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Student Visa for the UK

This guide explains what you will need to do if you want to travel to the United Kingdom (UK) to study, and what the Immigration Rules say.

Student Visa for the UK

It is only a guide but it aims to answer some common questions.

How do I qualify to travel to the UK as a student?
You must be able to show that you have been accepted on a course of study at an educational establishment that is on the UK's Department for Education and Skills (DfES) Register of Education and Training Providers. Contact details are under 'More advice and information' at the end of this guidance, or you can search the register on the DfES website at: www.dfes.gov.uk/providersregister
You must be able to show that you are going to follow:

  • a recognised full-time degree course, or
  • a course run during the week involving at least 15 hours of organised daytime study each week, or
  • a full-time course at an independent fee-paying school

You must also:

  • be able to pay for your course and support yourself and any dependants, and live in the UK without working or needing any help from public funds, and
  • intend to leave the UK when you complete your studies.

If you are a degree student and you successfully complete your studies, you may be able to take work permit employment if you meet the requirements. You can get more information about work permits in our Work permit holders (INF 13) guidance note.

If you graduate in an approved science or engineering subject you can apply to stay in the UK, to look for or to take work, for an additional year after your degree course finishes without getting a work permit. For more information, please see the Permit free employment (INF 14) guidance note.

Under the ‘Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland’ scheme, if you successfully complete a degree level course or above, and it was awarded by a Scottish institution, you may be able to apply to live and work in Scotland for up to two years after achieving your qualification.

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What is a visa?
A visa is a certificate that is put into your passport or travel document by an Entry Clearance Officer at a British mission overseas. The visa gives you permission to enter the UK.

If you have a valid UK visa, we will not normally refuse you entry to the UK unless your circumstances have changed, or you gave false information or did not tell us important facts when you applied for your visa.

When you arrive in the UK, an Immigration Officer may ask you questions, so take all relevant documents in your hand luggage.

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Do I need a visa to study in the UK?
You will need a visa if you:

  • are a national of one of the countries listed at the end of this guidance
  • are stateless (you don't have a nationality)
  • hold a non-national travel document, or
  • hold a passport issued by an authority that is not recognised in the UK

If you are not an EEA national and you intend to stay in the UK for more than six months, you will need to get an entry clearance before you travel. More information will be available on this website or from your nearest British mission overseas where there is a visa section.

If you do not need an entry clearance, you will have to satisfy the Immigration Officer that you qualify for entry when you arrive in the UK. They will then give you permission to stay in the UK for up to six months. You will not be allowed to extend your stay in the UK as a student unless you arrived with a student or prospective student visa, or you are studying on a course at degree level or higher.

To extend your stay you will need to apply for a residence permit at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. (Contact details are under 'More advice and information' at the end of this guidance.) They will charge you a fee for this.

If you have any doubts about whether you qualify for entry, you should apply for a visa before you travel to the UK.

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How do I apply for a visa?
You will need to fill in a visa application form (VAF 1 – Non-settlement). You can download the form from this website, or get one free of charge from your nearest British mission overseas where there is a visa section.

You must apply for your visa in the country of which you are a national or where you legally live.

You can apply in a number of ways, for example by post, by courier, in person and online. The visa section will tell you about the ways in which you can apply.

In some countries, if you are applying for a visa to stay in the UK for more than six months, you may need to be tested for active tuberculosis before we will accept your application. You can find out if you need to be tested by using the Do I need a UK visa? on this website, or by contacting your nearest British mission overseas where there is a visa section.

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What will I need to make my application?
You will need the following.

  • Application form VAF1 - non-settlement
  • which you have filled in correctly.
  • Your passport or travel document .
  • A recent passport-sized (45mm x 35mm), colour photograph of yourself.
    This should be:
    • taken against a light coloured background
    • clear and of good quality, and not framed or backed
    • printed on normal photographic paper, and
    • full face and without sunglasses, hat or other head covering unless you wear this for cultural or religious reasons
  • The visa fee. This cannot be refunded and you must normally pay it in the local currency of the country where you are applying.
  • Supporting documents relevant to your application.

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What supporting documents should I include with my application?
You should include all the documents you can to show that you qualify for entry to the UK as a student. If you do not, we may refuse your application.
As a guide, you should include:

  • any relevant diplomas or educational certificates that you have
  • a letter from the university, college or school confirming that you have been accepted on a course of study in the UK, and a statement of charges for the course
  • evidence of government sponsorship (if appropriate)
  • bank statements, payslips or other evidence to show that you can pay for your stay and your course of studies in the UK, and
  • if you are being privately sponsored (for example, by a college in the UK) you should provide a letter from your sponsor giving details of how they will support you during your studies, and evidence that they can do so.

