How to successfully apply for a UK Student visa

Who can apply for a UK Student visa, how much it costs, and what you can do with it

What's covered in this guide

  • The different types of UK study visas
  • Courses that qualify for a Student visa
  • How much it costs for a new Student visa or to extend a current one
  • Getting a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from the education provider
  • Applying for the Student visa
  • Showing you're credible
  • The Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) is your physical visa
  • Working in the UK and becoming a resident
  • Why your Student visa application may be rejected
  • Bringing your spouse and children to join you on a Student visa

You may not need a UK Student visa

You only need a UK Student visa if you will be studying course lasts longer than 6 months in England, Scotland, Wales, or Nothern Ireland.

You can apply for a Short-term Study visa which costs £200 if your course lasts between 6-11 months. This is usually to study an English language course in the UK. 

If you want to be in the UK for up to 6 months then you can just apply for a Visitor visa as tourist would.

The insitution must be licenced to sponsor your visa

You must ensure the education provider you want to study with is on the UKVI register of licenced Student sponsors. Your Student visa application will be rejected if they aren't. 

Your Student visa has to be sponsored by the institution you want to study at. Sponsorship simply means that they're vouching that you're coming to the UK for the purposes of study and not anything else. 

To do this, they need an 'approved sponsor licence' from the UK Visa & Immigration department (UKVI).  The licence is reviewed yearly by UKVI to assess whether the education provider is recruiting genuine students. If they're giving away places to students who will likely fail in their Student visa application then the institution could lose their licence. 

8 steps to getting a Student visa to study in the UK

  1. Accept an unconditional offer: Apply to a licenced UK education provider and accept an unconditional offer to study with them. An unconditional offer means no further conditions need to be met for you to enrol on the course. A conditional offer on the other hand is usually contingent on whether you will meet some requirement in the future such as qualifications, references, or passing an interview. You cannot apply for a Student visa with a conditional offer so you must ask the institution to change it to an unconditional one.
  2. Obtain a Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS): The university will give you a once you accept an offer. A CAS number is a unique number assigned to you which you will include on your visa application. It confirms that you have met all the requirements (English language, academic qualifications, and funds) to study in the UK and are being sponsored by the education provider to come to the UK for study. A CAS number is only valid once per visa application. You will need to ask for a new CAS number if making another new visa application.
  3. Submit your Student visa application: Now that you have your CAS, you can start your Student visa application. You can apply up to six months before your course starts if you're residing outside of the UK or 3 months if within the UK.
  4. Pay the Immigration Healthcare Surcharge: This is currently £470. All students on any type of Study visa have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge to give you access to the UK's National Health Service (NHS).  
  5. Take a Tuberculosis (TB) test: You need to have a medical certificate showing you do not have tuberculosis if you live in or have lived in any of these countries in the last 6 months.
  6. Attend an interview: You may have to attend an interview with a UK Visas & Immigration officer at your local visa application centre. This is an important part of your application to discuss your intensions and plans for studying in the UK.
  7. Await your decision: Your Student visa must be granted before you can travel to the UK.
  8. Collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP): this is your physical visa. Make sure that it is valid for the length of your study.

Courses that qualify for a UK Student Route visa

A Student visa can only be issued if you're going study one of the following courses.

  1. A full-time course leading to a qualification that’s below undergraduate Bachelor's level with at least 15 hours a week of organised daytime study:
  • A/AS level
  • T Level
  • access to higher education diploma
  • advanced apprenticeship
  • international Baccalaureate diploma
  • music grades 6, 7 and 8
  • level 3 award / certificate / diploma / ESOL / NVQ
  • certificate of higher education (CertHE)
  • higher apprenticeship
  • higher national certificate (HNC)
  • level 4 or level 5 award / certificate / diploma / NVQ
  • diploma of higher education (DipHE)
  • foundation degree
  • higher national diploma (HND)

