Child Student Visa

The UK has more than one Student visa, with the Child Student visa allowing young people from the age of 4 to 17 to come to the UK to study in independent schools. Independent schools are privately funded, also known as private or public schools, and have tuition fees paid for by the student’s families, not the government. 

There are a number of independent schools in the UK offering a high standard of education, so attending the schools is a privilege sought by many. Attending an independent school as a foreign student can also have a number of benefits. 

We’ll discuss everything you need to know about the Child Student visa, including what it is, how to apply and why your child may benefit from attending school in the UK.

Child Student Visa

About the Child Student Visa

The Child Student visa is a study visa offered by the UK government specifically for children aged 4 to 17 years old to attend independent, also known as private, schools in the UK. The visa allows students to live and study in the UK for the duration of their course. Their families cannot join them on a Child Student visa, so guardianship of foreign students must be sought when applying for this visa. 

Many independent schools in the UK are considered prestigious and often have excellent facilities, smaller class sizes, and a focus on extracurricular activities, which contribute to their reputation for providing a top-tier education. Additionally, attending a prestigious private school in the UK can provide networking opportunities and open doors to elite universities and careers. This can make attending an independent school in the UK very attractive for foreign students, so the Child Student visa was created in 2020 to allow young people to receive education in the UK. 

Students aged 18 or over must apply for a different visa, the Student visa, to attend universities or other educational institutions providing courses of the equivalent level.

Who Can Apply for the Child Student Visa?

Children aged from 4 to 17 years old from any country outside of the UK can apply for the Child Student visa. Children from the UK, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Ireland do not need to apply for a Child Student visa to study in the UK. 

Applicants must have permission from their parents (or guardians) to apply for this visa, and they must show their intention to return to their country of residence after their education in the UK by demonstrating their ties to their home country. 

Child Student visa applicants must also meet several other eligibility requirements to receive their visa.

Eligibility Criteria for the Child Student Visa

There is strict eligibility criteria for applicants of the UK Child Student visa that cover:

  • Age
  • Finances
  • Residence in home country
  • Guardian’s consent
  • Educational level
  • Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)

UK Child Student visa applicants must be between 4 and 17 years of age to apply for the visa. Those between 4 and 15 must be attending an independent school, while those aged 16 and 17 can attend further education classes at an independent school, but not a higher education institution such as a university. The student will also be required to pay their tuition fees and support themselves in the UK for the duration of their course, so they will have to meet strict financial requirements to be eligible for this visa. 

Applicants must also prove their intention to leave the UK after their education in the UK has come to an end. They must, therefore, show they have permanent residence in their home country, as well as other links to the country such as their family ties or further educational or career prospects at home. 

The legal guardian of the Child Student visa applicant must give their permission for the child to travel to and study in the UK. The application will also need to include details of the child’s travel arrangements, guardianship in the UK and financial arrangements. 

To apply for the Child Student visa, applicants must have an unconditional offer from an approved independent school with a sponsorship licence to be able to study there. They will receive a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) which they will need to submit with their application. 

The course must be the equivalent level of the national curriculum or Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 3 or above. The course can also not be lower than any qualifications the student has studied in their home country. 

The Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)

The Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) is a crucial document for international students applying for a Child Student visa in the UK. Essentially, it's a unique reference number that confirms an applicant's acceptance onto a course of study at a licenced sponsoring educational institution in the UK.

Without a CAS, applicants are ineligible to apply for the Child Student visa, as the CAS acts as official confirmation of admission, detailing essential information such as course title, level of study, start and end dates, tuition fees and sponsor's details. The CAS is issued by the sponsoring institution when they have received evidence that the applicant meets their eligibility criteria to study on their course, including their age and finances, as well as proficiency in the English language and sufficient school grades to attend the course. 

Moreover, the CAS facilitates tracking and monitoring of students by providing a unique reference number, allowing authorities to monitor students' visa application progress and their activities while studying in the UK. 

