Applying for a Student visa in the UK can be an exciting prospect, especially if you’re coming from far across the globe and experiencing Western Europe for the first time. The ease with which you can cross the channel into France and have all Schengen area countries at your doorstep is very enticing, but which countries are you allowed to visit? Does having a UK Student visa open up more doors for you than before?
Your Rights in the UK as a Student Visa Holder
When you apply for a Student visa to the UK, you need to submit several documents with your online application, including evidence of sufficient finances to cover your stay, pay the application fee and the immigration health surcharge (IHS). Paying the fees and providing your documents does not guarantee you will receive a Student visa, and the Home Office can still refuse your application, however, they will send you a letter explaining their decision if they do.
If your application is successful, your passport which you will have had to send to your nearest UK Visa Application Centre (VAC), will be returned to you with a vignette sticker printed inside your passport. Most countries will have a centre, however, some may have to post them to nearby countries, such as people in Antigua and Barbuda will have to send theirs to Barbados. This sticker will allow you to enter the UK, where you can then collect your biometric residence permit (BRP).
The biometric residence permit will detail your rights in the UK, including how long you can stay, and whether you are permitted to study or work in the UK. You can collect this permit from a Post Office branch, or you can decide to have it sent to your sponsor who can hand it to you when you arrive. Your sponsor will be your supervisor at the educational institute which has offered you a place to study and given you your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies) which enables you to come to the UK to study.
A biometric residence permit does not give you the same rights as UK citizens or permanent residents, so you should check what permissions you have before attempting to work in the UK or travel from the UK.
Working on a Student Visa in the UK
While in the UK as an international student, you can work part-time while you carry out your studies, however, there are restrictions on what jobs you can take on and what hours you can work.
International students cannot be:
- Self-employed or freelancers
- Business owners
- Professional sportspeople, including sports coaches
- Entertainers, including actors, musicians, dancers and performers. There is an exception for university students of dance, drama and music on work placements.
- Doctors or dentists in training
In any other profession, students studying below degree level may work up to 10 hours a week during term time, and full time in official course holidays, while students studying at degree level and above may work up to 20 hours a week during term time and full-time during official course holidays.
Full-time for those aged under 18 is up to 40 hours a week and no more than 8 hours a day, while full-time is up to 48 hours a week for over 18s in the UK. If you work more than your permitted hours during term time, you will risk having your visa rescinded and asked to leave the country.
Your term dates will be decided by your university and you must adhere to these when working or travelling as an international student.
Travelling on a Student Visa in the UK
When travelling as an international student with a UK Student visa, you cannot travel during term time unless you have explicit permission from your educational institute, for example, to attend a course or school trip which is integral to your studies, or to attend a funeral. You should keep your permission letter on you when you do travel from the UK to avoid any issues at border control when you return. If travelling outside of term time, you should also keep your university handbook with you to show your institute’s official term dates if required.
Although when you obtain your Student visa you will be given a biometric residence permit, this permit does not grant you the same rights as permanent residents in the UK or UK citizens, so your travel rights will be largely determined by your nationality. Having a UK Student visa may help your applications for travel visas, but it does not guarantee you successful visa applications.
The UK is not part of the EU or the Schengen Area, so even though British nationals can enjoy visa-free travel to the EU for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, if you wish to travel to Italy, Germany or France, for example, and are not a British, Irish, EU or EEA citizen, you must obtain a visa before trying to enter.
Within the UK there are four nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as some islands including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. You may visit each of these locations without needing an extra visa if you have a Student visa for the UK. To visit any British overseas territories such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, you might need a visa, depending on your nationality.
Visiting Ireland on a UK Student Visa
The Republic of Ireland, or Southern Ireland, is a different country to Northern Ireland which forms part of the UK. So unless you are exempt from a visa due to your nationality, you will require a visa to enter Ireland and cannot visit Ireland with a UK Student visa.
The UK and Ireland have a visa agreement for nationals from certain countries so if you have a Short-Term Standard Visitor visa for the UK, you may also visit Ireland within the time given to you on your visa, and vice versa.
UK, EU and EEA citizens do not need a visa to enter Ireland or to work or study within Ireland.
Switching from a Student Visa to a Work Visa
If you are living and studying in the UK with a Student visa, you may wish to stay longer and continue to work in the UK. Fortunately, you can switch your Student visa to a Work visa, providing you either:
- Have completed your course
- Will start your job after your course ends
- Have studied for a doctorate for at least 24 months
There are several types of Work visas in the UK, which you apply for depends on which industry your job offer is for. The most common type of Work visa to switch to is the Skilled Worker visa, formerly known as the Tier 2 Work visa. To apply for this visa, you’ll need a job offer from an eligible sponsor (the Home Office must have approved their licence to sponsor international workers) for a job on the list of eligible occupations and for your proposed job to meet the minimum salary requirements for that position.
New UK Visa Regulations
As of 1 January 2024, changes have come in regarding which Student visa holders can bring their family members to the UK with them, in an effort to curb immigration to the UK. Now, only PhD candidates may bring their partners and children with them.
In Spring 2024, there are also plans to raise the minimum salary for skilled workers to £29,000 a year, with plans to raise it to £38,700 in the future. So if you wish to apply for a Skilled Worker visa, make sure you keep an eye on the news – or get the help of a visa agency.
Synergy Immigration Solutions – Get Help with Your Visa
If you’re planning to come to the UK and need help getting your visa, or are already in the UK and wish to change your visa, get the help you need from Synergy Immigration Solutions!