2. A full-time course leading to a qualification at degree level (or the equivalent to a UK higher education course and is being delivered as part of a longer course overseas):

  • degree apprenticeship
  • degree with or without honours e.g. BA, BSc hons,  BEng
  • graduate certificate / diploma
  • level 6 award / certificate / diploma / NVQ

3. A full-time or part-time course leading to a qualification higher than degree level:

  • level 7 or 8 award / certificate / diploma / NVQ
  • master’s degree e.g. MA, MSc, MEng
  • postgraduate certificate / diploma
  • postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE)
  • doctorate e.g. PhD, DPhil, EntD

3. A recognised foundation programme for postgraduate doctors or dentists

4. An English language course at CERF level B2 or above

UK Student visa fees

The price depends on how long you're staying for, if you're applying from overseas or within the UK, and whether you need a new visa or an extension.

You also have to pay similar fees for each family member you want to join you in the UK.

Cost of applying for a new UK Student visa

Applying fromShort-term studentFull Student visa
Outside UK£200£363
Within UK£200£490
Annual health surcharge£470£470
Fingerprints and photo (biometric information)£0£0
Total cost first year£670£833 / £960

You can only apply for a new Student visa within the UK if you're already in the UK on a valid visa that's not one the following:

  • a visitor 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

Cost of extending a UK Student visa 

Student visa extension£490
Health surcharge£470
Fingerprints and photo (biometric information)£19.20
Total cost first year£979.20

The UK healthcare surcharge a yearly cost

The fee for a Student visa is a one-off payment, but the healthcare surcharge is paid annually. That's why the total amount shown above is for your first year only. For the other years of your course you will only pay the healthcare surcharge amount.

How long is a UK Student visa good for?

For undergraduate or postgraduate degree level courses, the Student visa is normally valid for a maximum of 5 years. There is an exception for the visa to last longer for courses in:

  • architecture
  • medicine
  • dentistry
  • veterinary medicine
  • music at a music college that is a member of Conservatoires UK
  • a law conversion course validated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board in England and Wales; or a Masters in Law (MLaw) in Northern Ireland; or an accelerated graduate LLB in Scotland.

For courses below degree level, the Student visa will be valid for a maximum of 2 years.

Extending a UK Student visa

Extending your current Student visa to stay longer in the UK is only possible under certain circumstances. This includes:

  • you must already be in the UK on a Student visa or the older-style Tier 4 (General) visa
  • have a new Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) for your new course
  • show that it meets the 'academic progress' requirement

The 'academic progress' requirement

Meeting the academic progress requirement simply means your new course must be one of the following:

  • at the same academic level and related to your career goals; or
  • at a higher academic level than your current course; or
  • an intercalation course if studying medicine, dentistry or a medical science under your Student visa

You don't need to show your studies are at a higher level if you’re doing one of the following:

  • exam resits or module repeats
  • applying to a new education provider to complete your course due to your chosen institution losing their sponsorship licence
  • applying after working as a student union sabbatical officer to complete a qualification you started studying under your last Student visa
  • completing a doctorate level qualification that you started studying under your last Student visa
  • continuing your medical, dentistry or medical science degree after completing an intercalation year
  • applying to extend your stay to complete your studies because you'll do a work placement or study abroad programme

Who can apply for a Student visa to study in the UK?

Anyone aged 16-years-old and above can apply for a Student visa to study in the UK.  It used to be called a Tier 4 (General) visa for many years but was relabelled in October 2020 to the Student Route visa after the UK removed itself from the European Union (EU) – colloquially known as "Brexit". This also means that EU students are treated the same as international students.

While most students coming to the UK will be aged 18+ years old, there is also a Child Student visa available for those aged 4-17 years olds. This used to be called a Tier 4 (Child) student visa.

There is another visa you can apply for once you graduate from your course called the Graduate visa which allows you to work in the UK for up to 2 years after graduation.

Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)

You should request a CAS once you accept an unconditional offer to join a new course. The CAS is generated once your institution is satisfied you meet the requirements for a Student visa. It has a unique reference number called the CAS Number which you need for a Student visa application.

You can apply for a new CAS Number if you need more time to finish a course you're already enrolled on.

  • You must get a CAS Number before applying for a Student visa: A CAS and your Student visa are tied together. You can apply for both up to 6 months prior to your course start date but you need a CAS Number before you can submit a Student visa application. Although you don't need to send a copy of your CAS with the other supporting documentation for the Student visa, it's usually a good idea to send the most recent version anyway just incase there were any updates since your original application.
  • When to apply for a CAS: If you have accepted an unconditional offer, you can apply for a CAS up to 6 months before your course starts. Remember, you need the CAS Number to get a Student visa and make it in time for the start your course. 
  • Deadline for using a CAS Number: The CAS Number is only valid for 6 months. Be sure to check the 'Latest Acceptance' date on your CAS to know what is the latest date you can arrive in the UK and still be allowed to enrol your course.  If you can't arrive in time then contact the department which generated the CAS for you. If you're applying for a Student visa to complete an existing course of study, you should apply for it before the course end date indicated on the CAS.
  • CAS numbers cannot be transferred: Each CAS Number is specific to the offer you accepted for a course at your chosen institution. That means you can't use the same CAS number to apply for a Student visa at another institution or even for a different course at the same institution.
  • You may have to pay a deposit: Higher-education is a business so almost all institutions will require a tuition fee deposit before generating a CAS. It is, however, in your best interests to pay all transactions by credit card so that you are protected in case anything unexpected happens e.g. change of circumstances, quality of course and campus facilities, level of support etc. 

What is the difference between a CAS vs Student visa?

Simply put, the CAS (and corresponding CAS Number) is just a document confirming your personal and course details. It is not a visa and is worthless by itself. So why does the university ask many similar questions to that of UKVI in the Student visa application?

UKVI have a database system called the "Sponsor Management System" which your university will use to generate your CAS. This system allows UKVI to hold details of all CAS numbers issued by UK institutions. You cannot apply for a new Student visa or a current visa extension without a CAS generated and sponsored by an approved institution.

If a university is seen to be making CAS Numbers for students who fail in their Student visa application, then the UKVI will audit them and possibly revoke their Student Route sponsorship licence. This is something the institution will want to avoid at all costs hence they will do their own checks first and only issue a CAS if they believe you are likely to be granted a UK Student visa.

Requesting a CAS

The education provider should provide you with a CAS request form. It will ask you to provide the following information:

DetailWhat to provide
ForenameYour first name
SurnameYour family's last name if you have one
NationalityThis should be the same as on your passport. If you hold more than one nationality, select the one you want to apply with.
Eligible for differentiationYou qualify for Student visa differentiation arrangements if you are a citizen of one of the 'low risk' countries listed under the "Differential evidence" section below.
Study levelExamples include: Pre-Sessional English,  BTEC, Undergraduate, Postgraduate, Doctorate/Research (MPhil, PhD), Professional courses (ACCA, LPC, BPTC etc)
CourseTitle of your course e.g. Business Management
How will you fund your studies?


You will have lived in the UK for at least 12 months when making your visa application. 
You are using your own money.
You are using your parent/guardian's funds.
You are sponsored by your government or employer.
You are applying for financial sponsorship

You have secured an education loan.

If sponsored, who by?Provide details of the organisation or person sponsoring you.
Have you previously been granted a visa to study in the UK?See section titled the 'academic progress' requirement. Even if you're not extending a current Student visa, the academic progress requirement still applies if you've previously studied in the UK.  You may not be eligible for a CAS if you've previously studied at a higher academic level in the UK than the new course you are applying for unless you can convince them it is related to your career ambitions.
Have you previously been refused a visa to study in the UK?Previous rejections mean your new application may also be refused unless there has been a change in circumstances.
Documents to submit

These will be:

A copy of the page in your passport showing your photo and personal details.

