Applying for a Student Route Visa in the UK


All information in this article is correct as of 13 July 2023, but you should refer to the UK Government website for the latest information about the Student Route visa.

If you’re planning on studying in the UK and are 16 or over, you may be eligible to apply for a Student Visa. To do so, you must:

  • Have been offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor
  • Have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course
  • Be able to speak, read, write and understand English
  • If you’re 16 or 17, have consent from your parents

When to Apply

The timing for applying for your Student Visa depends on whether you’re applying from inside or outside the UK.

Applying from outside the UK

You can apply for a visa up to 6 months before your course begins. The decision on your visa typically arrives within three weeks.

Applying from inside the UK

If you are already in the UK, you can apply three months before your course starts. You must apply before your current visa expires, and your new course must begin within 28 days of your current visa expiring. It usually takes around eight weeks to get a decision on your application.

Duration of Stay

The length of your stay depends on the duration of your course and any prior study you have undertaken in the UK. If you are 18 or over and studying at degree level, you can usually stay for up to five years. If your course is below degree level, you can typically stay for up to two years.

Arriving in the UK

You can arrive in the UK before your course starts – up to one week before for courses lasting six months or less or up to one month before for longer courses. However, you must only travel to the UK after the start date given on your visa.

Fees and Healthcare Surcharge

Applying for a Student visa costs £363 from outside the UK or £490 to extend or switch to a Student Visa from inside the UK. Additionally, you must pay a healthcare surcharge as part of your application. The amount you pay depends on the duration of your visa.

What You Can and Cannot Do

With a Student Visa, you can study and work, depending on your course and its term time. However, you cannot claim public funds, work in specific jobs such as professional sports, be self-employed or study at an academy or locally funded school. Time limits may apply based on your visa, so you should always check how many hours you can legally work during your studies. Going over these limits would be a breach of your visa conditions and may result in the cancellation of your visa.

Your Course

To apply, you must have an unconditional offer of a place on a course with a licensed student sponsor (this will be your university). They will provide you with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), which you must apply for your visa. You can study various courses leading to qualifications at various levels. You can also apply for this visa if you take up a full-time elected Student Union Sabbatical Officer position during your studies. Your CAS reference number is crucial for your visa application. You must apply for your visa within six months of receiving your CAS. Remember to plan and ensure all your paperwork is to make the process as smooth as possible.

visa application

Financial Requirements for the Student Route Visa

The cost of studying in the UK is not just limited to tuition fees. You also need to consider living expenses and other costs. Here is an overview of the financial requirements you need to meet when applying for a Student Route visa.

Course Fee

You must show sufficient funds to cover your course fees for one academic year (up to nine months). Your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) will specify the exact amount. You are exempt from this requirement if you have been in the UK with a valid visa for at least 12 months.

Living Expenses (Financial Requirement)

You need to demonstrate that you can financially support yourself during your UK stay. The amount required varies depending on where you will be studying:

  • If your course is in London, you need £1,334 per month (for up to nine months).
  • For courses outside London, the requirement is £1,023 per month (for up to nine months).

These amounts exclude any school boarding fees, which will be outlined in your CAS. Certain nationalities under the ‘differential evidence requirement’, including British nationals overseas and nationals from countries like Australia, Canada, the USA, and others, are exempt. However, they may still be asked to provide evidence of their finances.

English Language Requirement

To apply for a Student Route visa, you must prove your proficiency in English. This can be done by:

  • Passing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider
  • Having a GCSE, A level, Scottish National Qualification level 4 or 5, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in English, gained through study at a UK school that you began when you were under 18. This includes the English for Academic Purposes or Research & Communications Skills course you study with NCUK.

The level of English you need to prove depends on what you are studying:

  • Degree level or above: Equivalent to CEFR level B2
  • Below degree level: CEFR level B1

They can assess your English level if you are studying at a Higher Education Provider (HEP) at degree level or above. However, this must still be equivalent to a CEFR level B2.

You do not need to prove your English knowledge if you are from certain countries or territories or have completed a qualification equivalent to a UK degree in one of them. These include Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Overseas Territories, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, Malta, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, UK, USA, or if you are a national of Canada.

Remember that planning and ensuring you meet all requirements can help make your visa application process smoother.

Required Documents for Student Route Visa Application

When applying for your Student Visa, there are several documents that you will need to provide. Preparing these ahead of time is essential to ensure a smooth application process.

Essential Documents

At the very least, you must provide the following:

  • A valid passport or other travel documentation.
  • A Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your course provider.

Additional Documents

Depending on your circumstances, you may also need to provide:

  • Proof of financial support: This includes evidence that you have enough money to pay for your course and support yourself in the UK. The exact amount varies depending on your situation.
  • An Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate: This is required for specific courses and nationalities.
  • Consent from parents or legal guardians: If you are under 18, you must provide proof of consent from your parents or other legal guardians.
  • Proof of relationship: If you are under 18, you must provide proof of your relationship to your parent or guardian.
  • Tuberculosis test results: This depends on your country of residence.
  • Written consent from your financial sponsor: If you have received sponsorship for your course fees and living costs in the last 12 months, you must provide their written consent for your application.

You may need to provide additional documents depending on your circumstances. Check the official guidance for a complete list of documents you must provide. Ensure there is a blank page in your passport for your visa. You might need to give your biometric information (fingerprints and photograph) at a Visa Application Centre, and you will be informed if this is necessary when you apply.

If You’re Under 18

If you are under 18, you will need written consent from both parents or legal guardians (or one parent if they have sole responsibility). This must include their consent for your visa application, living and care arrangements in the UK, and travel to the UK. You must also provide a copy of your birth certificate (or another government-issued document) showing your parents’ names.

student laptop

How to Apply

Applications for a Student visa must be made online via the UK Government’s website.

Applying Outside the UK

As part of your application, you will need to prove your identity. Depending on where you are from and what type of passport you have, you will either:

  • Give your fingerprints and a photograph (biometric information) at a Visa Application Centre.
  • Use the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app to scan your identity document – you will also create or sign into your UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) account.

Apply inside the UK

You may be able to apply to:

  • Extend your Student visa
  • Switch to a Student visa from another type of visa

You may be able to pay to get a faster decision – you’ll be told if you can when you apply. You will be told what you need to do when you apply.

Remember, once you have started your application, you can save and complete your form later. Getting all your documents ready before you begin your application can help make the process smoother and faster.

After you apply

You’ll be contacted if your application is complex and will take longer, for example because:

  • Your supporting documents need to be verified
  • You need to attend an interview
  • Of your personal circumstances (for example if you have a criminal conviction)

If you need to change something in your application after you’ve sent it contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

Good luck with your application!