Student Visa Application Guide

We understand that the process of applying for your student visa can get a little confusing. We’ve put this guide together so you can make sure you’ve done everything you need to do before the deadline. Plus, handy checklists on what you need to bring and what you need to do when you finally get here. In this student visa application guide, we’ve also included the most useful resources out there to help you along the way.

Student Visa FAQs

Before you apply, it’s important you understand a few things; what exactly a student visa is, why you need one and how much it’s going to cost you. Here are a few of the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about student visas:

What is a student visa?

If you want to study in the UK from overseas for more than 6 months, you need a student visa. It’s simply an additional document that is added to your passport which allows you, as an international student, to study in one of the UK’s qualified further or higher educational institutions. 

There are 3 types of study visas; a Student visa, a Child student visa, and a Study English in the UK (short-term study visa). For any higher educational qualification (that isn’t English Language only) you will need the standard student visa

If you’re not sure whether you need a visa to study in the UK or not because of your nationality, Gov.UK has a useful tool that will help you.

How much does a student visa cost?

The fee for applying for a student visa from outside the UK is currently £363. If you’re living in the UK already on a student visa and need to extend it or you’re on another kind of visa and need to switch to a student visa, the fee is currently £490. 

Gov.UK offers a handy visa application fee tool, which we advise that you use for the latest fee information for your country.

Apart from the visa fee, there are other fees involved with your application such as the immigration health surcharge fee and fees to submit your biometrics at a local visa centre. You may also need to pay for a Tuberculosis test if your country is in the required list.

The Immigration Healthcare Surcharge allows you to access healthcare services in the UK while studying. The amount you pay is based on the length of your visa you are going to receive. Gov.UK can calculate this for you.

After submitting your visa application online, you will be asked to book an appointment to give your fingerprints and a photograph (biometric information) at a visa application centre. This service can be paid or free of charge depending on the type of service you choose and what country you are applying from. For more information on fees for your country, check with your local visa service provider

Some countries are required to take a Tuberculosis test as part of their visa application, if the course duration is more than 6 months, and there is a charge for it. To find out whether this applies to you or for more information, please check online.

For further information and guidance from outside the UK, speak with the UK Contact Centre.

When do I need to apply for my student visa?

When you should apply depends on whether you’re applying from outside or inside the UK. If you’re currently living outside the UK, you can apply any time from 6 months before your course start date. Usually, it will take no more than 3 weeks to hear back about your application. 

If you’re currently living inside the UK and you already have a visa that you need to extend or switch, you can apply any time from 3 months before your course start date and you’ll usually hear back within 8 weeks. It’s important to note that you must apply before your current visa expires and that your new course must begin within 28 days of your current visa expiring.

What documents do I need for a student visa?

When you apply, you will need to provide:

  • A current passport or other valid travel documentation
  • A Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your course provider. Your CAS will be sent to you once you have accepted your offer and met all offer conditions. The CAS document will include your unique CAS number. 

 

As well as the above, you might also need to provide the following. Whether you’ll need to show these depends on factors like where you’re currently living and the kind of course you’re applying for.

  • Proof you have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course. This will vary depending on your circumstances. Find out more on Gov.UK.
  • Copies of any previous UK visas or immigration stamps
  • Copies of the refusal notice for any visa refusals for the UK
  • A valid ATAS certificate if your course and nationality require it
  • 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.
  • If your parents are supporting you financially – Parents support letter, parent’s bank statement or bank letter, student’s birth certificate.
  • You should also include copies of the documents provided to request your CAS. 

You may need to provide additional documents depending on your circumstances. Gov.UK has a complete list of all the documents you will potentially be asked to provide.

When you apply, you’ll be told if you need a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). If so, this will involve providing your biometric information (fingerprints and a photograph) as part of your application. If this applies to you, you’ll need to make sure you have at least one blank page in your passport for these.

What if my student visa application is refused?

Occasionally applications are refused. The most common reason for this is the submission of incorrect financial documents. In most cases, students who re-apply with a second set of documents will have their application accepted, so please don’t worry if your application isn’t successful at first. 

To re-apply, you will need a new CAS number. For this, the best thing to do is to get in contact directly with your course provider who will be able to help you with the requirements for your second visa application and provide you with a new CAS number.

What if I need help with my student visa application?

If you’re having trouble with your application and you need some help, you have a couple of options. You can either get in touch with the international enquiry service and speak to someone over the phone – here’s the contact information on Gov.uk

Or, you can visit your local visa application centre. You can find the opening times, address and contact details for the centres near you on this Gov.uk page. If you do need to attend an appointment, just be aware that you’ll need to have started your application online first.

If you have questions more generally about coming to study in the UK and immigration, you might find it useful to speak to an immigration adviser. You can find an adviser on the Gov.uk website.