Financial Requirements for the Child Student Visa

To ensure the child can complete their studies as well as remain housed, fed and have any other needs taken care of while in the UK, each applicant must be able to meet certain financial requirements to be able to apply for the Child Student visa. 

Applicants can either pay their course fees up front, or show financial statements proving they have sufficient funds to pay their course fees each year that they’re in the UK. Academic years are up to 9 months long. 

Child students will also need to show they have sufficient funds to cover their living expenses while in the UK as most parents or guardians cannot come to the UK with them on this visa, so other arrangements will need to be made. Parents wishing to accompany their children to the UK would need to apply for the Parent of a Child Student visa, which is only available to one parent whose child is aged between 4 and 11 years old. 

There are different financial requirements depending on the living situation of the student, i.e. if they are:

  • Living with their parent or guardian
  • Living at their educational institution (e.g. boarding school)
  • Living independently
  • Living with a close relative, foster carer or other allocated guardian in the UK
  • Exempt from financial requirements

Where a specific sum of money is required, the total must be shown in a bank account for at least 28 consecutive days before the application is made to demonstrate the student will have access to it once in the UK.

Living with a Parent or Guardian

If child students are aged from 4 to 11 and living with their parent, they must be able to show they have at least £1,560 available per month for both the parent and child for the duration of the course. Any additional siblings who are also in the UK on Child Student visas will require an additional £625 each per month for living costs.

Living at an Educational Institution

When attending a boarding school, the school will ask for boarding fees as well as tuition fees. Boarding fees will cover the student’s living costs, including laundry expenses and meals. Applicants will need to show they have sufficient funds to cover these costs, which differ from school to school but will be outlined in the CAS.

Living Independently

Children aged 16 and 17 can live independently while studying in the UK, however, they must prove they have at least:

  • £1,023 per month available if living outside of London
  • £1,334 per month available in living in London

Living with a Relative or Carer

Child students can also live with a close relative in the UK who has British citizenship or indefinite leave to remain (also known as permanent residency or settled status). The relative or carer must be able to show they have at least £570 per month available to support the child student for the academic year to cover their living expenses.

Exemptions

Some Child Student visa applicants may be exempt from meeting the financial requirement.

Reasons for exemption include:

  • Students extending their visa after having spent at least 12 months in the UK on a valid visa
  • Students who are from an exempted country

Exempted countries include British Overseas Territories, British nationals living overseas, and permanent residents from any of the following countries and territories:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahrain
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Botswana
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Bulgaria
  • Cambodia
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China
  • Croatia
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • The Dominican Republic
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kuwait
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macau (also known as Macao)
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Oman
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States of America

You may still be asked to provide financial information after submitting your application even if you’re from one of these states, in which case, you’ll be contacted by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

What You Can and Can’t Do with the Child Student Visa?

The Child Student visa is predominantly a study visa, however, visa holders will have other opportunities available to them while in the UK - although some are only permitted for students over 16. 

Child Student visa holders can (and must) study on an eligible course at a licenced sponsoring independent school in the UK. They can also participate in any extracurricular activities offered by the school, such as sports clubs, art clubs, social gatherings and other activities that are organised to encourage integration, socialisation and further support the children’s studies and interests. 

International students can also travel to and from the UK, to their home country and other countries as they please outside of term time. Term time will be set at the beginning of each academic year, and child students must attend their classes to maintain their visa status. 

They can, however, leave the country if necessary in urgent situations, such as to attend a funeral, if they can provide their school with evidence and receive written permission from the school to miss classes for a certain period. Permission from their school will allow easy passage to and from the UK and maintain their visa status. 

Child Student visa holders may also not receive any state funds (known as benefits), apply to settle in the UK, or bring any dependants to the UK with them. 

