How to Get a Student Visa for the UK: Comprehensive Guide

So you have been granted admission to study in a school in the UK, or you have intentions of going to the UK to continue your education. You want to know the requirements you should fulfill to obtain a Student Visa – perhaps the most important document you will need on your journey into becoming an international student in the UK – be rest assured that you’re not alone. 

Being one of the most popular international students, the UK is the preferred study destination for many students worldwide. 

This article will provide you with the information you need to help you successfully meet all the requirements for securing a UK student visa and answer any additional questions you might have about studying in the United Kingdom. 


Why Study in the UK?

Aside from having some of the best and most renowned universities globally, the UK is an excellent study destination for international students for many reasons.

1. High-Quality Education

A degree from any one of the over 395 universities and colleges in the UK will be respected worldwide. With its creative and challenging environment, cutting-edge technology, and modern facilities, the UK is at the forefront of academic excellence in the world today, as has been the case for several centuries now. 

Offering an extensive range of courses, coupled with extremely high standards of teaching and innovative research work in numerous fields, the quality of education that the UK provides is among the very best that aspiring students can find anywhere on Earth.

2. Access to the UK’s Healthcare System

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS), compared to the healthcare systems of some of the world’s wealthiest countries, ranked highest as the very best according to the 2017 Commonwealth fund report.

International students can benefit from this world-class service when they pay the Immigrant Health Surcharge Fee during their visa application. Paying the surcharge fee allows them to have free medical treatment and discounted dental care throughout their stay in the UK.

3. Shorter Time of Study

It could take only 3 years to complete an undergraduate degree and a further one year to complete a postgraduate qualification in the UK. This duration is shorter than what is usually obtainable in other countries, where undergraduate degrees take 4 to5 years and doctoral degrees take 2 to3 years.

However, in the case of medical or research students –  there’s an exception to this rule – and degrees can take as long as 6 years to complete.

4. Multicultural Environment

The multicultural diversity that can be seen across the UK is astounding. The UK is home to people with several diverse cultures and orientations, peacefully integrated into society and free to celebrate their cultures and hold whatever beliefs they may have.

The UK is the right fit for any student looking to mix with people from all over the world and experience and learn a lot about new cultures going beyond just their course of study.

5. Welcoming to International Students

Moving to study in another country could be a massive and daunting step due to loneliness and alienation concerns. But in the UK, the case is truly different. 

Due to its welcoming nature, many people with similar cultures and beliefs have settled in and created subcultures within the country and its institutions. Chances are, you’ll quickly find a demographic to which to belong and start to feel at home in no time.

6. Financial Benefits

Studying in the UK comes with many financial benefits. You can receive discounts and grants, earn money, and use your respected degree to command a competitive salary in your field. 

Other pertinent reasons to study in the UK are:

  • The UK is a great place to live in: Being amongst the countries with the highest standard of living and possessing a uniqueness few countries can match. The UK combines a mix of different cultures, art, food, sports, music, and nightlife and is one of the most exciting places to live in globally. There are many entertaining things to do when you are not too busy with school work.
  • Opportunity to develop language skills:  As English is the most widely used language in global operations and establishments today, possessing a good command of the language. Most UK universities offer language support to international students. And what better place is there to learn English than the UK?
  • Opportunity to stay and work: Recent developments have made it possible for international students to reside and find employment in the UK for up to two years after graduation – if they apply for and are granted a post-study visa.

What is a Student Visa in the UK?

A student visa is a document that grants authority to a student, enabling them to enter the country. However, a study permit, which should NOT be confused with a student VISA, is a separate document that allows international students to study in a country.

In some countries, such as Canada, you will need to be issued a study permit in addition to your traveling visa. However, Aspiring students should note that a study permit is NOT required for you to study in the UK. Your student VISA is a single document that will allow you to live AND study in the UK for the entire duration of your course.

You can begin applying for a student visa six months before starting your course at the earliest. The earlier you apply, the better.


What is the Eligibility Criteria for a UK Student Visa?

For students to be eligible for a UK student visa, they must meet the following requirements:

  • They must be aged at least 16 at the time of application. 
  • Have sufficient money to pay for your course and cover your living expenses.
  • Be able to speak, read, write, understand, and communicate well in English.
  • Have parental consent if you’re between 16 and 17 years old. Students who are applying must show evidence of this during the application.

