Student visa Guide
Table of content
- Genuine student rule
- Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
- Licensed student sponsors
- Acceptable levels of study
- Financial requirement
- Exception to financial requirement
- Course fees
- Living costs
- Accommodation deposits
- Main study site in London
- Evidence requirements
- English language requirement
- TB certificate
- Switching to this visa
- Academic progression
- Application process and fees
- Length of leave
- Extend your visa
- Supporting documents
You can apply for a student visa to study in the UK if you’re 16 or over and you:
- have been offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor
- have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course – the amount will vary depending on your circumstances
- can speak, read, write and understand English
- have consent from your parents if you’re 16 or 17 – you’ll need evidence of this when you apply
This visa has replaced the Tier 4 (General) student visa.
The applicant must be a genuine student and be awarded a total of 70 points for having a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (50), meeting the financial requirement (10) and the English language requirement (10).
Genuine student rule
For an applicant to qualify as a student, or as a Child Student who is 16 or 17 years old, the Home Office must be satisfied, on the balance of probability, that the applicant is a genuine student; their credibility will be assessed by considering all of the information provided in the application and, if applicable, in the credibility interview.
In assessing whether an applicant is a genuine student or not, the following factors will be taken into consideration:
- English language abilities
- Immigration history of the applicant and any dependant, in the UK and other countries
- Education history, study and post-study plans
- Personal and financial circumstances of the applicant and any dependant
- The qualification, course provider and agents
Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
The applicant will be awarded 50 points for submitting a valid CAS with their application. A CAS is a virtual document (similar to a database record) which is assigned by the licensed student sponsor. It is an official offer of a place on a course of study.
Each CAS has a unique reference number which links it to the CAS checking service that contains information about the applicant’s:
- personal details
- course of study
- academic and English language ability (documents or information that the sponsor used to assess academic and English language ability)
A CAS must:
- contain mandatory information,
- be issued no more than 6 months before the date of application,
- be issued by an institution that holds a student or Child Student sponsor licence,
- not have been used in a previous application for entry clearance or permission to stay,
- be issued for a course of study, or issued for a full-time, salaried, elected executive position as a Student Union Sabbatical Officer where the applicant will be part-way through their studies, or is being sponsored to fill the position in the academic year immediately after their graduation and
- not have had its offer withdrawn by the sponsor since the CAS was issued.
Licensed student sponsors
All educational establishments that wish to sponsor international students must have a student sponsor licence.
Student sponsors have a range of sponsorship duties which they must fulfil; these include record keeping and reporting duties. For example, a student sponsor must keep a copy of the student’s:
- biometric residence permit (BRP) or digital status
- UK immigration status document (the student must keep the original)
- contact details
A student sponsor must report to the Home Office if:
- a student fails to enrol on their course within the enrolment period,
- the institution is not a higher education provider and a sponsored student misses 10 consecutive contact points and an exception does not apply,
- the institution is a higher education provider and a sponsored student fails to academically engage with the course after meeting one of the indicators set out in the academic engagement policy, and does not re-engage after intervention by the sponsor
- the student sponsor ceases to be the student’s sponsor for any reason
- there are any significant changes in the student’s circumstances
Acceptable levels of study
Unless the course is a pre-sessional course, the course must meet one of the following requirements if the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies has been assigned by sponsor type noted within the table below:
For a student sponsor, the following courses are acceptable at this sponsor type:
- full-time courses at level 3 or above on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
- part-time courses at level 7 or above on the RQF in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
- full-time courses at level 6 or above on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF)
- part-time courses at level 11 or above on the SCQF
- a short-term study abroad programme in the UK as part of the applicant’s qualification at an overseas higher education institution (HEI), so long as the qualification is confirmed as being of equivalent level
- to a UK degree by Ecctis (formerly UK NARIC)
- an English language course at level B2 or above of the Common European Framework of reference for languages (CEFR)
- a recognised foundation programme for postgraduate doctors or dentists
- an aviation licence, rating or certificate issued by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority
To score 10 points for meeting the financial requirement, the applicant must show that they have sufficient funds to pay outstanding course fees for the first academic year and can demonstrate funds to cover their living costs for up to 9 months.
The applicant must show that they have held the required level of funds for a consecutive 28-day period, unless they are relying on a student loan, an award from a government or international sponsorship agency, or where they are receiving some portion of the funds or other financial sponsorship from their student sponsor (as a bursary, for example). The 28-day period must end no more than 31 days before the application date.
Types of UK Visas
Get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers to learn how to apply for your visa.
Exception to financial requirement
You do not need to prove the financial requirement if:
- you’ve had a UK visa for 12 months prior to the date of your Student visa application – you must currently be in the UK
- you’re applying as a student union sabbatical officer
- you’re applying as a postgraduate doctor or dentist on a recognised foundation programme
Where an applicant qualifies under the differentiation arrangements (United States of America, Australia, Canada, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Tunisia etc), they are not usually required to provide evidence they meet the financial requirements. However, applicants should still hold the required level of funds as UKVI reserve the right to request evidence of funds from these applicants.