Child students under the age of 16 cannot work while studying in the UK. However, those aged 16 and 17 can work limited hours

Working While on a Child Student Visa

Child Student visa holders aged 16 and 17 may work while they study in the UK, as long as they adhere to the following restrictions:

  • They do not work more than 10 hours per week during term time
  • They do not work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week outside of term time
  • They only take fixed-term contracts (not permanent work)
  • They do not become self-employed
  • They do not work as professional sportspeople, including coaches, or entertainers

International students aged 16 and 17 may also complete work placements as part of their course, as long as it’s no more than 50% of the total course time.

Applying for the Child Student Visa

When you apply for your Child Student visa, you must first make sure you’re eligible and have all of your necessary supporting documents scanned or available as computer files so you can upload them with your application. All visa applications are completed online on the UK government website; you will have to complete the application, submit your documents and pay the relevant fees. 

Once you have completed the form and paid the application fee and IHS (immigration health surcharge), you’ll need to book an appointment with a visa application centre so you can provide your biometric information (fingerprints and portrait photograph) for your visa. In some cases, you can also submit any necessary paper documents at your appointment if you cannot submit them online. Your biometric information will be used to issue your biometric residence permit if your application is successful. If unsuccessful, you will receive a letter explaining the decision as well as your right to appeal for a review.

Supporting Documents for the Child Student Visa

Supporting documents are necessary to prove your eligibility for the visa. They should be official documents or those from reputable sources, such as banks, schools and doctors, depending on the type of evidence you are submitting.

You may be asked for additional documents based on your individual circumstances, however, when applying for a Child Student visa, you will have to provide:

  • Your current passport or other valid travel identity document
  • A signed and dated consent form or letter from your legal guardians detailing your travel, course and accommodation arrangements
  • Your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
  • Proof you have sufficient finances e.g. bank statements or letter of scholarship
  • Academic record of previous studies and grades
  • Details of accommodation

You may also be asked for other documents when applying for your visa such as the birth certificates of you and your parent if they are applying for a Parent of a Child Student visa to accompany you, or a criminal record certificate from your local police authority if you have committed or are suspected of having committed any crimes. 

Paying the Application Fee

The Child Student visa costs £490, however, applicants must also pay the immigration health surcharge (IHS) alongside their application. The IHS enables foreign nationals to access the National Health Service (NHS) during their stay in the UK, including hospitals and dental practices. The IHS cost is cheaper for children than adults, and costs £776 per year. 

If your course lasts for more than one year, you will be charged the total cost for each year of your study when you first apply. 

The price of extending your Child Student visa is the same as the initial application cost of £490.

How Long it Takes to Get a Decision?

When first applying for your visa from outside of the UK, you can expect a decision from the Home Office within 3 weeks of submitting your application and attending your appointment at the visa application centre. There are occasionally delays, however, you will be contacted if more documents are required from you. You can only apply for the Child Student visa up to 6 months before the start of your course. 

If you are switching or extending your visa from inside the UK, you can only begin your application up to 3 months before the course start date, and you must apply before your current visa expires. Your course must also begin within 28 days of your current visa expiring. Although you can stay in the UK until you receive a decision on your application or on an appeal for a visa rejection. 

It can take up to 8 weeks to receive a decision on your visa when applying from inside the UK. 

How Long You Can Stay with the Child Student Visa?

The length a Child Student visa will be given for depends on the age of the applicant and the length of the course. If the applicant is under 16, they can receive their visa for up to 6 years plus 4 months. If the applicant is aged 16 or 17, they can receive their visa for up to 3 years plus 4 months. 

Not every visa will be issued for this length of time as some courses may be shorter, in which case the visa duration will be the same as the course plus 4 months. 

The additional 4 months is given to allow the student time to complete any extracurricular activities or studies that have been undertaken, as well as prepare for higher or further education, make travel arrangements to return home, or prepare for other visa applications.

Extending Your Child Student Visa

Child Student visa holders can apply to extend their visas before their current visa expires if they wish to stay on in the UK and continue to meet the requirements of the visa. If they need to stay longer to finish their current course or begin another, and are still 17 years old or under, they can extend their visa. Supporting documents will need to be submitted again, including identity documents and details of the course (for which they will again need an unconditional offer of a place).

