Visa routes for studies in the UK: Student visa (formerly Tier 4 visa), Visitor visa and Short-term Study (English language) visa
Important: The information contained below is correct as of 1 December 2020 and is for guidance only. Although every effort is made to ensure its accuracy, we strongly recommend you visit the UKVI website for up-to-date information.
The main visa route for international students to study in the UK is the Student visa. The Visitor visa and Short-Term study (English language) visa also provide visa routes for certain type of courses.
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Under the new Points-Based System (PBS), Student Route has replaced Tier 4 Route as the main visa route for international students since 5 October 2020. A Student visa is broadly speaking the main visa route for full-time courses of any length. However, it can also be used for shorter courses such as a 3-months pre-sessional English language course, leading to main academic programmes. There are two sub-categories under Student visa route:
- Student visa (for applicants aged 16 or above)
- Child Student visa (for those attending programmes at independent schools under the age of 18)
Further details on eligibility, required documents and application can be found at gov.uk/student-visa
Visitor Route (up to 6 months) and Short-term Study (English language) visa
From 1 December 2020, Visitor visa permits studies of short courses up to 6 months at an accredited institution or recreational studies of up to 30 days.
Short-term Study (English language) visa -formerly known as the Short-term Study (11 months) visa- is for students aged 16 years or above to study pure English Language courses that last up to 11 months in length. If your English language course is less than 6 months, you could use the Visitor visa route instead.
Further details on eligibility, required documents and application can be found at gov.uk/study-visit-visa/overview
The main differences between Student visa and Visitor visa, including Short-term Study (English language) visa are:
- There is no work rights under Visitor visa route (volunteer is permitted but not voluntary work)
- Visitor visa cannot be extended in the UK or be allowed to switch to Student visa in the UK
Therefore students should only come on a Visitor visa, if they are absolutely certain they will not want to stay for longer than six months (or 11 months in the case of pure English Language courses).
Student visa under the new Points-Based system
In order to qualify for Student visa, students must pass a points-based assessment and score 70 points by satisfying the following:
|Number of points
Presentation of a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from a licensed Student sponsor and provide relevant documentations used to obtain the CAS.
Evidence to show they have the finances to study in the UK (known as maintenance) by demonstrating they can cover:
See ‘Evidence of your finances’ document for examples and tips on how to prepare for financial evidence.
- Course fees (1st year)
- Monthly living costs (up to 9 months)
Evidence of English language proficiency
||Total points required to be granted a Student visa
Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
The Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) will include information about the student, their sponsor (educational provider), their course, the evidence used to obtain the offer and the fees.
Cambridge Education Group's admissions team will send out CAS statement to those who need to apply under the Student visa route. This is conditional upon the student fulfilling the terms set out in their offer letter and having confirmed their place by returning the required deposit or sponsorship letter. The CAS statement should then be included with their visa application.
The CAS statement from our admissions team will include:
- The sponsor's licence number, address and contact details; ACL code for BRP collection (if applicable)
- The student's name, date of birth, nationality, country of birth and passport/travel document number.
- Course details such as name, RQF level, start and end date, hours per week, address of student's main place of study.
- Documents used to obtain the offer: this will give a brief description of our assessment of the student's academic level and English proficiency, including details such as student's previous courses/qualifications and Secure English Language Test (SELT) results and reference number. If a student has previously studied in the UK under Student or Tier 4 route, an Academic Progression statement on how the new course of studies represents academic progression is also included here.
- Course fees for the first year and any payments already made. If relevant, any accommodation fees for the first year and any payments towards it already made.
English language requirement
English language requirement under Student visa depends on the course level of the programme as per below:
- RQF Level 3-5: CEFR Level B1 (IELTS 4.0 minimum or equivalent in all 4 components)
- RQF Level 6+:CEFR Level B2 (IELTS 5.5 minimum or equivalent in all 4 components)
Students over 16 with English level below B1/IELTS 4.0 can attend English language course by studying under Short-term Study (English language) visa.