What are the UK Visa Requirements and Regulations for International Students?

The documents you must provide when applying for a student visa usually vary according to your country of origin.

However, the general requirements include:

  • A valid passport or other similar documentation. 
  • A valid ATAS certificate if it is required – determined by your nationality and course of study.
  • Proof of funds, enough to support yourself for up to a year, and pay for your course.
  • Proof of consent from a legal guardian or parent if under 18.
  • Proof of English language proficiency/ IELTS or TOEFL results.
  • Statement of purpose.
  • Recent passport-sized photographs.

What English Exams are Required for International Students Applying to the UK?

Communicating effectively in English is a must to study in the UK successfully.

You can prove your command of the language by passing one of the Secure English Language Tests (SELT) from an approved provider, such as the International English Language Testing System, IELTS, the Test of English as a Foreign Language TOEFL, or the Duolingo English Test.


What is the Process and Procedure for Student Visa Application for the UK?

  1. Verify if you have been given an admission offer by the university you applied to. Firmly accept the admission offer, after which you will be issued a Certificate of Acceptance for Studies number. This number will be valid for up to six months. Postgraduate students may be required to pay a tuition fee deposit of about GBP 1000 to 2000 to demonstrate the ability to cover the costs of studying overseas and show commitment to study at the university.
  1. Prepare your financial evidence for tuition and living expenses. This could be bank statements that show you have the required funds and have had said funds for at least 28 days before the proof is presented.
  1. Prepare supporting documents such as academic certificates and transcripts from previous schools.
  1. Complete the visa application form online, providing your CAS (Certificate of Acceptance of Studies) number and other personal and funding details. To submit, you have to pay GBP 348, or its equivalent and a GBP 470 immigration health surcharge.
  1. Find a Visa Application Centre based on your country of residence. You should pick one near where you live and book an appointment.
  1. You will book an appointment with the visa application center to provide the required evidence. It is best to arrive early for your appointment. Your appointment letter, alongside a valid passport and other documents mentioned above, should be gathered and made ready to be presented. You will need to submit your required biometric information (fingerprints and photographs) at this center.
  1.  You will be invited for a credibility interview at the VAC to answer some questions about your course, actual student status and command of English. This interview is usually via video call with a member of staff in the UK. A future interview which you must attend may also be required.
  1. The Visa application center will process your visa application as you wait. It usually takes about three weeks to get a decision. The VAC may deliver your submitted documents back to you through the post, or they may instruct you to come to collect them.
  1. A 90-day vignette or sticker will be issued on your passport upon applying successfully. This sticker will enable you to travel to the UK.
  1. Select a location to collect your BRP (Biometric Residence Permit) immigration document within 10 days of arrival to the UK. This document contains your full Visa. You will also have a digital immigration status which you can view and prove online – if you use the “UK Immigration: Check ID” App.

Which University in the UK is Right for You?

There are many world-class schools to pick from in the UK. If you did not already have a choice in mind, we have carefully selected a few of the best options to consider, considering several factors, including the quality of education, cost, scholarship opportunities, and the international student population.

Below is a list of some top universities in the UK and some information on why they may be appropriate for you:

1. University of Oxford 

The University of Oxford is an exemplary university that is one of the UK’s oldest and most famous. The university provides education and research of the highest quality. With a population of over 20,000 students, 40% of those total being international students, it is obvious that the university is quite welcoming to foreigners interested in studying at the prestigious institution.

The University of Oxford is reputed for its medicine, engineering, economics, and psychology degrees which are well respected and accepted worldwide.

Cost:

The tuition fees for international students cost between GBP 15,295 and GBP 22,515.

And for non-EU students, between GBP 25,740 and GBP 36,065.

While the fees to study in the university are steep, several scholarship opportunities are available to international students. Some of which include:

Available Scholarships:

a. The Reach Oxford Scholarship is available to international undergraduate applicants for Oxford University. It is restricted to some nationalities, which means only students from certain countries can apply for the scholarship. This scholarship is only made available to students from low-income countries. It is based on academic merit, financial need, and social commitment (this means that you have the full intention of returning to your home country upon completing your studies). Your good grades have to be maintained for the entire duration of your course to renew this scholarship continually.

b. Clarendon Scholarship: Available for postgraduate studies, this scholarship has no country restrictions. It covers Course Fees, a grant for Living Costs, and one Return Air Fare per year.