We will refuse your application if we find that any documents are forged.

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What will happen when I make my application?
The Entry Clearance Officer will try to make a decision using your application form and the supporting documents you have provided. If this is not possible, they will need to interview you.
Please check your visa when you get it. You should make sure that:

  • your personal details are correct
  • it correctly states the purpose for which you want to come to the UK, and
  • it is valid for the date on which you want to travel. (You can ask for it to be post-dated for up to three months if you do not plan to travel immediately.)

If you think there is anything wrong with your visa, contact the visa section immediately.

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What are public funds?
Under the Immigration Rules, if you want to travel to the UK to study, you must be able to support yourself and live without claiming certain state benefits. Use this link to see a list of them:

Public funds
You can find more information about public funds in the Immigration Directorate Instructions (IDIs) and Immigration Rules on the Immigration and Nationality Directorate’s website.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate

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Can I extend my stay as a student?
If you enter the UK with a student visa or prospective student visa, or if you want to study on a course at degree level or higher, you can apply to the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, which is part of the Home Office. (Contact details are at end of this guidance.) The Immigration and Nationality Directorate will charge you a fee for any extension of your stay.

The maximum period of time that a student can stay in the UK on short courses one after the other, below degree level, is two years.

If you do not enter the UK with a student or prospective student visa, or you are not studying on a course at degree level course or higher, you will not be allowed to extend your stay.

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Can I work?
You can take part-time or holiday work, but you must not:

  • work for more than 20 hours a week during term time unless your placement is part of your studies, has been agreed with your educational institution and leads to a degree or qualification awarded by a nationally recognised examining body
  • do business, be self-employed or provide services as a professional sportsperson or entertainer, or
  • work full-time in a permanent job.

If you are coming to the UK as a student for six months or less, you must ask the Entry Clearance Officer (or the Immigration Officer if you do not need an entry clearance) for permission to work.
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Can I switch to work permit employment when I am in the UK?
You may be able to switch if:

  • you have completed a recognised degree course at either a UK publicly-funded institution of further or higher education or an approved private education institution that has satisfactory records of enrolment and attendance
  • you hold a valid work permit for employment
  • you have the written permission of any government or agency that is sponsoring you, and
  • you have not broken immigration law.

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Can I bring my husband or wife and children with me?
Your husband or wife and any of your children under 18 can come to the UK with you during your studies, as long as you can support them and live without needing any help from public funds.

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Will my husband or wife be allowed to work?
Your husband or wife will be allowed to work in the UK if we give you permission to stay in the country for 12 months or more.

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Can I go to the UK to arrange my studies?
You can travel to the UK as a prospective student for up to six months to arrange your studies. You will need to show that:

  • you intend to enrol on a course of study within six months of arriving in the UK
  • you can pay for your course, support yourself and your dependants, and live without working or needing any help from public funds, and
  • you intend to leave the UK when you finish your studies or when your permission to stay ends if you do not qualify to stay in the UK as a student.

Note: you should not buy a ticket, or pay all or part of the cost of a study course if your visa application being delayed or refused would mean that you lost your money.

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When should I apply?
You should apply in good time for your entry clearance so that you are not delayed in getting into the UK. It can get very busy in visa sections, especially over the summer when lots of students are applying.

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Can I get medical treatment?
If you come from a country with a health-care agreement with the United Kingdom, or you are enrolled on a course for six months or more, you may be able to get medical treatment on the National Health Service (NHS)

Short-term students who are here for less than six months and visitors are not entitled to free medical treatment, and you will be charged for any treatment you receive.  Please make sure you have enough health insurance to cover your stay.

You can get more information from the Department of Health:

Do I have to register with the police?
If you have to register with the police, we will stamp this requirement in your passport. You must register within seven days of arriving in the United Kingdom.

To register, you will need your passport. Non-nationals will need to bring to passport photos of themselves. If you are staying in the Metropolitan Police Area, you should take these to the Overseas Visitors Records Office, Ground Floor, Brandon House, 180 Borough High Street, SE1 1LH between 9am and 4.00pm, Monday to Friday. If you are not staying in the Metropolitan Area, you should contact your local police force for the address and opening hours of other police registration offices. You will have to pay a fee for registering with the police.

You can get guidance leaflets and information about visas from the www.ukvisas.gov.uk.

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