Overview of the different UK student visa categories

Overview of the different UK student visa categories

This page describes the different UK immigration categories for students, to help you decide which is the most appropriate for you. It also explains how a Tier 4 applicant should apply to study a ‘pre-sessional course’.

Student categories

Category Who can apply?
Tier 4 (Child) You can apply as a child student under Tier 4 of our points-based system if you are between 4 and 17 years old. If you are between 4 and 15 years old, you must be coming to the UK to be educated at an independent fee-paying school.
Child visitor You can apply as a child visitor if you are under 18 years old and you want to come and study in the UK for up to 6 months.While you are in the UK as a child visitor, you cannot ‘switch’ and apply to extend your stay as a Tier 4 (Child) student. If you want to study here under Tier 4 (Child), you will need to leave the UK and apply from the country where you live.
Tier 4 (General) You can apply as an adult student under Tier 4 (General) of our points-based system if you are coming to the UK for your post-16 education.
Student visitor You can apply as a student visitor if you are at least 18 years old, you want to come and study in the UK for up to 6 months (or up to 11 months to take an English Language course), and you do not want to work while you are here.While you are in the UK as a student visitor, you cannot ‘switch’ and apply to extend your stay as a Tier 4 (General) student. If you want to study here under Tier 4 (General) , you will need to leave the UK and apply from the country where you live.
Prospective student You can apply as a prospective student if you want to come to the UK to help you finalise the arrangements for your Tier 4 course of study (for example, by attending an interview at a university which has made you a conditional offer).You will be able to switch into the Tier 4 (General) or Tier 4 (Child) category while you are in the UK.

Students aged 16 or 17 who want to study here for more than 6 months

If you are 16 or 17 years old, you and your approved education provider (also known as your sponsor) should agree whether you should apply under Tier 4 (General) or Tier 4 (Child) of the points-based system.

If you will be studying a course below National Qualification Framework level 3, you must apply under Tier 4 (Child).

If your course is at National Qualification Framework level 3 (or equivalent) or above and is longer than 2 years, we recommend that you apply under Tier 4 (General).

If you want to study for an English Language qualification at or above level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), you must apply under Tier 4 (General).

If you are applying to study in the UK under Tier 4 of the points, based system, you can also apply to study an intensive English language course, or any other course, to prepare you for your main course of study here.

Pre-sessional courses

A pre-sessional course is a short course (such as an intensive English Language course) to prepare a Tier 4 student for their main course of study. If you want to study a pre-sessional course before your main Tier 4 course, you must apply for permission to study the pre-sessional course.

If you have an unconditional offer of a place on your main course of study, UKBA may grant you a visa or permission to remain which covers both your pre-sessional course and your main course. UKBA will only do this if your pre-sessional course will be:

  • with the same education provider as your main course; or
  • with a partner institution named on your education provider’s sponsor licence.

Your education provider will need to assign you a single confirmation of acceptance for studies that covers both the pre-sessional course and the main course. The pre-sessional course must end no more than 1 month before the main course starts.

If you only have a conditional offer of a place on your main course of study, or if your pre-sessional course provider is separate from your main course provider, you must first apply to UKBA for permission to take the pre-sessional course. If you successfully complete the pre-sessional course, you can apply from inside the UK to extend your stay under Tier 4 and study your main course.

The text above is an adaptation of the contents on the UKBA website and is correct as at 5 August 2012. Remember, immigration law is complex and subject to continuous change. The information provided here may be out of date, or just based on personal experience/knowledge. The use of these pages is therefore entirely at your own risk. Before applying for any type of visas, you should always seek information from the authorities direct via their official websites. You will find some useful website details on our Links page.

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