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.
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- 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 and/or plans to undertake part-time employment (including internships). This is referred to as a “Tier 4 Student Visa”.
- For most students (U.S. passport holders) studying for less than 6 months and not undertaking work of any kind (this includes paid or unpaid work, volunteering and interning), entering on the Short Term Student Route (previously known as a “Student Visitor”) is fine with the appropriate documentation (official letter from host institution and/or home institution confirming participation in an official education abroad program, and proof of funds in the form of a bank statement or sponsor letter. UKVI does not specify the amount of the required proof of funds, but for guidance, they should be sufficient to cover the student’s costs for the duration of their time in the UK).
- Contrary to the guidance being provided by some British universities, there is no need for students meeting the criteria described in the bullet point above to apply for a visa before traveling to the UK.
- IMPORTANT! Students entering the UK on the Short Term Student Route must carry ALL the appropriate documentation with them if they depart the UK for a short trip to another country. They will be required to show this documentation to UK immigration upon re-entry, and must therefore treat each re-entry to the UK as if they are entering for the first time. The stamp in their passport is not enough on its own to confirm re-entry to the UK.
- Not sure if your student requires a visa? Plug their answers into this brief questionnaire on the British Government’s Visas and Immigration website and follow the directions – https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa.
- You can also refer to these two guides provided by the UKVI at the British consulate in New York:
- As of October 2015, students who are visa nationals (defined as a person who would normally require a visa to enter the UK as a tourist) and intend to study abroad in the UK for less than 6 months and not participate in work of any kind (this includes paid or unpaid work, volunteering and interning) must apply for a SHORT TERM STUDY VISA. for more information go to https://www.gov.uk/study-visit-visa
- Please note: U.S. passport holders are NOT considered visa nationals.
- What is the process for applying for a Tier 4 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 must 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.
- The Tier 4 visa allows the student to enter the UK up to 7 days before the start date of their course of study.
- Students applying for a Tier 4 visa to study for a period of more than six months ONLY are required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge of £150. This fee is payable at the time that they submit their online Tier 4 Application, and is in addition to the Tier 4 Application Fee. Payment of the surcharge enables access to UK’s National Health Service (NHS) in the same way as a permanent UK resident. Additional payment may be required at point of service for some services such as dental treatment and eye tests.
- The Tier 4 visa issued by the UK consulate is valid for 10 days only from the date of entry to the UK. The student is required to obtain a Biometric Residency Permit within 30 days of arrival in the UK. Instructions on this process are provided with the visa. This regulation applies ONLY to students receiving a Tier 4 visa to study for a period of more than 6 months. A Tier 4 issued for a period of study of less than 6 months will be valid for 6 months and the student is NOT required to obtain a Biometric Residency Permit after arrival in the UK.
- The Health Surcharge and the Biometric Residency Permit requirements DO NOT apply to students applying for a Tier 4 visa for a period of less than six months.
- What are the requirements to obtain a student visa?
Information on the Tier 4 visa requirements can be found at:https://www.gov.uk/tier-4-general-visa and
- Is batch processing (a single institution submits visa applications on behalf of its students) possible?
The UK Consulate in New York welcomes batch processing.
- 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) at 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?
No, unless they are applying for a Tier 4 visa for a period of study longer than 6 months. See the information above on the Biometric Residency Permit.
- How long does a student visa take and when should my student apply?
- The UKVI 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 UKVI strives to process most student visa applications within 10 business days. For updated processing times visit the UKVI 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 or the Premium Application Centre (see below).
- Students must include return shipping with their application packet. The UK consulate accepts USPS and UPS. A UPS return airway bill can be purchased online on the VFS.Global website
- The UK Consulate encourages applicants to purchase UPS shipping as this includes tracking.
- The UK consulate cannot ship by Fed Ex
- 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, have several options:
- Priority Service.
- This must be purchased on the day that the visa application is sent to the UKVI in New York. It cannot be applied to an application that has already been submitted. Full information is available at http://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/usa/
- Priority Service Cost: $188 USD + tax
- Priority service applications will be placed at the front of the queue to be processed ahead of non-priority applications. The average processing time for Priority Service applications is 5 business days although it can take longer during peak periods. 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 UK Consulate in New York City. Full information is available at http://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/usa/user_pay_services.html#
- Available at the UKVI in New York only. Please note that, this service is only available to applicants based in the United States.
- The UKVI will not prioritize applications that have been submitted late and are not accompanied by Priority Service. It is the applicant’s responsibility to adhere to the advertised application timelines.
- PLEASE NOTE: students should always submit their visa application as soon as possible (ideally at least 6 weeks before their travel date). Students should not assume that the availability of Priority Service means they can leave it until a week before departure to apply. The advertised processing time is a best faith estimate, not a 100% guarantee.
- The new Premium Service Centre, operated by VFS and located in midtown Manhattan, offers three premium package services promising same day appointments and faster processing of applications. Full details of these packages and their costs are available on the VFS website at: http://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/usa/applicationcentre.html
- The UKVI will not prioritize applications that have been submitted late and are not accompanied by Priority Service or one of the Premium Service packages. It is the applicant's responsibility to adhere to the advertised application timelines.
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. Short Term Student Route students 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 entering the UK on the Short Term Visitor Route 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 7 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.
The British Government also offers an international enquiry service to find information about the visa application service. It’s available at https://ukvi-international.faq-help.com/. This service is provided by Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS) working in partnership with UKVI. Contact by e-mail is free, speaking directly to an advisor costs approx. $2.30 per minute on top of the cost of the call and a ten minute webchat costs approx. $6.70. The phone number in the USA is 1-888-6839699 and open 7am – 4pm EDT. HGS staff do not play any part in, or influence the outcome of visa applications.
- What should a student do if their Tier 4 visa is denied?
Unless the UKVI 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.