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UK Student Visas Explained

The UK tops the list of best places to study abroad and operates a points-based system in its granting of immigration visas. As an international student looking to study in the UK you will need to apply for a suitable visa. There are three visa categories you can apply for as an international student; as a student visitor, as a prospective student or as a Tier 4 (General) applicant.

Short Term Study Visa (STSV)

You can apply as a student visitor provided you are at least 18 years old and you want to study in the UK for up to 11 months. As a student visitor, you are not allowed to work and you cannot switch your visa to extend your stay as a Tier 4 student. In order to do this, you would need to leave the UK and apply from the country where you live. A formal offer from your chosen school or college is normally the best starting point for stating the visa process.

Prospective Student Visa

Prospective student visa is good if you need to come to the UK to finalise your study arrangements, for example, if you need to attend an interview for your course if they have given you a conditional offer. If you hold a prospective student visa, you are able to switch into the Tier 4 category whilst you are in the UK. This means you would not need to return to your home country to apply for another visa, therefore saving you money on airfare as well as time.

Tier 4 (General) Student Visa

If you have gained an unconditional offer from a UK higher education establishment, you can apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa, built on a points-based system. The majority of international students from outside the EU will need a permit to study in the UK. You need 40 points to be granted the visa and can achieve these points by meeting the following criteria:

  • Valid Confirmation of Acceptance (CAS)
  • Acceptable English language skills (IELTS)
  • Sufficient funds to cover your fees plus living costs

CAS confirms that you have been given an unconditional offer of a place on a course of study with a licensed Tier 4 sponsor. It’s provided by the university and allows you to score 30 points in the points assessment. The university must ensure that you have acceptable English language skills. This assessment varies between institutions but will often involve a formal test such as the IELTS exam.

If you have sufficient funds available you will also score 10 points for your UK student visa. It’s worth remembering that you won’t be eligible for most state benefits, so you will need to have enough money to support yourself while you’re in the UK. There is a wealth of information available on the visa process and the following links provide the most accurate sources related information for you to explore:


UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) is part of the Home Office, which is the UK government department which writes the immigration rules. You should always refer to their policy guidance when applying for your visa.


UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) is the advocacy body for international student issues in the UK. You can find lots of information on their web pages from applying for a Tier 4 visa to how to maximise the opportunities available to you in the UK.


This is the latest compiled list of Licensed Institutions which references all current UK institutions licensed to sponsor migrant students under Tier 4. Includes information about the category of students they’re licensed to sponsor and their sponsorship rating.

PICKUK team is always here and at hand to help you understand the abundant information available and to facilitate your communication with the right institutions prior to your entry into the UK.