Applicants applying for a new course from overseas and those who have been in the UK for less than a year must demonstrate that they have enough money to pay the course fees for either:
- one academic year of the course
- the entire course (if it is less than a yearlong)
Students who are differentiated nationals will generally not be required to demonstrate evidence of course fees. Those students who have held valid permission for 12 months or more at the date of application are not required to demonstrate funds to pay course fees during their application, however all international students are required to pay any course fees to the sponsoring institution.
The amount an applicant will pay for course fees is stated on the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). The CAS will also confirm if there is no fee to pay. If the applicant has paid all or part of their course fees this must be confirmed on the CAS, or the applicant must provide a receipt issued by the sponsor confirming the amount of fees paid.
An applicant must show they have enough money to cover their monthly living costs while in the UK. The amount of money they must show depends on:
- whether they are a boarding student
- whether they will be studying in London or outside London
- whether they are applying under the Doctorate Extension Scheme
If the applicant has paid a deposit to the student sponsor for accommodation, they are providing, this deposit (up to a maximum of £1,334) can be offset against the required funds they need to demonstrate. The amount paid will be taken as that stated on the CAS. A payment can only be offset if the accommodation is provided by the sponsor. Payments made to third parties will not be considered when calculating the amount needed to meet the financial requirement.
Main study site in London
Applicants on the Student route who need to show funds and who are not boarding with their sponsor need to show they have more funds available if they are studying in London.
Study location Monthly living cost requirement:
- £1,334 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses in London
- £1,023 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses outside London
London means the City of London and the 32 London boroughs. Maintenance requirements are calculated on where the applicant is studying rather than where an applicant will be living.
Appendix Finance guidance sets out where specific evidence must be provided, for example confirmation of a student loan or official financial sponsorship, or proof of relationship where relying on parental funds. The applicant will be asked to provide this evidence as part of the application process.
English language requirement
Applicants on the Student route will be awarded 10 points for meeting the required level of English language ability depending on the type of their course.
You can prove your knowledge of English by:
- passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider
- having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English, gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18.
If applying to study a course below degree level, the applicant must have the equivalent of level B1 of the Common European Framework of References for English language (CEFR). If applying to study a course at degree level or above, the applicant must have the equivalent of level B2 of the Common European Framework of References for English language.
Applicants on a combined pre-sessional course need to demonstrate level B1 English if they have not been given an unconditional offer of study on the main course of study at degree level or above, and their sponsor has not assessed them as already having level B2 English.
You do not need to prove your knowledge of English if you are a national of one of the listed majority English speaking countries or you’ve completed a qualification equivalent to a UK degree there (USA, Australia, Jamaica etc.)
You also do not need to prove your knowledge of English if one of the following applies:
- you’re a national of Canada;
- you’re applying to come to the UK for a study abroad programme as part of a university degree course in the USA;
- you proved your level of English in a previous visa application.
Where an applicant is applying under the Student or Child Student routes, they will need to provide a valid TB certificate with their application if they have been residing within a country listed in Appendix T of the Immigration Rules for the 6 months immediately preceding the application.
Switching to this visa
You may be able to switch to a student visa if you already have a valid visa and you:
- are in the UK
- have an unconditional offer of a place on a course with a licensed student sponsor – shown by your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).
If you’ve been in the UK with a valid visa for less than 12 months, you’ll need to prove you have enough money to support yourself in the UK.
You cannot switch to this visa if you have one of the following visas:
- a visit visa,
- a short-term student visa,
- a Parent of a Child Student visa,
- a seasonal worker visa,
- a domestic worker in a private household visa,
- leave outside the immigration rules and
You must apply before your current visa expires. Your new course must begin within 28 days of your current visa expiring. You must also apply within 6 months of getting a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).
If you wish to find out more about your immigration matters, our team of experienced lawyers is happy to assist.
The academic progression requirement is in place to ensure that students are progressing academically if they wish to study a further course in the UK, and are not just seeking to extend their stay in the UK.
The requirement only applies to students who have previously been granted permission as a Student or a Tier 4 (General) Student and are applying for permission to stay.
Your new course must be one of the following:
- at a higher academic level than your current course
- at the same level and related to your previous course or career aspirations – it must be degree level or above at a Higher Education Provider (HEP)
- intercalated to a medicine, dentistry or medical science course you started studying under your Student visa (including a Tier 4 (General) student visa)
An applicant does not need to show academic progression under the exemptions listed in Appendix Student ST 14.4. If an applicant is exempt from demonstrating academic progression, the licensed student sponsor must confirm this, and set out why, in the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).
Applicants making a student application from overseas are not required to show academic progression.