2. University of Cambridge 

The University of Cambridge is a research university in Cambridge, UK. It is one of the oldest surviving universities in the world. The University of Cambridge has a long, rich history of academic excellence and educational values. 

Cambridge is home to one of the largest libraries and museums in the world. 

The university has an excellent reputation in psychology, law, economics, and engineering courses.

Cost:

GBP 26,770 to GBP 37,510 (excluding medicine for 2021 entry).

Available Scholarships:

The University of Cambridge offers a list of scholarships for which international students can apply. You can find those for which you qualify using the scholarship search feature of the school’s website.

3. University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh is one of the best universities globally, with consistent rankings in the top 50. It is widely recognized as the best university to study Medicine in Scotland and Arts and Humanities and Law and Psychology.

 The university also ranks as one of the leading sporting universities in the UK. It has an international student acceptance rate of 46% for undergraduates and 48% for postgraduates.

Cost:

The tuition costs around GBP 23,200 on average for international students.

Available Scholarships:

The university has an exciting scholarship scheme for postgraduates through which they aim to attract the best and brightest Ph.D. students.

3. University College London

The University College London is globally recognized for its academic excellence and global impact. Its location in Central London makes it a great place to live as an international student. So it’s not surprising that 53% of the close to 50,000 enrolled students are internationals.

Cost:

The tuition fees are between GBP 19,720 to GBP 28,610 for international students.

Available Scholarships:

Scholarship opportunities are available for undergraduate and postgraduate students, many of which cover a large percentage of the tuition and living costs.

4. University of Manchester 

The University of Manchester is a world-famous university known for academic and research excellence, especially in science, engineering, and medicine. It is a member university of the prestigious Russell Group and one of the largest single-site universities in the UK. The institution consistently ranks amongst the top 30 in the world. It is also located in the city’s center, giving it a rich atmosphere of sports, arts, and culture. 

Cost:

The cost of tuition for international students generally falls between GBP 17,000 to GBP 21,000.

Available Scholarships:

The University of Manchester has funding provisions for international students, which are available through:

  1. GREAT Scholarships — This scholarship offers tuition funding for students from India and Nigeria enrolling in one-year Master’s programs in specific subject areas.
  2. Equity and Merit Scholarships — These scholarships are intended for academically excellent students who cannot otherwise afford to study in the university without the help of the scholarship. It is open to students from specific African countries. Women are particularly encouraged to apply.
  3. Global Futures Scholarship is open to self-funded students from select countries worldwide. It is purely based on academic merit and the quality of the students’ scholarship applications.

5. University of St. Andrews

The University of St. Andrew is a public university in St. Andrew, Fife, Scotland. It is the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in the English-speaking world.

Ranked the best university in Scotland again last year, it also placed amongst the world’s top 100. It is most famous for its International Relations, Computer Science, and Physics programs.

45 % of the student population comprises international students.

Cost:

The tuition fees cost an average of GBP 20,770 for international students.

Available Scholarships:

The university provides many funding opportunities for both undergraduate and postgraduate entries.

6. Buckinghamshire New University 

Buckinghamshire New University, initially founded in 1893, is a career-focused institution that offers over 300 degrees in various courses, from nursing and pilot training to sports, law, computing, and acting. 

The university is ranked in the top 30 for student satisfaction and one of the country’s top 3 for student unions. It also boasts top employability rates of 95% in the first 15 months of graduation.

Cost:

The tuition fees cost around GBP 12,500 a year for undergraduate courses and between GBP 4,000 to GBP 16,000 for postgraduate courses.

Available Scholarships:

BNH offers funding assistance to qualified students, the most popular of which is the Vice Chancellor’s International Students Scholarship.

7. Bristol University 

The University of Bristol is among the top ten UK universities, with an international reputation for high-quality education and research and an ambitious green strategy. Bristol is also a member of the Russell Group of UK universities. The institution is widely regarded as an exciting and creative city with a safe and friendly environment.

25% of students are international, representing more than 150 countries.

Cost:

Tuition fees cost GBP 13,250 to 15,750, depending on the course of study.

