How to Get A Tier 4 General Student Visa

A Tier 4 Student Visa allows you to study at world-class institutions in the UK
A Tier 4 Student Visa allows you to study at world-class institutions in the UK

The UK has always been a popular destination for international students for its world-class schools and universities, diverse and welcoming environment, and recognition by employers and governments worldwide. Four of the top ten universities on the planet are in the UK – QS World University Rankings (link is external). UK research is ‘world leading’ and ‘internationally excellent.’

If you are planning on making a Tier 4 Student Visa application to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as an international student, you need to be able to understand and navigate the relevant immigration rules.

These rules are not only complex, they change so frequently that they cannot be comprehended by a lay-person let alone a student. It is therefore important that you book a consultation with a specialist British lawyer before making your student visa application.

Here we provide answers to some of the questions that we are most frequently asked by the international students:

How to get a Tier 4 Student Visa?

1. You have to apply for a course which is full-time and leads to a recognised qualification. International students are not allowed to study part-time.

2. Because the courses are taught in English, you have to meet the English Language requirements. These requirements vary for different courses, and and can be fulfilled by taking an approved English language test.

3. If you are granted the admission, your college or university will send you a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) which you will need to submit with your visa application.

4. You need to show that you have enough money to pay for your studies and living costs in the UK. This includes your first year tuition fees and £1,265 per month for each month of your studies, up to a maximum of nine months, to pay for living costs if you will be studying in London. Therefore if your course lasts for nine months or more you will have to show £11,385 plus your first year tuition fees.

If you will be studying outside of London elsewhere in the UK, the monthly amounts are lower:  you need to have £1,015 for each month of your course, up to a maximum of £9,135 for a course lasting nine months or more plus first year tuition fees.

What English Language Tests are acceptable for a Student Visa application?

As of 6th April 2015, the list of UKVI approved English language tests will include only IELTS and ‘Integrated skills in English (ISE)’.

IELTS: This test can be taken at UKVI approved test centres worldwide and is accepted by all UK universities. International students who are applying to study in the UK and are not already in the UK will need to book an IELTS. There are also test centres in the UK for applicants who are already here.

ISE: This test can be taken at UKVI approved test centres in the UK only. Therefore, only international students present in the UK can take this test. The test is not currently accepted by all universities in the UK, so it is a good idea to check with the university you want to apply to.

Will I be able to work?

You will be allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week during your studies and full-time during your holidays to help support your studies. This only applies if you are studying a degree level course at a UK higher education institution for longer than 6 months.

The university or college must be listed on both the official UKVI Sponsor list and the list of ‘recognised bodies’. For all other colleges and educational institutions you may not have a right to work.

Will be able to work in the UK after I graduate?

You will be able to apply for the work visas listed below after your studies:

  • Tier 2 (General) Visa: This visa is open to recent graduates with a Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD or PGCE from a recognised UK university. In order to apply, you will need to be offered a skilled job from a registered employer with a Tier2 Sponsorship Licence. You will also need to earn a salary of at least £20,800 per year.
  • Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Visa: This visa route has now been closed and replaced by Startup visa, Innovator visa, and Global talent visa. These routes are open to talented students who are developing a world-class business idea or those who can make a substantial investment to start a business.
  • Tier 4 (Student) Visa: If you are a student completing a PhD at a UK higher education institute you can apply to stay in the UK for a further 12 months after your course completion date. You will be sponsored by your university but you will have full unrestricted work rights, except for some limited professions such as doctors or dentists.
  • Tier 1 (Exceptional talent): This visa option is for those who have been endorsed as possessing exceptional talent or promise in their field of expertise.
  • Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme Visa: The nationals of certain countries are eligible to apply for a two-year work scheme permit.
  • Tier 5 Temporary Worker: This visa allows you to work in the UK for up to 12 or 24 months (depending on the scheme you’re applying for). If you are offered a job in one of the following areas by a licensed sponsor, then you qualify for a Tier 5 Temporary worker visa: creative and sporting, charity workers (unpaid voluntary work), religious workers, government authorised exchange and international agreement. For the Tier 5 (Government Authorised Exchange) route, you can apply to switch from your Tier 4 visa to this visa from within the UK. For all other Tier 5 visa routes, you need to apply from outside the UK.
  • Other categories of visa permitting work

When Can I Apply?

You will need to be offered the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from a recognised college or university before you can apply for a visa. You will be able to apply for your visa three months before the start date of your course. This means, if your course starts at the end of September, you will receive your CAS around the end of June.

How much does it cost?

If you are applying from outside the UK, the cost of the visa is £322. If you are already in the UK, you can apply by post for £439 or in person for £839.

How can I get legal advice tailored to my circumstances?

If you’re looking to apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa it’s advisable that you retain a specialist lawyer to walk you through the complex immigration rules. The first step for that is to book a consultation with one.