You do not need to show your studies are at a higher level if you’re doing one of the following:
- resitting exams or repeating modules
- applying for the first time to a new institution to complete a course you started at an institution that lost its student sponsorship licence
- applying after working as a student union sabbatical officer to complete a qualification you started studying under your last Student visa (including a Tier 4 (General) student visa)
- completing a PhD or other doctorate that you started studying under your last Student visa (including a Tier 4 (General) student visa)
- continuing your medical, dentistry or medical science degree after completing an intercalated course
- applying to extend your stay to complete your studies because you’ve done (or want to do) a work placement or study abroad programme
Application process and fees
You must apply online.
- £348 to apply for a student visa from outside the UK
- £475 to extend or switch to a student visa from inside the UK
You’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application. How much you pay depends on how long your visa lasts.
The earliest you can apply for a visa is 6 months before you start your course and you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks, however you may be able to pay extra cost to get a faster decision.
When you apply from inside the UK, the earliest you can apply is 3 months before your course starts. You must apply before your current visa expires. Your new course must begin within 28 days of your current visa expiring. You’ll usually get a decision within 8 weeks.
Length of leave
If your application is successful, you’ll get either:
- a biometric residence permit if you gave your biometric information at a UKVCAS centre
- a digital immigration status which you can view and prove online if you used the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app
How long you can stay depends on the length of your course and what study you’ve already completed in the UK. If you’re 18 or over and your course is at degree level, you can usually stay in the UK for up to 5 years. If it’s below degree level, you can usually stay in the UK for up to 2 years.
You may be able to stay longer in the UK and:
- extend your visa if you’re eligible, for example to continue your studies in the UK
- switch to a Graduate visa to stay in the UK for at least 2 years after successfully completing your course
With a student visa you can study, work as a student union sabbatical officer or work part time.
You cannot claim public funds, work in certain jobs, for example as a professional sportsperson or sports coach, be self-employed or study at an academy or a local authority-funded school.
Extend your visa
You may be able to extend your student visa to stay longer and continue your course or study a new course. This includes if you currently have a Tier 4 (General) student visa.
To extend your visa you must:
- be in the UK on a Student visa or a Tier 4 (General) student visa
- have an unconditional offer of a place on a course with a licensed student sponsor – shown by your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
- show that your studies are at a higher academic level than your current course (called the ‘academic progress requirement’) – there are some exceptions
- If you’ve been in the UK with a valid visa for less than 12 months, you’ll need to prove you have enough money to support yourself in the UK.
You can also switch to a Graduate visa to stay in the UK for at least 2 years after successfully completing your course.
Your partner and children may be able to apply to come to the UK or stay longer in the UK and you must be one of the following:
- a full-time student on a postgraduate level course (RQF level 7 or above) that lasts 9 months or longer,
- a new government-sponsored student on a course that lasts longer than 6 months or
- a Doctorate Extension Scheme student
You’ll need to provide evidence of your relationship when you apply, for example a marriage or civil partnership certificate for your partner or a birth certificate for your child.
You’ll need to prove you have extra money for each family member you bring with you.
You must have this money for at least 28 consecutive days. The end date of the 28-day period must be within 31 days of the date you apply for your visa.
Your partner and child must each have a certain amount of money available to them. This is in addition to the money you must have to support yourself.
How much money they need depends on where you will be studying. They must have either:
- £845 a month (for up to 9 months) for courses in London
- £680 a month (for up to 9 months) for courses outside London
Your partner or child does not need to prove they have this money if they’ve been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months.
If you and your partner or child are from a country listed under the ‘differential evidence requirement’ and you’re applying at the same time, they do not need to prove they have money to support themselves.
If you are switching to this visa, you will have to apply for your dependants’ visas at the same time as you switch your own visa. If you cannot apply at the same time, your partner or child can switch their visas at a later date – this must be before their current visa expires.
If their application is successful, their visa will end on the same date as yours.
When you apply for your student visa you must provide:
- a current passport
- a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your course provider
You may also need to provide:
- proof you have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course
- a valid ATAS certificate if your course and nationality require it
- proof of parental or other legal guardian consent if you’re under 18
- proof of your relationship to your parent or guardian if you’re under 18
- your tuberculosis test results
- written consent for your application from your financial sponsor if you’ve received sponsorship for your course fees and living costs in the last 12 months
You may need to provide additional documents depending on your circumstances.
If you have a question about your visa, we can help. Immigration Rules are complex and given the effort required to make the application and the level of Home Office non-refundable fees, it is important that you proceed with the best advice. We can advise on the options available and can support you through the process.
To discuss your UK visa application with one of our immigration lawyers, contact our immigration lawyer team or select one of our packages below.
Our highly experienced team of lawyers assists clients to navigate the constantly evolving areas of UK immigration law.
This visa is a subcategory of the standard visitor visa enabling visitors only to get married in the UK and leave the country on the expiry of their visa; it should not be confused with fiancée visa which is intended to those who want to settle in the UK after their wedding.