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UK Student Visa: How to Study Abroad in the UK from India

Every year Indian students are drawn to the benefits of studying in the United Kingdom. There are a host of degree options in cosmopolitan cities like Edinburgh, Cardiff, Manchester, and, of course, London.

In 2021, there were around 55,000 Indian students studying at UK universities, with many enrolled at some of the UK's top business schools.

It's no surprise. In London alone you have top institutions like London Business School and Imperial College Business School, which offer degrees ranked among the best in the world.

But, if you're in India and want to join the swelling ranks of Indian students looking to study abroad in the UK, you'll have to get a student visa. Though it may seem daunting, the UK student visa process isn't impossible, especially if you know what to expect.

Here's everything you need to know when it comes to studying abroad in the UK, from which UK student visa you'll need to the benefits of studying at a higher education institution in the UK.

Why Should International Students Study in the UK?

The United Kingdom is one of the most popular destinations for international students, and even more so for those looking to study business. But why do students travel from all across the world to study in the UK?

Prestigious Universities

UK universities regularly top the rankings of the best in the world, and the same goes for their business schools.

In fact, London Business School and University of Cambridge Judge Business School both feature in the top 20 MBAs in the world, while London Business School and Imperial College Business School are both in the global top 10 for Masters in Management degrees.

Language

It's much easier for international students to study in the UK than other countries precisely because English is the country's first language. This means you don't need to worry about learning another European language in order to live and work here.

However, you will need a certain level of English in order to study at UK universities - more on that later.

Global Cities

The UK has some of the world's most exciting cities, filled with world-renowned culture, cuisine, and nightlife.

Top of the list, of course, is London, which draws well over 100,000 international students every year from all around the world. There's a reason it's so popular - not only is it home to some of the best museums in the world (like the Natural History Museum and National Gallery), but it's a diverse city where, as a student, you can explore riverside walks and street markets by day and lively bars and theatre shows by night.

However, it's not all about London. Manchester is renowned for its music scene and affordability, while Edinburgh offers a unique Scottish cultural escape alongside top-ranked universities.

Bucket List Travel Destinations

For travelers, the UK offers a diverse range of sights, so you can make the most of your time studying abroad.

The country is home to breathtaking natural sights like the Lake District and the Highlands, as well as charming beach resorts like Brighton and Torquay. If you catch a break from studying, there's plenty to do.

Diversity

Compared with other study destinations like the US, the UK boasts a huge international population at its universities. You'll meet people from all over the world, as well as from the other countries that make up the United Kingdom: Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

To see the extent of internationality in the UK, just look at some of the most popular MBA programs. At London Business School, their MBA cohort is comprised of 67 nationalities; at Cambridge Judge, there are 45 nationalities represented on the MBA.

Career Opportunities

The UK offers a wealth of career opportunities once you've finished your business school program.

London is the centre of business in the UK, and here, you can pursue careers in finance, banking, consulting, marketing, or strategy. Elsewhere, Manchester has a large biotechnology sector, and Edinburgh is known for its engineering and energy industries.

Which UK Student Visa Do You Need?

If you're not a citizen of the UK, to study in the UK you will need to apply for a student visa. You have a couple of visa options depending on your age and circumstances.

If you've already been accepted and have a place at a business school or other UK educational institution for a full course of study, and are over 18, you need to get the UK's Student Visa – this has replaced the Tier 4 (General) student visa.

If you're already studying elsewhere in the world, but have an exchange as part of your degree and wish to study at a higher education institution in the UK for a period of time, you'll need a Standard Visitor visa. This short-term visitor visa which permits you to study in the UK for up to six months.

Are you 16 or 17 years old and wish to study at an independent school in the UK? Then the Child Student Visa applies.

You shouldn't have much trouble securing your visa – the UK government accepts 96 percent of applications for UK student visas from Indian students.

How Much is a Student Visa for International Students?

As with other student visas, the cost of a UK visa isn't necessarily cheap, and you will have to pay a hefty application fee upfront.

The visa application fee if you're applying from outside the UK is £348. If you're already living in the UK and need to switch from your current visa to a UK study visa it will cost you £490.

However, that's not the only fee that's involved in the visa application process. You'll also have to pay an immigration healthcare surcharge when you apply, which costs £470 per year of your visa. The healthcare cost is less if you are applying from inside the UK – £235.

If your student visa is for six months or less – for example, if you have a short-term Standard Visitor visa – you do not have to pay the healthcare surcharge.