Academic documents showing your highest qualification

English language qualification

Financial and other supporting documents

Evidence of your deposit payment

Prove you meet the English language requirement

You may need to demonstrate that your English skills are up to scratch and that you'll able to understand and communicate in English to a level defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). 

You don't need to prove your English skills if you live in any of the following English-majority speaking countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda 
  • Australia 
  • The Bahamas 
  • Barbados 
  • Belize 
  • The British Overseas Territories 
  • Canada 
  • Dominica 
  • Grenada 
  • Guyana 
  • Jamaica 
  • Malta 
  • New Zealand 
  • St Kitts and Nevis 
  • St Lucia 
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines 
  • Trinidad and Tobago 
  • United States of America

For everyone else, the minimum standard required depends on what type of course you're going to enrol on:

  1.  CEFR level B1 if you'll be studying a pre-entry course or one that lower than a UK bachelor’s degree
  2. CEFR level B2 when enroling on a course at UK undergraduate (bachelor's) degree level or above
  3. Alternatively, a GCSE, A-level, Scottish National Qualification at level 4 or 5 or, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher, in either English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic, or Irish language is also accepted.

Your university will most likely assess your English language ability and state it on the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) to be used by the UKVI in determining your Student visa application. 

Prove you have the funds

You'll need to show you to have enough money to cover at least the first academic year (9 months) of study. Don't forget this includes both your tuition fees and living costs. The Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) document will tell you how much your course costs per year.

You don't need show evidence of funds if you've already been in the UK for at least a year.

Eligibility for differential evidence

You  don't need to show evidence of funds if: 

  1. You have a passport showing you are a British National (Overseas), a citizen of Hong Kong SAR / Macau SAR / Taiwan (which includes the number of the identification card issued by the competent authority in Taiwan)
  2. You're a citizen of any of the following countires (known as "Differential evidence requirement for a Student"):

Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, The Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United States of America

Your funds must cover both your tuition fees and cost of living

As well as having enough money to cover the first year of tuition fees, you need to be able to afford to live in the UK while studying. You should demonstrate that you will have access to around £1050 available per month for accomodation, food, and other supplies. Remember you're allowed to work on a Student visa so you could get a part-time job to help you cover the costs.

Documents accepted as valid proof of funds

You can send your own bank statements or those from a parent/guardian. The bank statement or letter must be on official letterhead and:

  • be issued within the last 4 weeks
  • have been in the account for at least 28 consecutive days prior to applying for the CAS

Where to apply and how long it takes to get a UK Student visa 

Whichever study visa you apply for, it must be submitted online through the UK government website. Don't use any other sites or agents as they will probably be scams.

You will have wait around 3 weeks before getting a decision if you are outside of the UK when applying for a UK Student visa. The earliest you can make a visa application is 6 months before your course starts. 

If you're already in the UK when you make your student visa application, then the earliest you can apply is 3 months before your course starts. Your must also submit your visa application within 28 days of your current visa expiry date. You should get a decision within 8 weeks.

If you need quicker decision on your student visa application then you can pay for one of these services:

  • Priority: get a decision within 5 working days
  • Super priority: get a decision by the end of the next working day

Credibility interviews and why your Student visa may be rejected

Both your institution and UKVI will only issue a CAS and Student visa respectively to genuine students and may conduct interviews to ensure this.

You didn't demonstrate that your funds are genuine

UKVI may refuse your Student visa application if they think your evidence of funds are dishonest e.g. the money has been tranferred to you from a relative just a few days before your application. It needs to look plausible that you had the funds for a reasonable amount of time (ideally at least 6 months) before you application and ideally not appear in your bank statement as single lump transaction.

The evidence you provide of funds should be genuine whether its your own money or from a parent/guardian. You also need to assure UKVI that you'll have access to the funds for the entire duration of your course.

