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UK visa advice

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 20 May 2024 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.

Table of Contents

Student Route

Under the new Points-Based System (PBS), Student Route replaced Tier 4 Route as the main visa route for international students since 5 October 2020. Broadly speaking Student Visa route is the main visa route for full-time academic courses lasting longer than six months for international students who need a visa to study in the UK. 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 years old 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


Visitor Route (up to 6 months) and Short-term Study Visa (English Language up to 11 months)

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 the English language course is less than 6 months, students could use the Visitor visa route instead.

Further details on eligibility, required documents and application can be found at

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 any employed work or 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 study under 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) and are prepared to switch to Student visa from outside the UK.

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 Criteria

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:

  • Course fees (1st year)
  • Monthly living costs (up to 9 months)
See ‘Evidence of your finances’ document for examples and tips on how to prepare for financial evidence.

Evidence of English language proficiency

70 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 (name/DOB/passport number), their sponsor (educational institution), their course, the evidence used to obtain the offer (academic and English proficiency documents) 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 once all the conditions of the offer have been satisfied. Final CAS 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 financial sponsorship letter. The CAS statement will then need to be submitted with their visa application.

The CAS statement from our admissions team will include:

  • The Sponsor Licence Number, address, contact details and 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 date and end date, teaching 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.
  • Course fees for the first year of the course and any payments already received. If relevant, any accommodation fees for the first year and any payments already received towards it.

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 with English level below B1/IELTS 4.0 can attend English language course by studying under Short-term Study (English language) visa, provided they are at least 16 years old.

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). Please check the current list of approved SELT tests. 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 via the link above.

Hint and tips on getting a SELT

Book SELT test as early as possible before the intended course start date – depending on the time of the year and the location, available tests can be limited and may get booked up quickly. Students can also consider to study an English language course in the UK under a Visitor visa first and obtain their SELT in the UK before qualifying under the Student visa route. 

SELT exemption

Below is a list of scenarios where students are not required to undertake a SELT in order to qualify under Student visa route:

  • Student visa applicants who are sponsored by a Higher Education Provider (HEP) for courses at or above RQF Level 6 (i.e. undergraduate degree level or above).
  • 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 in English (language or literature) that was awarded by an Ofqual regulated awarding body and followed education in a UK based 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
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • UK
  • USA

Visa application

Students can apply for an entry clearance (entry visa) to enter the UK under Student visa up to 6 months before their intended course start date in the UK.

For students who are already in the UK under valid visa, if eligible, they can extend permission to stay in the UK under Student visa, up to 3 months before their new course start date.

The visa application checklist

As part of the Student visa application, students will need to:

  • Complete the relevant visa application form online
  • Pay the relevant visa application fee
  • Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee (currently £776 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:

  • Completed visa application form
  • a valid passport or travel document (although UK currently does not have a specific requirement on length of passport validity we recommend the passport should be valid for at least one year from the course start date)
  • a CAS statement from a Student sponsor
  • documents listed by their sponsors in the CAS statement, such as academic transcripts or academic 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 an educational loan in their name or government sponsorship and financial consent (if the account belongs to the parent or legal guardian)
  • TB certificate (check on the UK Government website to see if a student is required to provide a TB certificate before submitting their application for UK Student visa).
  • Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) Card (if applicable)

Visa interview

As part of the Student visa application, students could be asked to attend an interview with UKVI representative. Please refer to our ‘Guide: Your Visa Interview’ for further details.

Visa issuance

Once visa application is successful, students applying for Student visa (for over 6 months) are issued a 90-day entry clearance (yellow visa sticker). 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 normally covers the full length of their student visa. Note that UK is moving towards digital immigration status after end of 2024 so if their visa is valid beyond 31 December 2024 their BRP card will only show an expiry date of 31 December 2024. The full validity of their visa will be shown in the Decision Letter when the visa is granted, as well as details on BRP collection. There will be further instructions on proving visa status from the Home Office later in 2024 on verifying immigration status and we will provide update on this in due course.

Working whilst studying

International students are able to work in the UK as per the conditions attached to their visa during their studies with opportunities available including:

  • part-time work
  • course-related work placements

Working whilst studying brings many benefits including extra money and it can also help to improve the level of English language. However, students should be careful not to let their job interfere with their studies as this is, after all, the reason why they have chosen to study in the UK.

Do not under-estimate the hours needed to focus on studies in order to successfully achieve the desired academic outcome.

Students may work part-time for a number of hours during term time depending on their course and visa type:

  • Student visa holders – depending on their Student sponsor status and their course level – could be allowed to work up to either 10 or 20 hours per week during term-time, and full-time during vacations.
  • Child Student visa holders, who are 16 years or over, are allowed to work up to 10 hours per week during term-time, and full-time during vacations.


Under the current Student visa rules, from 1 January 2024, students are eligible to bring dependants if:

  • They are government-sponsored students with course duration of 6 months or longer
  • Studying on PhD courses (RQF Level 8) or research-based postgraduate level courses (RQF Level 7)

Dependants of both of these categories of students are able to work.


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