What are the Changes to the UK Student Visa?

In 2020 the immigration system in the UK was given its biggest shake-up in many years. This included changes around the UK Student Visa in October, formerly known as the Tier 4 (General) Student Visa.

You may be asking yourself what has changed for international students in the UK. In this quick blog post, we will set out everything you need to know about the new ‘Student Route’.

What Do I Need to Know?

The UK Student Visa has officially changed in name from Tier 4 (General) Student Visa to the Student Visa. You might also see it named as the ‘Student Route’.

In October, the following changes to the UK Student Visa were announced:

  • As of January 2021, EEA citizens (apart from Irish citizens) will need to apply for a Student Visa to study in the UK, just as non-EEA citizens need to
  • You must score at least 70 points on the new points-based system
  • You can apply for your course up to six months before your course start date, rather than three
  • As of the summer of 2021, you can remain in the UK and look for work for two years after you graduate, or for three years as a PhD graduate

You can still bring family members with you to the UK under the new Student Visa. Also, you can work 20 hours per week during term time and work full-time outside of term time.

What are the Main Requirements for a UK Student Visa?

The main requirements around the Student Visa are similar to the old Tier 4 (General) Student Visa. Student Visa applicants need to:

  • Have an unconditional offer from an approved sponsoring institution
  • Be taking a course which leads to an approved qualification at an appropriate level of study
  • Have relevant academic qualifications needed to take the course
  • Genuinely intend to study in the UK
  • Can financially support yourself in the UK
  • Can speak, write, read and understand English to the required standard, which is usually B2 level (unless exempt)

Meeting the 70 Points Requirement

You can meet the minimum points threshold of 70 points through having an unconditional offer of study from an approved educational establishment, through having certain financial means and being able to understand and communicate in English to a certain level (unless you are from an exempt country).

50 points: Receiving a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies

With a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies, you will be able to demonstrate that you have met the minimum course requirement, qualification requirement, level of study requirement and place of study requirement.

10 points: Financial requirements

You need to be able to prove that you have enough money to support yourself during your studies in the UK. Through doing so, you will accrue 10 points towards the 70-point threshold.

You will need:

  • £1,334 per for month (for up to nine months) if your course is in London
  • £1,023 per month (for up to nine months) if your course is outside of London

Also, if any family members (dependents) will be joining you in the UK, you must have:

  • £845 per month (for up to nine months) for courses in London for each family member
  • £680 per month (for up to nine months) for courses outside London for each family member

The financial requirements for those applying on the Doctorate Extension Scheme are as follows:

  • £2,668 per month (for up to nine months) if your course is in London
  • £2,046 per month (for up to nine months) if your course is outside of London

10 points: English language proficiency

If you are not from a majority English-speaking country, you will need to provide evidence that you are proficient in English. You will need to demonstrate that you can understand and communicate in English to the standard of B2 level as set by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Usually, you will need to take an English language test if you are not from a majority English-speaking country.

UK Student Visa Application Process

The application process itself runs as it did before the changes to the Tier 4 (General) Student Visa. You need to apply online for the Student Visa and provide documents and information to prove that you meet the eligibility criteria.

It still costs £348 for a Student Visa application made from outside the UK, and £475 to extend or switch to the Student Visa from inside the UK. You will also need to pay an annual immigration health surcharge. A 20% discount is given to students, meaning you will have to pay £470 per year for the surcharge.

The biggest difference with the application is that you can now apply for the visa up to six months before your course date, rather than three months before.

As part of the application, you will need to prove your identity. Most people can will be able to do this through the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app. You will need a biometric passport and compatible smartphone to do this. Otherwise, you will need to go to a Visa Application Centre to give your fingerprints and a photo (biometric information).

You will usually receive a decision on the new Student Visa application within three weeks.

Can I Stay in the UK After my Course Finishes?

One of the major changes of the new Student Visa is that graduates can now stay in the UK for a relatively long time to look for work after their studies.

The Graduate Visa enables you to stay in the UK and work or look for work for up to two years. PhD students can remain in the UK under the Graduate Visa for up to three years.

This visa route will open in the summer of 2021 for graduates of undergraduate degrees (or higher), provided they have complied with the immigration conditions of the Student Visa.

Whilst Brexit has changed the immigration landscape in the UK, this blog has shown that international students can still make the UK their home through meeting certain necessary conditions.

Written by
Richard Ballout