How long will it take to get my student visa?

It should take between 3 to 6 weeks after your biometric appointment. This also depends on the country you’re applying from and the time of the year. It may take longer if further information or an interview is needed. Some countries offer priority services, please check with your local VFS office.

What are the key steps of applying for a student visa?

  1. Gather your documents.
  2. Apply online at Gov.uk.
  3. Pay for your application online.
  4. Pay for your health surcharge to continue your application.
  5. Book your biometric appointment.
  6. Attend your appointment to submit your biometrics. Remember to bring all documents with you in case there is a error in the system and they need to see your originals. 
  7. Keep an eye on your email for any communication about your visa application.
  8. Once you receive your visa, send a copy to the university and inform them on your travel arrangements.

Ready to apply for your student visa?

Hopefully, our FAQs have helped to simplify the process a little. 

As long as you have met the conditions of your offer and accepted that offer, you should have received your CAS document (which includes your CAS number) from your course provider. If so, you are ready to apply!

You can apply through the Gov.UK website, which takes you through each stage of the process in a clear and concise way.

Apply now for your student visa

When can I arrive in the UK?

When you travel to the UK depends on the length of your course. You can arrive either up to 1 week before, if your course lasts 6 months or less. Or, up to 1 month before, if your course lasts more than 6 months. The most important thing is that you do not arrive in the UK before the start date on your visa, no matter when your course starts.

What do I need to bring with me?

Here’s a list of all the essentials you will need to make sure you have ready for when you arrive in the UK:

  • Your passport, with visa
  • Your academic certificates (originals and a photocopy)
  • Your course offer and acceptance letters
  • Proof of your finances and funding
  • Any documents and information the university has sent you
  • A couple of spare passport-size photographs
  • Travel and health insurance or medical notes
  • Your driving licence (if you have one)
  • Directions to your accommodation or the university
  • Accommodation booking / payment confirmation
  • Documents used to apply for CAS
  • Emergency contact numbers to keep in your hand luggage
  • If you’re bringing any medication with you, you need a letter from your doctor (in English or translated) that explains what the medicine is and what it is for. If you are undergoing any long-term treatment you should also bring a letter from your doctor, counsellor, or hospital specialist.
  • Money – check with your bank to make sure you can use your international debit/credit card in the UK. If not, there are plenty of banks to choose from in the UK. When you set up your UK bank account, it’s a good idea to get a contactless bank card. You can bring in additional money in travellers’ cheques that can be cashed in banks, post offices and airports.
  • Phone – Rather than using your current SIM, it can be cheaper to buy a pre-paid UK SIM card. There are a number of networks to choose from in the UK: O2, Vodafone, EE and 3.
  • Details for paying your university fees. You’ll be paying at registration, so you may want to bring separate bankers’ draft cheques made out for the correct amounts.
  • When you’re packing, have a look through the Gov.uk information on what you can bring to the UK. There are certain restrictions that depend on where you’re travelling from. 

 

When you’re getting yourself ready to come to the UK, it’s a good time to complete your British council pre-departure briefing. The British Council organises these briefings for students coming to the UK to study. Visit the British Council website for information or contact the relevant British Council country offices to find out if there is a pre-departure briefing in your country.

What do I need to do when I arrive in the UK?

Before you get settled in, there are a few things you need to sort out within the first few days of arriving in the UK. Here’s a checklist to make sure you get everything that applies to you ticked off:

  • If you were told as part of your visa application that you need a BRP (Biometric Residence Permit), you will need to collect your BRP. Find out more here.
  • You must do this before the vignette sticker in your travel document expires or within 10 days of arriving in the UK, whichever is later.
  • Complete your enrolment. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to access your timetables and other useful information to get you ready for your course.
  • Find out your nearest GP and register with a doctor.
  • Get a letter from the university to open a UK student bank account. This isn’t essential, but you might find it useful to have a UK account when it comes to things like paying any household bills, sending or receiving overseas payments or receiving payment for any part-time work. Plus, student accounts often have certain benefits that you can make the most of. Find out more about what you need to open one on UKCISA.
  • Get a local sim card for your phone with a data package.
  • Keep an eye out for your visa expiry date. Put a reminder/alarm on your phone 2-3 months before to remind yourself to renew your visa.
  • Keep your passport in a safe place and keep a copy with you for reference.
  • Certain international students will need to register with the police. If this applies to you, it will be written on your entry-visa vignette (sticker in your passport), your BRP, your Home Office letter or your ATLAS email. It’s important to note that this needs to be done within 7 days of arriving in the UK. It costs £34 to register. For full details on how to do this, see the Gov.uk website.
  • Spend some time finding out about what services and support your university offers, especially for international students. It’s a good idea to attend any events that are being held for international students – a great way to meet people too.
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