Switching to a Different Visa

It’s possible to switch to another visa category after the Child Student visa holder completes their studies if they’re eligible for another UK visa. For example, if a child turns 18 and wishes to continue studying in the UK at a university or other institute providing an equivalent course, they may apply for a Student (General) visa.

Guardianship of Child Student Visa Holders

Although child students aged 16 and 17 may live independently in the UK, all Child Student visa holders must have a legal guardian in the UK to ensure their safety while completing their studies. Their guardian in their home country must appoint the guardian before starting the visa application and provide details of the guardian during the application process. 

The guardian will be the adult responsible for the child while they are in the UK, acting as the point of contact for parents and school boards when discussing the child, and the person responsible for decision-making should an emergency take place. 

When choosing a guardian, the family must properly vet the person they will appoint to ensure the child is happy and safe, and the person is suitably responsible and capable of being the guardian of the child. The guardian can be a relative, friend or even a professional guardian, however, they must be a permanent resident of the UK or a British citizen. To find a suitable professional guardian, The Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students (AEGIS) can help. 

Once a suitable guardian has been found, both parties (the guardian e.g. parents and newly appointed guardian) must sign an agreement detailing their responsibilities for the child when they are in the UK. This will then be submitted to the independent school when applying for a place, and with the visa application.

Accommodation for Child Student Visa Holders

The child student can live with their UK guardian or at their educational institution if lodging is provided. If they are under 12 years old and their parent accompanies them to the UK, they can also live together. Or if the child is 16 or 17, they can live independently. It’s crucial, however, that suitable accommodation arrangements are made before applying for the Child Student visa so that accommodation details and appropriate financing can be demonstrated in the application process. 

Choosing the right accommodation is crucial to the student’s well-being, supporting their education and experience of life in the UK, as well as complying with UK law. 

Boarding schools are popular options for international students as the accommodation is on campus, allowing students easy access to their school, as well as having a safe and secure environment as they are supervised in all aspects of their schooling and free time. They will also be provided with meals, washing facilities and the opportunity to join extracurricular activities and social gatherings. 

If the school does not provide accommodation, living with the guardian or another family is another excellent option that allows students to safely immerse themselves further into British culture while having access to facilities. The school or agency used to find the family or guardian for homestays will conduct thorough background checks to ensure the suitability of the environment for the child. 

For older students, it can also be beneficial to allow the student more independence by arranging a private residence such as an apartment with a caretaker.

The parents will know best what accommodation will best suit their child’s needs.

Tips on How to Choose the Best School in the UK?

Before applying for a Child Student visa, children wishing to move to the UK to study must first choose the best educational institution for them and receive a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).

Here are some tips for choosing the best independent school in the UK for your child:

  • Search for ISC or ISI accredited schools
  • Assess the school’s facilities
  • Research the school’s curriculum
  • Look at the school’s past results
  • Review the school’s extracurricular activities 
  • Consider the location of the school

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) and the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) are reputable bodies that ensure independent schools maintain high standards of education and care for their students, so you can trust that schools with ISC or ISI accreditation will be excellent options for your child. By assessing the school’s facilities, either online or in person, you will also be able to see what they can offer your child in terms of support for their emotional well-being as well as academically. 

The school curriculum, including what languages are taught and whether the school teaches the national curriculum or International Baccalaureate (IB), for example, will also help you make a decision as the curriculum will have an impact on your child’s future in education and career prospects. Past results of former students will also show you how successful the school is at meeting their own expectations. 

A range of extracurricular activities can also help your child develop socially and experience great personal growth, especially important when living away from family, so this should be considered when choosing your child’s school. Whether your child is interested in art, sport, literature or something else, many different clubs can be on offer. 

Don’t forget to look at the location of the school too, including local amenities and transport options.