For below degree level programmes (RQF Level 3, 4 & 5), Student visa applicants must complete and pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT), unless they are exempt from SELT (see below section on ‘SELT exemption’ for further details). The current list of approved SELT tests can be found here. All students requiring a SELT will need to take an IELTS for UKVI test at an approved SELT centre. The list of approved centres can also be found in the link above.
Hint and tips on getting a SELT
Book a UKVI SELT test as early as possible before your intended course start date - centres are limited and may get booked up quickly. You could also consider to study an English language course in the UK under a Visitor visa first and obtain SELT in the UK before qualifying under Student visa route.
Only the following types of students are not required to undertake a SELT in order to obtain a Student visa:
- Student visa applicants who are 1) sponsored by a Higher Education Provider (HEP) for 2) courses at or above RQF Level 6.
- Proved applicant’s level of English in a previous successful Student visa application
- Nationals from a majority English-speaking country (see the list below)
- Students who have completed an academic qualification equivalent to a UK degree which was taught in a majority English-speaking country (with the exception of Canada), including UK.
- Applicant has GCSE, A Level or equivalent qualification that was awarded by an Ofqual regulated awarding body and followed education in a UK school undertaken under the age of 18.
UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) majority English-speaking countries’ list - nationals from these countries are exempt from requiring a SELT:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- the Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
You can apply for a entry clearance to enter the UK under Student visa up to 6 months before your intended course starts in the UK.
If you are eligible to extend your permission to stay in the UK under Student visa, you can do so up to 3 months before your new course starts.
The visa application checklist
As part of the application, students will need to:
- Complete the relevant visa application form
- Pay the visa application fee
- Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee (currently £470 per year)
- Attend visa interview (if required – see section below on Visa Interview for more details)
As part of their visa application they will also need to provide the following:
- a valid passport or travel document
- a CAS statement from a Student sponsor
- documents listed by their sponsors in the CAS statement assigned by their Student sponsor, such as academic transcripts or qualification.
- documents to show they meet the maintenance requirements (such as a bank statement featuring the student's name (or parent or legal guardian, with evidence of relationship) or a loan in their name or government sponsorship and financial consent (if the account belongs to the parent or legal guardian)
- TB certificate (click here to see if you are required to provide a TB certificate before submitting your application for your UK student visa)Complete the appropriate visa application form
- Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) Card (if applicable)
As part of the Student visa application, you could be asked to attend an interview. Please refer to our ‘Your Visa Interview Guide’ for further details.
Please note that all students applying for Student visa (for over 6 months) are issued a 30-day entry clearance (yellow sticker). During the Covid-19 concession period, entry clearance is issued for 90 days period instead of 30 days. Students will need to collect a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card within 10 days of arriving in the UK under normal circumstances. The BRP card would cover the full length of their student visa. Your institution will give you more details on how to collect the card and you will also receive a letter from UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) with more information following a successful visa application.
Working whilst studying
International students are able to work in the UK as per the conditions imposed in their visa during their studies with opportunities available including:
- part-time work
- vacation work
- course-related work placements
Working whilst studying brings many benefits including extra money and it can also help to improve the level of the English language. However, the students should be careful not to let their job interfere with their studies as this is, after all, the reason why they are here in the UK.
Do not under-estimate the hours needed to focus on studies in order to successfully achieve the desired academic result.
Students may work part-time for a number of hours during term time depending on their course,
- Child Student visa holders, who are over the age of 16, are allowed to work if it is no more than 10 hours a week during term-time; full-time during vacations.
- Student visa holders – depending on their Student sponsor status and their course level – could be allowed to work between 10 and 20 hours per week during term-time, and full-time during vacations.
The only students who are eligible to bring dependants under current Student visa rules are either:
- Post-graduate students on courses at RQF level 7 or above of more than 9 months' duration, or
- Government-sponsored students with course duration of 6 months or over
Dependants of both of these categories of students are able to work.