The student visa category caters for international students from outside the UK or EU who are looking to study a full-time degree level course at a university, college or other eligible educational institution in the UK.

What are the requirements for a student visa?

To qualify you must achieve a minimum of 40 points according to the UK's Tier 4 student visa points based assessment criteria. Points are awarded as follows:

30 points = Course Confirmation: You must have a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from a qualifying sponsor - that sponsor being the educational institution offering you a place to study. A 'CAS' is a virtual online document with a unique reference number that contains information about you, your sponsor, the course of study you are undertaking, and your finances.

10 points = Funding: You must be able to provide evidence to prove that you have sufficient funds to cover your course fees and living expenses while in the UK.

How long does a student visa last?

As a student visa holder you will be granted leave to enter the UK for the purpose of completing a course at a specified institution. You will be granted leave to remain in the UK for the duration of your course, plus a short period of time at the completion of your course, the length of which is dependant on the level and type of course.

Please note that a student visa does not offer a route to settlement in the UK and does not provide the opportunity to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain and British Naturalisation unless you have been lawfully resident in the UK for a period of 10 years, in which case you can apply under the long residency route.

What type of course can I study?

The type of course you can study will be dependent on the education institution you choose, as well as whether the establishment holds Highly Trusted Sponsor Status, or they hold an A (Trusted) or B (sponsor) rating.

To qualify under the Tier 4 student visa category you must be applying to study full-time on a course that meets the following criteria:

  • a full-time course of study that leads to a qualification at Level 6 or above of the revised National Qualification Framework (NQF) or its equivalents; or
  • an overseas course of degree level study that is recognised as being equivalent to a UK Higher Education course and is being provided by an overseas HEI; or
  • a full time course involving a minimum of 15 hours per week of organised daytime study (i.e. 8am - 6pm, Monday to Friday) and (except in the case of a pre-sessional course) leading to a qualification below degree level but which must be at a minimum of NQF Level 3 or its equivalents; or
  • undertaking a recognised Foundation Programme as a postgraduate doctor or dentist in the UK; or
  • undertaking work as a student union sabbatical officer at your Tier 4 sponsoring institution.

If you are studying with a Tier 4 sponsor that has a Highly Trusted Sponsor licence, you can obtain a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) for a course that leads to an approved qualification for UKBA purposes and is:

  • Approved at level 3 or above on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) or Qualifications and Credits Framework (QCF) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; or
  • Accredited at level 6 or above in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) by the Scottish Qualifications Authority; or
  • A short-term Study Abroad programme in the UK as part of the Tier 4 (General) student’s qualification at an overseas university, as long as the qualification is confirmed as being at the same level as a UK degree by UK NARIC. Contact details for UK NARIC can be found on their website at: www.naric.org.uk/; or
  • An English language course at level B2 or above of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

In addition to the courses mentioned above, institutions that hold Highly Trusted Sponsor status can offer courses which include work placements.

If you are studying with a Tier 4 sponsor that has a standard licence and is rated either A (Trusted) or B (Sponsor) then you can obtain a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) for a course that leads to an approved qualification for UKBA purposes that is:

  • Approved at level 4 or above on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) or Qualifications and Credits Framework (QCF) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; or
  • Accredited at level 7 or above in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) by the Scottish Qualifications Authority; or
  • A short-term Study Abroad Programme in the UK as part of the Tier 4 (General) student’s qualification at an overseas university, as long as the qualification is confirmed as being at the same level as a UK degree by UK NARIC. Contact details for UK NARIC can be found on their website at: www.naric.org.uk/; or
  • An English language course at level B2 or above of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Sponsors with a standard Tier 4 sponsor licence rated either A (Trusted) or B (Sponsor) cannot offer courses below degree level that contain work placements.

Studying English in the UK

Students studying English must be studying at Level B2 of the European Common Framework of Reference (CEFR) for Language. The only exceptions to this are for overseas Government sponsored students and those on unconditional pre-sessional courses as a preparation for a full degree course. In terms of pre-course assessment, it is the responsibility of the Sponsor to ensure and demonstrate to us that the sponsor has assessed that the potential student is suitably qualified (i.e. the potential student’s English language proficiency is already at level B1) to undertake and complete the course.

What is a licensed sponsor?

The licensed sponsor is the university or college you have chosen to enrol with.

Working and the Tier 4 Student visa

As a student you may work part-time for a specified number of hours during term time and full time during vacations. The number of hours you can work during term time is dependent on the level of course you are studying.

For example, if you are studying a course at NQF 6 or QCF 6 or SCQF 9 or above with a sponsor who is a Recognised Body or a UK HEI, or you are undertaking a short-term study abroad, you can work for up to 20 hours per week part-time during term time.

If you are studying at NQF 3/4/5 or QCF 3/4/5 or SCQF 6/7/8 level, with a sponsor who is a UK HEI, degree programme at an overseas Recognised Body or HEI, you can work for up to 10 hours per week part-time during term time.

Dependent Immigration

Spouses, partners and children may be permitted to join you in the UK, however this is dependent on the course you are undertaking in the UK.

Categories of student

Students are divided into the following categories. Each category requires the fulfilment of separate criteria.

  • General student
    Students studying in Britain at or above degree level in a publicly funded institution, or engaging in more than 15 hours of study per week. In this category, work is permitted for 20 hours each week rising to full time hours during holiday periods. Dependents are permitted to join students in this category subject to the course type being taken by the main student.
  • Child Student
    Students in full time study at an independent school up to the age of 18.

Educational institution obligations

Educational institutions offering study places to overseas students are required to attain the status of approved sponsors by demonstrating that they are bona fide establishments, rather than non-accredited or purely commercial operations.

Certificates of sponsorship act as verification from a college or university that students making UK visa applications will abide by the rules and requirements of their course. Educational institutions will also be obliged to report non-enrolment and non-attendance.