Conclusion

The UK has many fantastic options for education, and you don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to access them. The Child Student visa is a great option for young children to have world-class education, increasing their future prospects for further education and careers. 

But there are plenty of decisions to make before allowing your child to travel to the UK, from choosing a legal guardian for their time there, to finding the right school, and getting an unconditional offer on a course, not to mention gathering the right documents for the visa application itself. 

Getting the help of a visa agency can be hugely beneficial, as they know the visa process inside out and have contacts with various other businesses that can help find suitable accommodation, guardians and many more ways to help ensure a smooth transition to the UK. 

Synergy Immigration Solutions is one such specialised visa agency that can help you with your UK visa applications. 

About Synergy Immigration Solutions

From Skilled Worker visas to Student visas, Family visas and gaining sponsorship licences, Synergy Immigration Solutions is here to help with UK visa applications in a variety of ways. Registered with the OISC (Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner), we’re a trustworthy and experienced organisation ready to help individuals, families and businesses with their visa needs.  

If you need help with your visa application, you can contact Synergy Immigration Solutions today! Or read on to find the answers to some frequently asked questions about Child Student visas.

UK Child Student Visa FAQs

While we endeavour to cover everything in our guide relating to Child Student visas, naturally, more questions can come up. Here are some of those frequently asked questions.

Why Apply for the Child Student Visa?

Studying in the UK under a Child Student Visa offers many advantages, enriching a student's educational journey and shaping their future endeavours. The UK is esteemed for its high-quality education, with independent schools offering academic programs that are recognised globally. Immersion in the UK's multicultural environment further fosters cultural exposure, enhancing adaptability and global awareness while nurturing international relationships.

Moreover, the English-speaking environment in the UK significantly boosts language proficiency, a crucial asset in today's interconnected world. While, access to specialised programs in arts, sciences, and sports provides unique learning opportunities not readily available in other countries. Additionally, many independent schools offer robust support systems for international students, easing the transition to the UK and encouraging integration.

The UK also has a number of prestigious universities, so studying in the UK helps students reach these institutions more easily, as visa flexibilities upon completion of studies open avenues for further education or training, amplifying educational and professional prospects. However, even studying in the UK and becoming proficient in English also opens up a world of fantastic educational opportunities across the world. 

The experience of living in the UK as a child also cultivates independence, self-reliance, and maturity, crucial attributes for navigating life's challenges.

Studying in the UK with a Child Student Visa not only enriches academic pursuits but also shapes holistic personal and professional development, equipping students with invaluable skills and opportunities for success.

What’s the Difference Between a Student Visa and a Child Student Visa?

Although both were created to allow foreign nationals to come to the UK to study, the UK’s Child Student visa differs from the Student (General) visa in several ways, although predominantly regarding age. The Child Student visa is for children aged 4 to 17 to come to the UK to study, while the Student (General) visa is for those aged 16 and over. This also changes what type of institution students can attend and the level of study the applicants can complete, as well as whether they can work alongside their courses

Some differences between the Child Student and Student (General) visas include:

  • Age of the applicants
  • Level of education
  • Type of educational institution eligible
  • Guardianship requirements
  • Permission to work
  • Durations of stay
  • Permission to bring dependents 

As of 1 January 2024, new changes to the UK Student (General) visa came into place, stating that only specific student visa holders could bring their dependants to the UK with them. Although this does not affect those already in the UK with their families. 

Can Child Student Visa Holders Bring Family to the UK?

Close family members are often referred to as dependants when related to visa processes, although the term usually refers to the applicant’s partner and children. Child Student visa holders cannot bring dependants or other close family members to the UK with them in most cases. The exception is for students aged from 4 to 11 years old; one parent of the child student can apply for the Parent of a Child Student visa to accompany their child to the UK. 

When their child’s course finishes or when their child turns 12 years old, the parent’s visa expires and they must leave the UK. For the Child Student visa, the child must have a UK guardian, so an appropriate responsible adult must be appointed to care for the child for the remainder of their stay in the UK.

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