The UK operates a points-based immigration system for all visas and work permits, with Tier 4 relating to students. Different Tier 4 applications are available for adults and children (aged 17 and under). 

You need 40 points to gain immigration permission to study in the UK. 30 points are allocated for evidence of sufficient funds and 10 points for a valid CAS (confirmation of acceptance of studies) from a UK Border Agency-licensed sponsor, the sponsor being the educational institution. 

In order to receive a Tier 4 visa, you will need to prove that you have money for the course fees, unless you have already paid them. If you are studying for under a year you will need to show them the full fees. You also need to show that you can support yourself financially for maintenance or living expenses. You will have to demonstrate that you have £600 per month (£800 per month if you are living in London) for up to a maximum of nine months. 

Money can be held in your bank account or the bank account of a parent or legal guardian. Funds must remain in the relevant account for at least 28 days never falling below the amount required. The end of the 28-day period should not be more than one month before your course starts. Some money that you have paid to your institution directly for course fees or accommodation costs may be able to be deducted from the total required. 

Students also have to declare that they will continue to hold the maintenance funds to support themselves, and this may be checked. The UK Border Agency also keeps lists of financial institutions that are unsuitable for providing financial evidence; using a bank that is not approved will mean you won’t get the required points for funding. 

Prospective student visa

Some universities like potential students to attend an interview. In this case, a visit to the UK on a prospective student visa might be required. This gives you the opportunity to come to the UK for up to six months in order to complete arrangements for study. If you have already been offered an unconditional place which you intend to accept, then you should apply under Tier 4 of the points-based system. 

You should already have made contact with institutions and have an idea of the type and purpose of your studies. You will have to show that studies will commence within six months. Once in the UK, you may then wish to switch to Tier 4. Tier 4 extensions can be made from within the UK. 

Applying for your student visa

You cannot enter the UK until a visa has been issued; since there are no guaranteed timescales for processing, the UK Border Agency advises against making confirmed or non-flexible travel plans until a visa is received. Processing times vary depending on where you apply from, however it should be fairly speedy; no more than 40 days, and more likely to be around 20. Processing times are likely to be longer in the summer months due to all the university courses starting in September, so allow a little extra time for this. The Tier 4 visa costs £255. 

To apply you will need to take along:

  • passport or travel document
  • fee in local currency
  • biometic details, including fingerprints and a digital photograph, taken at a British visa centre
  • passport-sized photograph
  • documents specified in the Tier 4 guidance, which may include originals of certificates and bank statements, and English translations if the documents are not in English.