For the reasons stated above, there are currently many foreign students studying in the United Kingdom today, many of which are students from Nigerian.
There are also so many more Nigerian students who understands the benefits of UK education, and also have the resources, but are unware of how to go about the process.
The benefits of studying in the UK are enormous, but this article will not be focusing on these benefits. Instead it will only be focusing on the immigration requirements.
Studying in a UK school is fact and not a fiction, but only for those with the requisite knowledge on how to navigate through the closely watched immigration huddles.
To study in the UK as a foreign student from the age of 18 years, first, you will require a mandatory entry clearance called Student Visa. You can opt for this visa category from the age of 16 years, but it is optional.
For students who are below the age of 16 years, there is another visa category which we have discussed in a separate article.
So, in summary, the Student Visa (SV) is a visa category for intending foreign students who are above the age of 16 years.
Note that the Student Visa allows you to travel to the UK for your studies, together with your partner/spouse and/or and children, and they can legally live in the UK with you throughout your study period.
UK Student Visa Requirements
The Student Visa is a new visa category which recently replaced the old Tier 4 (General) student visa during the visa recalibrations by the UK Visas and immigrations.
UK Visas & Immigrations have a set rules and requirements a Student Visa applicant must meet before the visa is granted. We will identify these requirements and provide brief descriptions for each of them.
- Age Requirement
You can apply for a Student Visa if you’re up to 16 years old and you want to study at an independent school in the UK.
This is particularly if you want to study a Level 3 course or a course of study that is graded above Level 3 in accordance to UK`s Regulated Qualifications Framework.
If you are aged below 16 years, then you are not qualified for the Student Visa category. To study in the UK at any age below 16 years (but not less than 4years), you should apply for a Child Student Visa instead.
However, if you are aged 16 or 17, you could make a choice between the two. That is to say, you can choose between the Child Student Visa or the Student Visa.
So, while age 16 is the minimum age for a UK Student Visa, inversely there is no maximum age, after which you are no longer qualified for the visa category.
- Type of School
Another requirement is that you must apply to study in an independent school. The independent schools in the UK are what we refer to as private schools in Nigeria.
As a foreign student you are not permitted to study in any UK government maintained schools, which are the category of schools that are referred to as government/public schools in Nigeria.
It is also important to note that the independent school you are applying to must be one already approved by the UK Home Office as Sponsor for foreign students.
Not all independent schools in the UK have been approved by the UK Home Office. So, to be sure, you will need to demand for the license number of the school as a student Sponsor, then confirm that they are included in the register of approved Student Sponsors.
- Type of Admission Offer
Another important requirement for the SV is that you must have an unconditional offer of a place on an approved course of study from an independent school, which is a licensed Student Sponsor.
In practice most schools will initially give a conditional offer of a place for studies, i.e. a conditional admission. When your admission is conditional, it presupposes that there are still things you are required to do to earn the admission.
These might include payment of admission deposit and submission of some extra documentation to the school, after which your admission will now be confirmed (made unconditional).
- Type of Course of Study
Particular reference to approved course of study indicates that not all courses are accepted for a UK Student Visa. Only courses within the following conformation are permitted for a Student Visa:
- A full-time course that leads to a qualification below degree level (RQF level 3, 4 or 5) with at least 15 hours per week of organised daytime study;
- A full-time course that leads to a qualification that is at degree level or above (RQF level 6, 7 or 8);
- A full-time course that is at degree level or above (RQF level 6,7 or 8), that is equivalent to a UK higher education course and is being delivered as part of a longer course overseas;
- A part-time course leading to a qualification that is above degree level (RQF level 7 or above);
- A recognised foundation programme for postgraduate doctors or dentists (if you have finished a recognised UK degree in medicine or dentistry, received that degree from a registered student sponsor and spent your final year and at least one other year of studies leading to that degree in the UK);
- An English language course at level B2 or above in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
- Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
Next is the requirement for a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) letter. Having met the above other requirements, your Sponsor (school of study) will issue you the CAS letter.
The CAS letter will contain certain information including details of the course to be studied, the cost of accommodation if you are staying in school accommodation, the tuition fees and any payment already made.
The CAS letter must not have been used in a previous application which was either granted or refused and the education institution must not have withdrawn its offer.
In other words, the CAS letter can only be used once for a visa application. The CAS letter has a reference number which must be quoted correctly in the SV application form.
Also, after receiving your Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies letter, you must apply for your Student Visa within 6 months of receiving it.
- Financial Requirement
You must have enough fund to pay for your tuition, all costs associated with your course of study and to support yourself at least for one academic year (up to 9 months), without relying on public funds.
How much money you need depends on your circumstances and what course you are applying for. The amount you need to pay will be on your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).
How much money you need in total upkeeps depends on where you will live/study in the UK. For this purpose, studying in a school within or outside London have different cost implications. These are as follows:
- £1,334 per month (for up to 9 months) if you’re studying in London
- £1,023 per month (for up to 9 months) if you’re studying outside of London
Note that London means the City of London and the 32 London boroughs. Anything outside of the 32 boroughs is considered outside London for the purpose of cost calculation.
If you’re boarding at a residential independent school, you’ll need to pay boarding fees instead. The amount you need to pay will be on your CAS.
