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Student visas

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Each year, thousands of international students successfully gain a visa to study in the United Kingdom. The UK government welcomes international students, and there is no limit on the number of student visas that can be issued.

UK immigration and visas are managed by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Please check the UKBA website for more information.

Do I need a visa?

This depends on your nationality and immigration status. Find out if you need a visa on the UKBA website.

When should I apply for a visa?

It is important to apply well before you intend to begin your course. Many students do not realise how long the process will take, and do not leave enough time. Your application may require you to:

  • have certain vaccinations or – if you are coming from a tuberculosis high-risk area – a chest x-ray
  • produce documents showing your finances and qualifications
  • attend an interview or a biometric test.

Average visa processing times vary depending on your country. You can get an idea from UKBA's visa service pages.

What kind of visa do I need?

The following two visas are suitable for students who want to do a short course, or an 11-month English language course:

  • Child visitor visa: You can apply if you are 17 years old or under and you want to study in the UK for up to 6 months (or 12 months if you will be accompanying an academic visitor).
  • Student visitor visaYou can apply if you are 18 years old or over and you want to study in the UK for up to 6 months. If you want to study purely English language courses, you can apply for an extended student visitor visa to stay for up to 11 months.

The following two visas allow you to do a longer course in the UK. Your course must be at a school, college or university on the UKBA list of trusted sponsors.

  • Tier 4 (Child) student visa: You can apply if you are between 4 and 17 years old. If you are between 4 and 15 years old, you must be coming to the UK to be educated at an independent, fee-paying school.

The following visa is suitable for students who want to visit the UK before applying for a Tier 4 visa:

  • Prospective student visa: You can apply as a prospective student if you intend to study in the UK under Tier 4 of the points-based visa system but you have not completed all the arrangements for your course of study. You must be able to show that you will start your studies within 6 months of arrival in the UK.

Working in the UK

If you come to the UK on a student visitor visa, child visitor visa, or prospective student visa, you are not eligible to work in the UK.

Some students who enter on a Tier 4 student visa are eligible to work a certain amount of hours per week and in the holiday periods. Please visit the UKBA website  for more information.

Find out more

You can find out more about visas on the UKBA website.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs has also produced some student-friendly information, but please also check the UKBA website for the latest official information.