The Tier 4 (General) Student Visa is designed for students from outwith the EEA and Switzerland to remain in the UK for the duration of your course or qualification. The main eligibility requirements are to have an unconditional offer of a place at a suitable institution in the UK, and to be able to prove that you have sufficient maintenance funds - since you will not have recourse to public funds during your stay.
Once your institution has made you an unconditional offer of a place on your chosen course, they will send you a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) - which is basically a unique reference number that you will submit with your visa application. You can apply for your Tier 4 Student Visa no later than 6 months after receiving your CAS from your educational institution, after which it is no longer valid.
You will also have to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to support yourself and any dependants during your studies, over and above paying any course fees that are required.
You may be required to take part in an interview assessment with a UKVI employee as part of your application. This is something we can particularly help with, since we have a great deal of experience of this kind of assessment - and we can offer you invaluable Mock Interview training. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss this service.
The Student Visa allows you to study a full time course (leading to a National Qualifications Framework level 6 qualification), an overseas course (degree level equivalent, run by an overseas higher education institution), a full time course with a minimum of 15 hours per week daytime study (leading to a NQF level 3 or above qualification), or an accredited foundation programme as a postgraduate doctor or dentist.
If you are applying as a postgraduate doctor or dentist to study on an accredited foundation programme then you need to have completed an approved UK degree in medicine or dentistry, have received that degree from an approved Tier 4 Sponsor, and have spent your final year and one or more other years of study in the UK working towards that degree.
If your course is for 6 months or longer you will be permitted to bring your dependant partner and children with you to the UK, and your partner will be able to work during your stay.
As with many other visa types, you are allowed to apply for this visa up to 3 months before the start date of your course, and you can expect to hear the result of your application within 3 weeks. There is a fee payable for yourself and for each dependant you intend to bring to the UK, as well as a healthcare surcharge.
The length of your visa obviously depends on the type of course you are studying, but in all cases you are permitted to arrive in the UK either one week before the start of your course (if it lasts 6 months or less), or one month before (if it lasts more than 6 months). You are allowed to apply for an extension if this is required to finish your qualification.
If you hold a Tier 4 Student Visa you will be allowed to study at the institution you specified in your visa application. But depending on your circumstances you may also be able to carry out certain other kinds of work. For instance, you can work as a student union sabbatical officer but you can't work as a professional sportsperson or sports coach.
You can apply for this visa either from within the UK or from overseas, and you can apply to bring family members (dependants) with you.
Under certain circumstances you can apply for a CAS for a new course having previously studied in the UK. This may be appropriate if you are repeating exams or modules, transferring to a new institution from one that has lost its Tier 4 Sponsor status, applying to complete a PhD that you began under a previous Student Visa, or studying for a new qualification at a higher academic level.
As with many other visas, you will be expected to demonstrate that you can communicate effectively in English - which you can do either by taking an approved test, or through having come from certain English-speaking countries or have studied in the UK as a child. There are further conditions applying to Tier 4 (Child) student visas if you are aged between 4 and 17 years old, and you intend to study at an independent school in the UK.