You weren't convincing enough in the interview: Are you really going to the UK to study?

The UKVI department may ask you to  attend a video call interview to decide if you show genuine reasons for studying in the UK.

You don't usually need to attend an interview to get a CAS from your institution, but you may be invited to a video call interview nevertheless if they have concerns about your application.

The interview questions will be around:

  • why did you choose your education provider? Good answers would be campus facilities, location, rankings in league tables, subject availability (not all courses are taught everywhere), living costs, and reviews.
  • why did you choose your course? A good answer would tie it in to your career goals. Don't say you don't know what you want to do in your career or that you chose it simply because you met the qualification requirements.
  • how do your studies fit in to your bigger career ambitions? This is similar the previous question.  It would be hard to convince someone you chose a Music degree if you had no background in music or just wanted to play in a band. On the other hand, you might want to be a Marketing Consultant for an international business so studying a Marketing degree makes sense.
  • do you have any existing links to the UK? Be careful with this question. If you have family and friends in the UK, then it might mean you're not going to study but instead looking for a long stay with intentions to settle there. In any event, be clear and honest because it's not difficult to find out if you have lied.
  • how will you pay for it and why would you incur the effort and cost of studying in the UK than your home country? See the 'Prove you have the funds' section to show how you'll fund your studies. As to studying abroad, a good answer would be to have international exposure and take that learning to boost your career opportunities back in your home country or elsewhere. 

Bringing your family to the UK on a Student visa 

Your spouse (unmarried partner, husband or wife) and children under 18-years-old (there is additional rules for 16-17 year olds) can only apply to join you in the UK if you are:

  • a full-time student on a course at postgraduate level and lasts at least 9 months (see "Courses that qualify for a Student visa" section above)
  • a government-sponsored student on a course that lasts at least 6 months
  • a Doctorate Extension Scheme student

If your child is 16-17 years old when you apply

If they don't live with you, you'll need to show evidence of:

  • where they live and why they don't live with you
  • any money they pay you each month
  • that they are financially dependent on you

If they live with you then you need to provide 2 different items confirming their address from the following list of documents: 

  • a bank statement
  • credit card statement
  • driving licence
  • NHS registration document
  • a letter from their school or college

You also need to prove the relationship with your spouse and real is genuine by providing: 

  • a marriage or civil partnership certificate for your partner
  • a birth certificate for your child
  • any other evidence to prove the relationships (text messages, call logs, photos together)

Fees for family visas

The additional fees for each family member is similar to yours except there is no difference in price whether in your outside or inside the UK when you apply. You still have to pay the healthcare surcharge every year for each member of your family.

 Dependent family visa
Outside UK£490
Within UK£490
Annual health surcharge£470
Fingerprints and photo (biometric information)£0
Total cost first year£960

Funds for your partner and children

Each additional person joining you needs to prove they have funds to cover their living expenses. It is more expensive to live in London than elsewhere in the UK so the requirements are slightly different:

  • Within London: £845 a month for at least 9 months
  • Outside London: £680 a month for at least 9 months

Applying for a Student visa seperately or together as a family

Your partner and children can join you at the same time or at a later date during your study. Whichever way you choose, your family's visas will expire on the same date as yours.

Applying seperately

If your partner or child is applying at a later time, then you need to prove there is money available to support them. You or your family member must have this money for at least 28 consecutive days prior to applying for their visa and within the last 31 days of the date of application. For example, your family member applies on 3rd July. That means  the money must have been held continuously for 28 days anytime between 2nd June to 2nd July. 

Applying together

If you and your family apply for visas together at the same time, then you need to prove you can cover the course fees, your own living costs, and additional money for each family member at the time of application.

Your family cannot change visa to be with you on your Student visa if they are already in the UK on one of the following visas:

  • a visitor 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

If any of the above apply, they will have to return back to their home country and apply for a new visa to join you.

