Points Based System Tier 4 (General) Student Visa

Do I need a visa to study in the U.K.?

UK entry clearance, a.k.a. a student visa, is a document issued to travelers who have been given permission to enter the UK. It is a vignette or sticker placed in a passport at a UK visa issuing post overseas. In the US, the visa issuing posts are located at the British Consulates General in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.

As of Summer 2009, students planning to study abroad in the UK for less than six months are not required to apply for a visa, although they may choose to do so because they want the benefits.

Students who will be in the UK for the academic year (i.e., for more than six months) OR whose study abroad program consists of a paid or unpaid internship, even if for less than six months, MUST apply for a visa. If either of these situations is relevant to you, your study abroad provider should give you information about how to apply.

There is a fee for this application, currently £145. (Convert this amount.)

Applying for a student visa is a fairly complex process. Students are encouraged to read the instructions thoroughly and to assemble all supporting documents before applying. (See "Further Reading," below.) Getting the visa is a four-stage process. (1) You must be admitted to a program and receive an official "visa letter" from a U.K. institution or a U.S. institution registered in the U.K.; (2) you apply on-line and pay with a credit card; (3) you get your "biometrics" processed; and (4) you mail your passport and all original supporting documents to the U.K. consulate, which stamps the visa in your passport and returns it to you.

The U.K. Border Agency requires students who will study in London to have available £800 per month for living expenses. Students who study outside of London must demonstrate access to £600. (Convert these amounts.)

One of the main benefits of having a student visa is that you are eligible to work part-time while you attend university classes. This type of employment cannot support your living expenses while you are overseas, but it can result in some spending money and, perhaps more importantly, it can help integrate you into the local culture by getting you out of the classroom and working with British people.

Further reading

The following links provide good background information about applying for the "Tier 4 (General) Student Visa."

UK Border Agency Visa Services

Polity Guidance

UK Student Visa Step-by-Step Guide

Applying for an Adult Student Visa


The UK Border Agency Facebook page (processing times, etc.)