visas & working
Most non-EEA students wanting to study full-time in the UK will need to apply for a visa that covers the duration of their stay. There are different types of visas available depending on your age, the type of course you are studying and where you are from.
There have recently been major changes to the student visa system in the UK. The information here is the information available at the time of publication. For the most up-to-date information, please see the UK Border Agency website.
Tier 4 General Student Visa
Some students may not need to apply for a Tier 4 visa if they are:
- A national of any country in the European Economic Area (excluding Bulgaria and Romania) or Switzerland
- A British overseas territories citizen
- A Commonwealth citizen with permission to stay in the UK because at least one grandparent was born there
The new rules result in tighter restrictions on which institutions can sponsor students. By April 2012, all sponsors must achieve 'Highly Trusted' status, and must also be accredited by a relevant agency by the end of 2012. Private schools will be able to provide courses in partnership with a licensed sponsor, who takes responsibility for the student.
What documentation will you need?
You will be required to provide a number of documents, including an application form and of course your passport.
As well as your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance, which is provided by your institution when you are accepted), which may include information about fees already paid to your institution for tuition, you may also need to provide evidence of money that is available to you, such as bank statements or loan confirmations - these must be from a bank trusted by the UKBA (UK Border Agency). You will also need to sign a confirmation that the funds you show are genuinely available for your use whilst studying in the UK. 'Low risk' applicants may not need to provide evidence of funds.
You may also need to prove your level of English. New visa rules coming in to place during 2011 and 2012 will require students studying at degree level to be capable in English in all four areas (reading, writing, speaking and listening) at an 'Upper Intermediate' (B2) level. Universities will be able to vouch for a student's ability if they are studying at degree level or above.
Students studying at lower level courses will need a minimum level of 'Lower Intermediate' (B1). Students studying outside of universities will need to present a test certificate to the UK Border Agency to prove their ability.
UK Border Agency staff will be able to refuse entry to students who cannot speak English without an interpreter, and who therefore clearly do not meet the minimum standard. The UK Border Agency only accepts certain English language tests as proof of English language proficiency; please see the UK Border Agency website for updates.
Your institution may also require you to prove your level of English, usually by evidence of test scores from English language exams (such as IELTS, ESOL etc).
Applying for a visa from outside the UK will cost £255, plus £255 for each additional family member or dependant accompanying you to the UK. For information about methods of payment, you will need to contact your nearest visa application centre. A full list of these can be found on the website of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Short courses/student visitors
- Over eighteen years old
- Accepted by an education provider that holds a relevant sponsor licence
Only students studying on a postgraduate course (NQF Level 7 or above) at a university for a duration of more than twelve months, or Government Sponsored students, will be able to sponsor a dependant. Dependants will be able to work.
- Maximum of three years at NQF Level 3-5
- Maximum of five years at NQF Level 6-7
- For those on PhD courses, or those courses with a longer duration than five years (such as medicine or architecture) there will be exceptions to this rule
For more information about student visas, the application process and conditions of your stay, please visit www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk
WorkingEU students are normally able to work freely and have the same working rights as UK citizens. Guidelines for non-EEA/EU students are detailed below.
Can I work whilst studying?
New student visa rules, announced in March 2011, mean that only students at universities and publicly-funded further education colleges will be allowed to take up employment during their study. All other students will have no right to work.
How many hours per week can I work?
- If you are studying at a 'recognised body' (university) you may work up to twenty hours per week during term time
- If you are studying at a publicly-funded FE college, you may work up to ten hours during term time
- Both of the above can work full time during vacations
Can I support myself with my earnings?
You should be able to pay your tuition fees and living costs during your study in the UK without working. It is inadvisable to rely on earnings from employment to support yourself during your studies, due to the difficulty of finding and keeping work, and visa restrictions on working that mean you are unlikely to be able to cover all your costs.
Can I do work placements?
Most students studying at UK universities will be able to do work placements. If you are unsure of your status regarding permission to work or take part in work placements, ask your sponsor (institution).
Recent changes to student visas in the UK mean the closure of the Post-Study Work route, from April 2012. This means that students will no longer be entitled to the current two-year limit to stay in the UK to find work. Only students with an offer of a skilled job from a sponsoring employer under the Tier 2 system will be able to stay and work - all other students must leave the UK when their study has finished. There are also likely to be some systems in place for talented entrepreneurs, but these have yet to be announced.
For more information and the most up-to-date information about working during your study, please visit the UK Border Agency website.