How to apply as a family member

There are two different routes to applying online:

Before they start an application they will need your Global Web Form (GWF) or a Unique Application Number (UAN). You should be able to get this from any letters and e-mails from the Home Office about your Student visa application.

They will also need to provide their biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point. An appointment will be made for them by the UKVI after they apply. 

You should upload supporting documents yourself online where possible. The UKVCAS service point can scan and upload them for you, but they will charge for this service.

The Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) is your Student visa

The BRP card is a physical version of your Student visa which you require to prove your visa status. It's not just given to students but anyone visiting the UK for longer than 6 months.

You'll need to carry it with you when your travel outside of the UK and want to return. You won't be able to fly or will be refused entry at the airport without one.

The BRP card can only be collected after arriving in the UK from overseas.  You should collect it within 10 days of entering the UK from your chosen location: either the university or a nearby Post Office. 

To have it delivered to your insitution you must use their Alterative Collection Location code on your visa application. They will then contact you when it has arrived.

The BRP card is delivered directly to your address if you applied for a Student visa from within the UK.

Working in the UK on a Student visa

A Student visa is intended for studying not working, but you can work in certain jobs and for a limited number of hours to support yourself.

Whatever work you do (paid or unpaid), you must not:

  • claim public funds (benefits) and pensions
  • be self-employed;
  • start a business activity;
  • work in a full-time permanent role;
  • work paid or unpaid as a professional sportsperson or coach;
  • work as an entertainer;
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the foundation programme.

Hours of work

The restrictions on how many hours you can during term-time and on holiday periods. A week is defined as 7 days beginning with a Monday. 

  • If you are an English language teaching student you can work 10 hours per week.
  • Immigration rules state that full-time students can work a maximum of 20 hours per week during term-time (paid or unpaid) but your institution may have a greater restriction, say 15 hours per week, which you need to adhere to. 
  • Full-time students can also take up a full-time job during official holiday periods like Christmas, Summer, and Easter. Check your insitution's term dates to see what the periods are before taking on more hours of work.
  • Part-time course students have no right to work paid or unpaid in the UK at any time.

Student visa vs. Graduate visa vs. Work visa

International students wanting to study at undergraduate or postgraduate level in the UK will require a Student visa. But what if you want to stay in the UK after you finish your course? You can, with a Graduate visa.

Graduate visa

The UK Graduate visa allows you to stay in the United Kingdom for 2 years after you graduate with an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. You don't need a job offer to get this visa so you can do whatever you want with it such as job hunting, setting up a business, or exploring the UK.

A Graduate visa lasts 3-years if you hold a doctorate qualification such as a PhD.

To be eligible for a Graduate visa you must:

  • currently be in the UK on a Student visa
  • have completed an undergraduate or postgraduate course
  • ensure your education provider has informed the UK Home Office that you've completed your studies

Work visa

Although a Graduate visa is a type of Work visa, the other Work visas don't require you to be on a current Student visa or have previously studied in the UK. Anyone can apply for a Work visa in the following categories:

UK work visas with no job offerLong-term UK work visasShort-term UK work visas

British National (Overseas) visa

Graduate visa

Youth Mobility Scheme visa

India Young Professionals Scheme visa

Global Talent visa 

UK Ancestry visa

High Potential Individual (HPI) visa

Skilled Worker visa

Health and Care Worker visa

Senior or Specialist Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)

Scale-up Worker visa

Minister of Religion visa (T2)

International Sportsperson visa

Charity Worker visa

Creative Worker visa 

Government Authorised Exchange visa

International Agreement visa

Religious Worker visa

Seasonal Worker visa

Youth Mobility Scheme visa

Graduate visa

High Potential Individual (HPI) visa

Graduate Trainee visa (Global Business Mobility)

UK Expansion Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)

Secondment Worker visa (Global Business Mobility)

Service Supplier visa (Global Business Mobility)


Be the first to comment!