You must be able to show prove of this fund in accordance to permitted terms and conditionality by the UK Visas & immigrations.
In other words, you must prove you have the required fund in full in your personal bank account or in any financial instrument in your personal name for at least 28 consecutive days. The end date of the 28-day period must be within 31 days of the date you apply for your visa.
For instance, if you are submitting your visa application on 1st of January 2021, you’d have to show that the funds were in your bank account for at least the 28-day period ending on 1st of December 2020.
If you have a student scholarship from government or company, then you’ll need to provide evidence of this scholarship. This will definitely be confirmed by the UK authorities.
- Financial Requirement if Travelling with Family
Your partner and children (‘dependents’) may be able to apply to come to the UK or stay longer in the UK, but you will be required to provide evidence of your relationship.
For this to apply you must be one of the following:
- a full-time student on a postgraduate level course (RQF level 7 or above) that lasts 9 months or longer;
- a new government-sponsored student on a course that lasts longer than 6 months;
- a Doctorate Extension Scheme student.
Your partner and child must each have a certain amount of money available to them. This is in addition to the money you must have to support yourself.
How much money they need depends on where you will be studying. They must have either:
- £845 a month (for up to 9 months) for courses in London
- £680 a month (for up to 9 months) for courses outside London
If you’re applying at the same time as your partner or child (you’re applying together as a family), you’ll need to prove you have the money to pay for your course and to support yourself and additional money for each of them.
If your partner or child is applying at a different time to you (they’re applying separately) they only need to prove they have money to support themselves.
You (or your partner or child) must have this money for at least 28 consecutive days. The end date of the 28th day period must be within 31 days of the date they apply for their visa.
If you have a student loan or financial sponsorship, you’ll need to provide evidence of this from your loan or sponsorship company. If your loan does not cover your partner or child, you’ll need to prove you have money to support them instead.
- Visa Fee and Healthcare surcharge
In addition to the above financial requirement, you’ll also have to pay the applicable visa fee and healthcare surcharge as part of your application.
How much you pay for healthcare surcharge depends on how long your visa lasts, while the visa fee depends on the applicable rate at the time of application.
- English Language Test
You must prove your knowledge of the English language when you apply. You must prove you can read, write, speak and understand English to a certain level.
The IELTS test is usually the medium used by Nigerians to prove the English Language Test, which must be from an approved provider in Nigeria.
However, in practice Nigerian students can meet this requirement if they can demonstrate to their Sponsor (school of study) that they have completed a qualification equivalent to a UK degree taught in English back home in Nigeria.
- Parental Consent
This is only required if you are applying for Student Visa between the age of 16 and 17 years. Then, you must have a written consent of your parent(s) or legal guardian, and this consent must be written in accordance to the required format and content.
In addition to confirmation of consent and sponsorship, the consent letter must indicate the course of study, the school and where you will be living in the UK.
Special Test for Students
For a Student Visa applicant who, the UK Visa and Immigration will require you to satisfy the genuine student requirement. For this purpose, you may be called for an interview to further establish the following:
- Your immigration history;
- Your education history;
- Your course of study and why you chose the course;
- Where you want to study and why you chose the school;
- Your reasons for studying in the UK;
- Your post study plans;
- Your personal and financial circumstances.
The above areas of interest will help the UK Home office assess whether you are a genuine student who is coming to the UK for the purpose of studies.
When to Submit Visa Application
The UK Home office advises that the earliest you can apply for a visa is 6 months before you start your course.
Adhering to this guideline is preferred as this will help you avoid the rush hour and possible extra costs for priority and fast tracked services.
After the successful submission of your visa application at the visa application center, you’ll usually get a decision within 3 weeks.
If your visa application form is correctly completed with all required details, and adequately packaged with all supporting documents, decision could be sooner within the 3 weeks` timeframe.
Earliest Time You Can Travel to UK
If you are successful with your visa application, then you are allowed to travel to the UK up to 1 week (if your course lasts 6 months or less), or up to one month (if your course lasts more than 6 months) prior to the commencement of your studies.
How long you can stay in the UK
How long you can stay depends on the length of your course. Note however that you may eligible to extend your stay beyond the actual initial permissible length of stay with your Student Visa.
You may also be eligible for the Graduate Visa category after completion of your course of study. This will afford you greater opportunities and chances of settlement in the UK.
Working in the UK as a Student
You may be able to work, but how much you can work depends on what you’re studying and whether you’re working in or out of term-time (during school session or vacation period).
If you are a Student following a full-time course of study at degree level or above, then you will be permitted to work 20 hours per week during term-time and full-time outside of term-time.
If you are a Student undertaking a full-time course of study below degree level, then you will be permitted to work 10 hours per week during term-time and full-time outside of term-time.
All other Students, including part-time Students, are not permitted to work.
Student Visa requirements are generally the same for all applicants, but circumstances may vary from one person to another, which may warrant specific requirements for some individuals.
The supporting documents for satisfying the requirements are also relative. So, the exact requirements you will need to satisfy the UK Visas & immigration may differ in some cases, depending on your circumstances.
To be sure of what you really need for your Student Visa application, you may need to seek professional advice from an immigration lawyer.
In other to brighten your chances of success at first attempt, and reduce to chances of need for review/appeal, it is advisable you speak with in an immigration lawyer before you apply.