Understanding Your Child’s Visa Application

If your child is moving to the UK to study, it’s vital that you understand the visa application process. Mistakes in the visa process may mean that your child misses their chance to study, so you’ll need to get it right.

These visa restrictions only apply to those outside the EU. However, even if you’re in the EU, it’s worth keeping up to date on the visa regulations, as it may be that these rules change as part of the Brexit process.

There are 2 different types of student visas: tier 4 (general) student visas, for those who are studying a full course in the UK, and short term study visas, for those undertaking courses up to 6 months long.

Tier 4 (General) Student Visas

What you’ll need:

To be eligible to apply for a tier 4 student visa, you’ll need to have the following:

An unconditional offer of a place on a course with a licensed tier 4 sponsor
Enough money to support yourself, and to pay for your course
A Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number. Your education provider should send you this once they’ve offered you your place

The way you’ll prove your income may differ depending on the course you’re studying and where you’re coming to the UK from.

You may also need to prove your knowledge of the English language. This is usually done through passing a secure English language test (SELT).

You don’t need to prove your knowledge of the English language if you’ve already completed a qualification equivalent to a UK degree in a range of eligible countries, including the USA, Australia and Ireland. You also won’t need to take a SELT if you’re a national of Canada or you’ve studied in the UK before as a tier 4 (child) student.


You’ll need to provide the following documents when you apply for a tier 4 (general) visa:

Current passport or other valid travel documentation
Proof that you can support yourself and pay for your course
If you’re under 18, proof of parental or other legal guardian consent and proof of your relationship with your parent or guardian
Tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where this is required
There may also be additional documents that are required depending on your circumstances
The process

The visa application process is online. You’ll need to ensure you fill out the online forms carefully with accurate information. Following this, you’ll usually need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre.

The wait times for a tier 4 visa can vary. Usually, you can pay extra to have your application processed faster, if you need this service.

Your education institution

Remember that your university or other higher education provider will support you with their process. You should be in close contact with their international office throughout this process, and ensure that you follow their instructions and advice.

Short term study visa

Short term study visas are available if you’re studying a short course that last 6 months or less, or if you’re undertaking an English Language course it can last for 11 months or less. You should get a decision on a short term study visa within 3 weeks.

Process and documents

The process for application for a short term study visa is similar to that for a tier 4. You’ll need to provide the following documents:

Current passport or other valid travel identification
Evidence that you can support yourself during your trip
Details of your travel plans including where you intend to stay
Tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where you have to take this test
If you’re under 18, contact details for at least one parent or guardian

Always refer to up-to-date guidance from the UK government before applying for a visa. You can find links on gov.uk.

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