Available Scholarships:

Bristol University has a very extensive and valuable international students scholarships program, amounting to 2 million pounds in total. This scholarship program covers both undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

8. The University of the West of Scotland 

The University of the West of Scotland is one of Scotland’s most innovative modern universities. It is ranked top 3 in Scotland for teaching quality and top 5 for student experience and graduate prospects. 

The offered courses in the university are designed alongside commercial, industrial, and professional partners to ensure that learning meets the demands of the world of work. The university has four campuses, including one in London, England.

Cost:

The tuition costs from GBP 12,000 to 15,900 for international students.

Available Scholarships:

The University of the West of Scotland has funding schemes for international students. 

9. Coventry University 

Coventry University is one of the top UK universities that provides world-class education and concentrates on applied research. It is well known for its engineering, business, and computer-related courses. Coventry is ranked as one of the top 5 students’ best cities.

33% of the students are internationals.

Cost:

GBP 15,000 tuition on average for undergraduates and GBP 17,900 – GBP 20,100 for postgraduates.

Available Scholarships:

Coventry University offers scholarships, bursaries, and discounts for international students that cover accommodation or tuition.


What is the Cost of Studying in the UK?

It is proprietary to disclaim that prices change based on the exchange rate and economic conditions.

1. Visa Application:

The Visa requires International students to pay GBP 348 before submitting the application form. 

Additionally, international students must pay an IHS fee of GBP 470/year during the online application process. In some cases, students may also be required to pay a tuition deposit (GBP 2000) during the visa application process for postgraduate studies.

You can also use this tool to work out the cost of your visa application.

2. Tuition:

The cost of learning the course of your choice in the UK is dependent on multiple factors, including your course, home country, degree level, and school. For instance, international students are expected to pay more than domestic students. 

Also, intending applicants should note that studying Science and Research courses is more expensive than studying Social Sciences and Humanities courses. The most prestigious universities also generally cost more than the less well-known alternatives. 

On average, the tuition for international students in the UK amounts to around GBP 13,000 a year for undergraduate studies. For medical degrees, this fee could rise to about GBP 38,000. Postgraduate degrees cost considerably less, at approximately GBP 11,000 a year

You can find the complete guide to your tuition fees on the official website of the school you’re interested in applying to.

3. Accommodation:

Accommodation for international students is divided into three main types – Halls of Residence, Private Halls of Residence, and Private Renting. Usually, UK universities own and manage their respective residence halls; the halls are guaranteed for first-year students. They are cheaper than Private Halls of Residence, which offer the same facilities, but to a bit more modern or individualistic extent. 

The last option, Private Renting, costs between GBP 610 – GBP 740 per month for a one-bedroom apartment and GBP 975 – GBP 1,255 per month for a three-bedroom apartment. This amount does not include monthly utilities and other bills such as internet and phone bills. You can check the estimated living costs in the UK and prepare ahead accordingly.

How much you spend depends on where you’re staying, as it is generally more expensive to live in and around London than in other cities. The average cost of living in the UK is around GBP 12,200 a year. This amount covers rent, food, transportation, and other expenses.

4. Transportation:

The UK has excellent transportation services with generous fare discounts of up to 30% for students who buy the Young Persons Card or the Oyster Student Card.

5. Additional Expenses:

Entertainment (cinema, theatres, concerts), eating out, gym, shopping, and other activities could cost as much as 150 – 200 a month, depending on personal preferences and predispositions.

The overall estimated cost of studying in the UK is around GBP 22,200 per year.

With an ISIC card, you can enjoy discounts on many of these expenses and other additional benefits.


Work Authorization for International Students in the UK

International Students with valid Student Visas in the UK can work for a maximum of 20 hours in one week. The student visa allows students to do almost any type of paid and unpaid work, including internship and volunteering work.

The types of work allowed do NOT include:

  • Self-employment 
  • Engaging in business activity
  • Employment as a professional sportsperson, such as a sports coach. However, there is an exception for students at higher education providers doing work placement on a degree-level course.
  • Employment as an entertainer, which includes actors, musicians, dancers, and other performers, though there is an exception for students doing work placement on degree-level dance, drama, and music courses 
  • Employment in a permanent full-time job, unless you have applied under a work route 
  • Employment as a doctor or dentist in training, unless you are on the foundation program. You will not be subject to this restriction if you apply for student permission.

