Obtaining a Visa to Study in the UK

What is a Student Visa?

A student visa is a certification in your passport indicating that you are authorized to enter the United Kingdom for study purposes and for a limited time.

The ‘certification’ comes in the form of a sticker on your passport. The sticker is issued by an Entry Clearance officer of a British diplomatic mission posted abroad.

How to Know if You Need a Student Visa?

It depends on your personal circumstances if you will need a student visa. But you will need a UK student visa if you belong to any of these categories: (1) you do not belong to any nationality also known as being stateless; (2) your travel documents disclose that you are not a British national; or (3) your passport is issued by an authority not recognised in the UK.

Basically, if you are a foreigner (meaning not a British citizen), you will need a UK student visa to enter here for study purposes.  If you only wish to work in the UK rather than study you will need to apply for a different UK visa.

How Do You Qualify for a UK Student Visa?

You must show that you have been accepted on a course of study in any of the educational institutions registered with the United Kingdom’s Department of Education and Skills. Moreover, upon student visa application, you should provide details on any of the following: (1) your admission to a recognised full-time degree course in any of the schools mentioned; (2) a weekly-run course which has at a minimum of 15 hours devoted to daytime study per week; or (3) a full-time course in an independent fee-paying school.

Other details you must show should include your financial viability to support yourself and dependants, if any, whilst living and studying in the UK and without needing assistance from public funds. Another is the guarantee to the UK government that you intend to leave the UK upon completion of your studies here.

Types of Student Visas

There are five types of student visa, namely:

Child Student Visa

You are considered a child student for purposes of student visa application if you are between the ages of 4 and 17.

However, not all children in these ages can be enrolled in any educational institution in the UK. If you are between 4 and 15 years old, you can only seek visa application in an independent fee-paying institution.

Child Visitor Visa

You belong to this category if you are 17 years old or below and you desire to come to the UK to enrol in a course for a maximum of six months.

Adult Student Visa

You are considered an adult student for this purpose if you are seeking post-16 education in the UK.

Student Visitor Visa

You are a student visitor if you are at least 18 years old and above and you seek entry to the UK to take up a course for a maximum of six months. You are applying under this category if you do not wish to work whilst you are in the UK.

Note however that you cannot switch from this type of student visa to an adult student visa. Should you need to make a switch, you have to do that in your home country.

Prospective Student Visa

This is applicable for students who are still undecided on their choice of study. You are seeking this student visa to come to the UK and make extensive enquiries on the course you plan to take.

This type of student visa is also applicable if having already chosen your course; you want to come to the UK to start settling in within six months prior to the commencement of your classes.

Applying for a Student Visa

Whatever type of student visa you wish to apply for, you must fill out what is so-called a ‘visa application form,’ or also known as VAF1-on-settlement. This is downloadable in the Home Office Border Agency website or you may prefer securing a copy in the British diplomatic mission located in your country.

  • You can only apply for a student visa with the British mission located in your home country or where you have legal residence.

  • You may process send in your application whether through postal mail, courier, in person, or online.

  • You also need to check your health condition as applicants in some countries are required to be tested for active tuberculosis before the British mission can accept your application.

Documents Required

Keep the following documents on hand to ensure the success of your student visa application: (1) filled out VAF 1 application; (2) passport or other travel document; (3) your most recent passport photo; (4) money for the visa fee (note this is non-refundable); and  (5) other supporting documents.

Supporting Documents

To ensure the success of your student visa application, prepare these documents as they come in handy: (1) certificate or diplomas evidencing your educational attainment; (2) acceptance letter from the university or school which you plan to attend in the UK with a statement of the tuition and other student fees for your choice of course; (3) proof of government sponsorship if you have one; (4) financial statements which show that you are financially viable to shoulder your studies whilst in the UK; and (5) proof of sponsorship from the UK university or school should this be applicable.

Visa Application Centres

Visa application centres are mercantile companies abroad that collaborate with the UK when it comes to visa application processing. VACs, as they are also known, are usually located in densely populated areas for more convenient transactions. VAC staff are well trained to answer all your questions about the application and other visa-related enquiries. They are authorized to receive your application, biometric information, and application fees. They are likewise authorized to go over your application details and verify if all information is sufficient.

Once the VAC staff finds your submitted documents as sufficient, your documents will be forwarded to the Entry Clearance Officer of the British diplomatic mission located in your country who will determine the approval or denial of your visa.

Is it Possible to Work Whilst Studying in the UK?

Yes. However, this provision has certain restrictions.

You are restricted to part-time work or you can work on a holiday.

But you cannot engage in employment under the following circumstances: (1) work exceeding 20 hours a week whilst the student visa is in force unless your work is part of your education, has been approved by the UK educational institution you are enrolled in, and one that will lead to the attainment of your degree; (2) engage in business, self-employment, or provide professional services; and (3) engage into full-time employment.

Another caveat is if your visa only allows you to stay for a maximum of six months, you must seek permission from the Entry Clearance Officer of the British diplomatic mission located in your country to allow you to work whilst studying in the UK.