UK Study Visa Requirements

As an international student, you'll need to have prepared some documents to complete your visa application. These form part of the UK study visa requirements.

Firstly, you'll need proof in the form of an acceptance letter that you've been accepted on a UK-based degree. This is called a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies CAS. The school will also provide you with a visa letter which needs to have been issued within the previous six months.

You'll also need to provide a valid passport or other travel document. Once you have assembled your documents, you can fill in the online visa application form on the UK government's visa website, which you'll then have to print and sign.

Here's a complete list of the supporting documents that are required for your UK study visa application, including others that you may need to provide:

  • Acceptance for Studies CAS form
  • Valid current passport
  • Proof that you have enough money to support yourself
  • A valid ATAS certificate
  • Proof of parental consent if you're under 18
  • Tuberculosis test results
  • Written consent from your financial sponsor

English Language Proficiency Requirements for UK Student Visa

When applying for a student visa in the UK, you'll be asked to prove your proficiency in English. If you're applying for any degree above bachelor's level, you need to be able to prove that your skills are at least a B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

It doesn't matter how you have learnt English - for example, you may have taken an English language course in India, attended an international school, or be self-taught. However, the UK government will ask for proof that you have the suitable level of English skills to study at a university or business school in the UK.

You can prove your English language proficiency by providing a Secure English Language Test (SELT) result with your student visa application. Your SELT exam has to be from an approved English language test provider; this includes:

  • PSI Services (UK) Ltd
  • IELTS SELT Consortium
  • LanguageCert
  • Pearson

How Much Money Do I Need To Apply for a Student Visa?

Unfortunately, the UK visa application also includes a stipulation about finances. To be eligible for a student visa, you must be able to prove that you have enough money to support yourself during your course, including the cost of tuition fees. This eligibility criteria doesn't apply if you have been living in the UK in the last 12 months before your course starts.

Firstly, you need to show that you can pay for your course. Your total tuition fee will be stated on your Acceptance for Studies CAS form, in case you're unsure.

Secondly, you will need to prove that you have enough money to pay for living costs during your studies.

If you're studying outside of London, the required amount to cover living expenses is £1,023 per month and £9,207 for nine months. For those studying in the pricier capital, proposed living costs are £1,334 per month, or £12,006 for nine months.

This requirement also doesn't apply if you're applying for a position as a student union sabbatical officer at your chosen university.

How Long is the UK Student Visa Process?

You should aim to start the application process as early as possible. If you're applying for a student visa from outside the UK, the earliest you can apply is six months before your course start date. If you're applying from inside the UK, it's three months.

Remember that you can start your visa application as soon as you receive your offer letter or acceptance letter from a UK university or business school. It's worth getting it sorted as soon as you can, as during busy periods, visa processing can take some time.

Typically, though, processing your UK visa application will take up to three working weeks (15 days). Your UK visa application centre may also offer 'priority' or 'super priority' processing, meaning you could get a decision within five working days or by the end of the next working day.

If you're applying with family members, priority or super priority visa processing will cost you an additional £500 or £800 per family member, respectively.

Do I Need to Do a Visa Interview?

Not everyone will be required to attend a student visa interview, but you might. Outside the UK, you'll take this interview at a local visa application center via a video.

During the interview, a UK Visas and Immigration will ask about your academic background and why you want to study in the UK. The interview isn't something you should be worried about - they simply want to know that you are genuine about your desire to study in the UK.

They may also ask you about how you will finance your studies and living expenses, where your permanent residence will be, and why you chose a particular UK college or education provider.

How to Apply for a UK Student Visa from India

Applying for a UK student visa from India isn't difficult – most of the process can be completed online, including paying the application fee. On the UK government website, you will submit digital versions of your UK student visa requirements like your passport and CAS.

However, to verify your identify, you will also be required to give some biometric information at your local visa application center. This includes fingerprints and photographs.

After you have submitted your application, you may be contacted by the UK Visas and Immigration department to verify some information on your application. At this point, you may be asked for things like financial documents like information about your bank account, or simply to clarify something on your application.

If your application is successful, you will be issued with a biometric residence permit. This important document will include information about you and your immigration status.

If you completed the application process for a student visa from outside the UK, you will have to collect your biometric residence permit when you arrive in the UK. You should do this before the date specified on the vignette sticker in your travel documents or within 10 days, whichever is sooner.

Does a UK Student Visa Cover Your Family?

If you're looking to bring your family along with you, then it's good news. If you're on the UK's student visa, your dependents may be able to travel with you.