To undertake work, you should be given a formal document by the employer such as a ‘Contract of Employment’ or a ‘Worker’s Agreement’ or some other written statement confirming your employment status.

Additionally, you can continue to live and work in the UK for a further two years after completing your course. This permission is a recent development made by the UK Government confirming that from July 1, 2021, international students can apply to live and work in the UK for up to two years after their degree (three years for Ph.D. students) after applying for and being awarded a Graduate immigration route visa.


How to Avoid Common Problems and Pitfalls When Applying for a UK Student Visa?

The Application process for a UK Student Visa is generally straightforward and hassle-free. However, new regulations and recent developments in the UK have made immigration stricter. Students must take extra care during the entire process to avoid getting their applications rejected.

 We have studied some common problems and pitfalls that many applicants encounter and come up with solutions and ways of avoiding them.

1. Dealing with Fraudulent Agencies: 

You can usually find the required information about studying in the UK and applying for a student visa with some research on the internet. The official site of the UK Home Office contains all the information you will need, including where and how to apply for your student visa. Avoid contacting agencies that you’re not entirely sure of, and it is best to work under the supervision of an adult.

 All the help you need finding a Visa Application Centre is available on the UK Home Office Site.

3. Filling Forms Correctly:

You should make sure to fill out all your information correctly and clearly. Check to see if you’re filling the right form, and confirm the information you will be inputting to avoid uploading the wrong information. It is also advisable to check out the school’s official site you want to attend – most UK universities provide application guidelines and tips for their prospective students.

 Finally, if it is possible to pay a well recognized third-party with expertise in the area to assist with the application process, it is advisable.

3. Financial Capacity:

Ensure that you have the appropriate funds required to pay for your application process, study fees, and living expenses.

You could check for scholarship opportunities available at the school you’re applying to. Your bank statement providing the proof of funds should not indicate any fraudulent activity to that effect, as this will automatically guarantee your rejection and possible ban from further applications. 

4. Study Program:

Your choice of course for which you’re applying must align with your previous academic pursuits and future career goals that you may have previously indicated. Sudden or drastic changes may arouse suspicion and lead to delay or outright rejection. In this case, you should include a personal statement and other relevant documents explaining this change. 

5. Interview Tips:

During the interview for credibility, which you have to attend, it is best to answer questions honestly and briefly.

Be calm and composed. Under no circumstance should you voice any intention to stay in the UK after completing your degree. You should explicitly state that you have full intention of returning to your home country to work.

6. Avoid using Fraudulent or Forged Documents:

Suppose your use of forged or fraudulent documents and details is not immediately found out, upon which your application will be rejected.

In that case, a later discovery will lead to your deportation from the UK. Ensure that all the required documents stated above are available and genuine before going through the application process.

7. Timely Application:

It is advisable is to apply for a UK Student Visa as early as six months before your course commences. You should also endeavor to be prompt at all VAC appointments and interviews.


Additional FAQs on UK Student VISA

How Many Years of Visa Does the UK Grant Students?

The number of years granted on your UK student visa depends on the number of years it takes to complete your course, allowing for a few extra days in case of unforeseen delays or the need for a visa renewal or extension. 

For 18 or over applicants studying a course at degree level, you can stay in the UK for up to five years. Studying courses below degree level allows a stay period of up to two years.

What Is the Cost of the UK Student Visa?

A GBP 348 application fee is charged during the application process, or GBP 475 in case of visa extension or renewal. Additionally, you’ll have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge fee of at least GBP 470 as part of your application.

You also need to provide suitable proof of having enough funds to cover the cost of your school fees and living expenses for up to one year from the beginning of your studies.

Is a UK Student Visa Easy to Get?

Applicants to the UK student visa have had an acceptance rate of about 90% in the last three years. Therefore, it is relatively easy to get a UK Student Visa if you adhere to the guidelines.

A complete guide on all the documents you will need and all the steps to be followed is available for download on the UK Home Office official website.

Can I Work with a UK Student Visa?

As discussed earlier, the UK Student Visa permits international students to work for up to 20 hours in one week, following several strict regulations. 

And in the case of working after the duration of your course, a separate post-study visa is required, which will grant you the ability to live and work in the UK for up to two years. 


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