 11 months, or any other course type for more than six months.

Any student from a non-visa national country who intends to study English language for less than six months will not need a visa. From 2021, all EU/EEA and Swiss citizens will be non-visa nationals.

Note on ID cards: The UK Government has confirmed it will stop accepting national ID card travel for entry to the UK for EEA and Swiss students. From 1 October 2021, all visitors will require a passport to enter the UK. Visitors can continue to use their national ID card to enter the UK until at least 31 December 2025 if they have settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

The new-style Student visa route replaces the Tier 4 route

In September the Government announced further details of the new-style Student visa route, which will replace the current Tier 4 route from January 2021 and be open to all international students studying in the UK from 1 January 2021. Applications will open at 9:00 GMT on 5 October.

Applications under the Student visa route will cost the same as current Tier 4 applications; £348 for those applying overseas and £475 for applications made in the UK.

The new Student route was designed to improve on the previous Tier 4 route to allow for a more streamlined experience for both the sponsoring institutions and students.

Switching provider in-country will be possible

Most students with a Student visa will be eligible to switch to a new provider without leaving the UK, providing they have met the relevant academic and language requirements. 

Details on restrictions are yet to be announced.

This is something English UK has been lobbying for, and is good news for member centres who offer IELTS and pre-sessional courses. Students studying with centres with a Student sponsor licence will now be able to apply for further leave ahead of starting a university course.

Students can apply up to six months in advance

Another helpful change from Tier 4 is that students will be able to apply for a Student visa up to six months prior to the start of their course rather than three months.

Child Student visa route is only open to those studying at independent schools

Students under the age of 16 will need to apply for the Child Student visa if they are studying for more than six months and can only study at independent schools with a sponsor license.

Note: From January 2021 studying at UK state schools or colleges will no longer be possible for EU/EEA/Swiss students.


Does your English language centre need to apply for a Student sponsor license?

English UK member centres will need to have for sponsor license if they want to sponsor students under the new Student visa route.

An in-country change of provider is allowed under the Student route, so this is now an option for members who offer pre-session, IELTS and other courses that a student might wish to take in advance of a higher education course. 


 Further information

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