You'll need to fill out separate application forms for each family member you intend to bring with you and pay a fee each time. You'll also need to show extra proof of funds to cover your dependents while you study. This amounts to an additional £680 per month if you're outside of London, or £845 if you're in London.

When Can I Arrive in the UK with a Student Visa?

With a UK student visa, you are allowed to travel to the UK before your higher education course officially starts.

If your course lasts six months or less, you can travel to the UK no earlier than one week before the start date of your course. For courses lasting longer than six months (which will be the case for most degree level courses), you can travel no earlier than one month before the start date of your course.

Does a UK Student Visa Allow International Students to Work While Studying?

Your ability to work alongside your degree will depend on the program you've chosen. Some schools advise against working while completing your studies as on an intensive, full-time Master's or MBA course you may struggle to keep up with the workload alongside work.

If you would like to work as you study, your UK student visa allows for 20-hours per week during term time. This extends to a full-time basis during vacation periods including Christmas and the summer break.

Degree-related work such as internships, apprenticeships, or work-experience, is not counted under these conditions. You're also allowed to work as a student union sabbatical officer for up to two years without compromising the terms of your visa.

However, you may not work as self-employed or as a professional sportsperson or entertainer. Any job you do take must be on a temporary basis - you cannot hold a permanent contract on a student visa.

How Long Do Student Visas Last?

Your visa will typically cover the length of your program, with an extra month added on after you graduate. You may also be required to renew your visa for each year that you're studying; check with the UK immigration service before the first year of your course ends if this is the case.

You're typically allowed to stay in the UK for up to five years if your course is at degree level. If your course isn't at degree level, your student visa will typically last for up to two years.

What Happens When My Student Visa Expires?

You should plan what you want to do when your student visa expires well in advance, as you cannot apply for another visa when your student visa expires. If this happens, you will have overstayed your student visa and may be asked to leave the UK.

If you're looking to stay on and work after graduation, you'll have to apply for a post study work visa.

The UK's Graduate Route allows you to stay in the UK for two years and look for jobs. This visa costs £715, plus a healthcare surcharge of £624 per year. With the Graduate Visa, you are free to look for work, work in most jobs, be self-employed, or do voluntary work. You may also travel abroad and return to the UK on the Graduate Visa.

Graduate Visa cannot be renewed, but you may be able to transition to a Skilled Worker visa – this replaced the old Tier 2 (General) work visa – once the two years are up. This can last up to five years before you need to renew.

Can I Apply for Another UK Student Visa?

You can extend your UK student visa if you have applied for another degree in the UK.

This costs £490, plus another immigration healthcare surcharge payment. However, there are a few requirements.

Firstly, your second degree must be at a higher level than your current one. For example, you may extend your student visa to go from a bachelor's degree to a master's degree.

Additionally, you must have an unconditional offer letter from your new course, whether this is at the same university you currently study at or a different one.

You can start the process of extending your UK student visa anytime from three months before your new course starts, which must be within 28 days of the expiration date on your current student visa. If you are living in the UK with a partner or children, they will have to apply separately to extend their visas.

How to Have the Best Chance of Securing a UK Student Visa from India

As we've mentioned, one of the main benefits of studying in the UK is the quality of education. London Business School, Imperial College Business School, Warwick Business SchoolOxford's Saïd Business School, and Cambridge's Judge Business School were all recently ranked among the top 20 business schools in Europe by the Financial Times.

Schools also have incredibly diverse classrooms, with many boasting more than 85% international students. There are also an array of industries you can enter after graduating, from finance in London to the burgeoning tech scene in cities like Manchester, Leeds, and Glasgow. 

So, how do you stand the best chance of tapping into that?

To secure your student visa you'll first need to be accepted by a UK business school, which must be a recognized university or higher education institution. So, you'll need to present a strong application, complete with good academic qualifications and solid work experience bolstered by reference letters and essays.

A key part of the admissions process is the GMAT™ exam, which measures your verbal, math, and critical reasoning skills. And while business schools will assess your application holistically, getting a good GMAT score puts you in a strong position to succeed in the admissions process, land a place at business school, and secure your visa.

UK Student Visa Application Top Tips

Finally, here are our top tips for navigating the UK visa application process:

  • Gather any documents required in advance and apply early - this will ensure you have time to correct any mistakes in your application
  • Complete your English language proficiency exam in good time, preferably before you've received a confirmation of acceptance to a course
  • Make sure you have all of your financial documents prepared, including having funds in your bank account for at least 28 days
  • Don't forget to collect your biometric residence permit when you arrive in the UK

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