The following information is designed to assist education abroad advisers as they guide their students to obtain a student visa to study abroad. NAFSA’s EA Consular Affairs Liaison Subcommittee members review these pages regularly for accuracy, but the consulate to which the student applies for a visa may change its procedures. Students and advisers should confirm specific procedures with each relevant consulate.
Read the latest news on UK Visas
- Where is my local consulate?
UK consulates in the United States (Only the NYC office accepts and processes visa applications.)
Applying for a Student Visa
- Is a student visa required?
- Yes, if the student is studying in the UK for more than 6 months or plans to undertake part-time employment (including internships). This is referred to as a “Tier 4 Student Visa”.
- For most students (U.S. Citizens) studying for less than 6 months and not undertaking work of any kind, entering as a “Student Visitor” is fine with the appropriate documentation.
- Not sure if your student requires a visa? Plug their answers
into this brief questionnaire on the UKBA website and follow the
- What is the process for applying for a student visa?
- To apply for a Tier 4 visa, a student must: be sponsored by a Licensed Tier 4 Sponsor; complete an online application; be fingerprinted at a USCIS facility; and mail in a printed copy of the online application along with supporting documentation.
- Students should apply for a
Tier 4 visa at least 6 weeks prior to the course start date. However, a student
may not apply for a visa more than 90 days prior to the course start date.
- Information on the visa application process can be found
- What are the requirements to obtain a student visa?
Information on the Tier 4 visa requirements can be found at:
- Is batch processing (a single institution submits visa applications on behalf of its students) possible?
The UK Consulate in New York has confirmed that batch processing
is possible. However the institution must check with the British Consulate
- Does a student have to appear in person at the consulate to obtain a student visa?
No, the Tier 4 application is submitted online and via mail to the British Consulate. However, student must be fingerprinted (thus appear in person) by a USCIS center.
- Can a non-U.S. citizen apply for a student visa through a consulate in the U.S.?
Yes, but the student must submit proof of how they are legally in the US (I-20, etc.) with their mailed application materials. However, non-U.S. citizens (including green card holders) are treated as citizens of their home country (country of held passport) and additional processing time may be necessary.
- Does the student have to complete any additional procedures once overseas?
- How long does a student visa take and when should my student apply?
- The UKBA guidelines state that a student should apply for a Tier 4 visa at least 6 weeks prior to the course start date. However, a student may not apply for a visa more than 90 days prior to the course start date (not travel date).
- The UKBA strives to process most student visa applications within 10 business days. For updated processing times please visit the UKBA website.
However, during the busy times of the year (November - December,
and June - August) it can take longer to process the high number of
visa applications received, and there is no guarantee that
applicants who submit their paperwork less than 6 weeks before
their program start date will receive their visa in time.
Applicants submitting less than 6 weeks before their program start
date should use the Priority Service (see below).
- Will consulates make exceptions and allow for emergency applications if a student is leaving sooner that than the standard processing time?
- Students who submit their application less than 6 weeks before their program start date, or otherwise require their visa sooner than the standard processing time allows for, should use the Priority Service. Priority Service must be purchased on the day that the visa application is sent to the UKBA in New York. It cannot be applied to an application that has already been submitted. Full information is available at www.visainfoservices.com.
- Priority Service Cost: $150 USD + taxes
Priority service applications will be placed at the front of the queue to be processed ahead of non-priority applications. Applicants must ensure that they have submitted their biometrics at their chosen Application Support Center before sending their visa application for processing. Applicants should only purchase the Priority Service on the day they intend to send their visa application to the chosen visa application center. Applicants must ensure that they identify their chosen visa application center location at the time of purchase, based on their state of residence, as advised by UK Border Agency website.
- Available at the UK Border Agency in New York only. Please note that, this service is only available to applicants based in the United States.
- The Premium Service has been discontinued.
Changing Visas While Abroad
- Can a student obtain a student visa once overseas?
- Can a student extend his/her visa in country (for a second semester, for example)?
Yes, but only if the student originally entered the UK on a Tier 4 student visa. Student Visitors cannot extend their stay and must return home to obtain a visa for re-entry.
- Can a student travel after the program even if their student visa has expired?
A Student Visitor is granted leave to remain in the UK for the duration of the course, but are also usually permitted to enter a week prior to the course start date and remain for a week after the course end date. The same one week before and after rule applies for Tier 4 visas issued for less than 6 months (in the case of an internship component). For courses that are longer than 6 months (but less than 12 months), students are permitted to enter up to 30 days before the course start date and to remain for up to 60 days after the course end date.
Note: U.S. citizens may depart the UK (travel to the continent, etc.) at the end of their program and return as tourists for up to 6 months with no additional visa required.
Problems with Visa Applications
- If a student is having a problem obtaining his/her visa, what should s/he do?
Contacting the British Consulate directly is rather difficult. Therefore, the student should first alert their study abroad adviser. If the student applied for their Tier 4 Student Visa within the 6-week minimum time frame, the adviser should them contact a member of the NAFSA UK Consular Affairs Liaison team through NAFSA's EA Visa help.
Please note that the NAFSA UK Consular Affairs Liaison team
cannot expedite a visa application that has been submitted too
late. All visa applications should be submitted to the UK Consulate
in New York at least 6 weeks before
the program start date.
- How do I ask for assistance from NAFSA’s EA Consular Affairs Liaison Subcommittee?
Education abroad advisers may submit a request online in order to request assistance from NAFSA's Consular Affairs Liaison Subcommittee. Submit your request to www.nafsa.org/eavisahelp, and your message will be automatically routed to the appropriate NAFSA Subcommittee member. NAFSA Consular Affairs Liaison Subcommittee members have contacts at the majority of consulates in the United States and will respond promptly to your request for assistance. The link for EA Visa Help is also at the top of this web page's sidebar.
- What should a student do if their Tier 4 visa is denied?
Unless the UKBA provided additional instructions with the denial, a student must start the whole process over again (from the beginning), including the online application and biometrics. No refunds will be issued for a denial.