If you have plans to travel to the UK for study, you will need to apply for the relevant visa.
There are three main immigration options for international students coming the UK:
Short term study visa
The short term study visa is an immigration route specifically designed for students aged 16 or over wanting to undertake an English language course in the UK of between 6 to 11 months at an accredited institution.
The rules relating to short term study visas are set out under Appendix Short-term Student (English language) of the Immigration Rules.
This is an unsponsored route, where sponsored study for persons aged 16 and over is covered under Appendix Student of the Rules.
If you are coming to the UK to study on an English language course that lasts longer than 11 months, or any other course that lasts longer than 6 months, you will need to apply using the standard student visa route. Prior to 2021, this was known as the Tier 4 student visa.
For those wanting to undertake a short recreational course of up to 30 days, you may be able to apply for a visitor visa. In some cases, depending on where you are from, you may even be able to travel to the UK visa-free to undertake a short course of study during your stay.
In this article, we focus on the short term study visa, including who is eligible and how to apply.
What does a short term study visa allow?
The short term study visa is a very specific route, limiting the visa holder to study on an English language course lasting no longer than 11 months.
For the purpose of this route, English language study is defined as a course that teaches English as a foreign language only, excluding all other subjects. A visa applicant cannot study mixed courses under this category of visa.
This means you will not be permitted to study on any other course or change your course while in the UK, nor will you be allowed to study at an academy or state funded school.
The short term study visa does not permit the visa holder to engage in any business or professional activities in the UK, or to undertake any paid or unpaid work, including work experience or work placements. In contrast to the standard student visa, you will also be precluded from bringing family members with you to the UK under this visa route.
Who is eligible for a short term study visa?
You will be eligible for a short term study visa if you are an overseas student aged 16 or older who has been accepted by an accredited institution or eligible overseas provider on an English language course in the UK that runs for between 6 to 11 months.
If you or a close family member already lives in the UK, you may instead be eligible to apply for immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme. This is a free scheme where EU, EEA and Swiss nationals, or the close family members of these nationals, register to safeguard their status and right to live, work and study in the UK, provided that the main applicant was living in the UK by 31 December 2020. The EEA includes the EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
If you are ineligible under this scheme, and want to undertake an English language course of between 6 to 11 months, you will need to apply for a short term study visa.
Short term study visa requirements
Under the new rules, to apply for a short term study visa, you will need to prove:
- You are genuinely seeking entry to study as a short term student.
- You have been accepted onto a course of English language study that lasts 11 months or less and includes no other subjects.
- Your course is either with an accredited UK institution, or an eligible overseas provider if you are planning to study in the UK as part of an overseas course.
- You have enough money to maintain and accommodate yourself without working or getting help from public funds, or that friends and relatives can support and accommodate you.
- You are able to pay for your return or onward journey from the UK.
- You have already paid your course fees in full or have sufficient funds to pay these fees.
- You intend to leave the UK within a period of 30 days from the end of your course of study, or at the end of 11 months, whichever is the earliest.
- If you are under 18 you must show that you have made arrangements for your travel and stay in the UK, and that you have the consent of your parent(s) or guardian(s) to study in the UK.
What is an accredited UK institution?
If you are studying with a UK provider, they must be an accredited institution. This means the provider must either be an approved Home Office sponsor listed on the student sponsor register, or has a valid accreditation from any one of these bodies:
- Accreditation Body for Language Services (ABLS)
- Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC)
- Accreditation UK
- British Accreditation Council (BAC)
- Education and Training Inspectorate Northern Ireland
- Estyn (in Wales)
- Education Scotland
- Independent Schools Inspectorate
- Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
- Office for Students
- Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
Who is an eligible overseas provider?
You can also apply for a short term study visa if you are planning to study at an overseas higher education institution where part of your English language course is in the UK. However, your institution must satisfy the following requirements:
- It must hold its own national accreditation.
- It must offer no more than half of its educational programme in the UK.
- It must offer programmes that are equivalent to a UK degree.
How do you apply for a short term study visa?
To apply under the short term study visa route you will need to submit an online application on the GOV.UK website using the specified form “Short-term Student visa”. The earliest you can apply for this type of visa is 3 months prior to travel. You must also only apply from outside the UK, where you cannot apply for leave to enter as a short term student at the UK border.
As part of your online application, you will need to book an appointment at an overseas visa application centre where you will provide your biometric information and documentation. As part of the application process you must provide various documents in support, with a certified translation if those documents are not in English or Welsh. These documents include:
- A current passport or other valid travel document
- Evidence of your course, for example, a letter of acceptance from the educational institution providing the name, duration and cost of the course
- Evidence you can support yourself during your trip, for example, bank statements or payslips from over the last 6 months
- Details of any financial sponsor’s occupation, income, savings or funds
- Details of where you plan to stay in the UK and your travel plans
- Evidence that you have paid your course fees or have enough money to cover these
- Depending on your personal circumstances, you may also need to provide additional documentation in support of your application, including:
- Evidence of your permission to be in the country you are applying from, if you are not a national of that country, and
- A tuberculosis test certificate if you have been present in any one of the countries listed in Appendix T for more than 6 months immediately prior to your application.
What are the short term study visa rules for under 18s?
If you are aged 16 or 17 on the date of your visa application, you can travel to the UK without an adult, although you must have written consent from both your parents, or one parent if they have sole responsibility, or from a legal guardian. This written consent must confirm support for your application, and for your travel, reception and care arrangements in the UK.
You will also need to provide evidence you have somewhere suitable to stay in the UK, including the name, date of birth and address of the person you will be living with, plus details of your relationship to the person responsible for your care and their written consent.
How much does a short term study visa cost?
The cost of applying for a short term study visa is £186. You will usually get a decision within 3 weeks of applying, although you may be able to pay to get a faster decision depending on what country you are applying from. You will need to check with your visa application centre.
In addition to the application fee, you will also be required to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge, currently set at £470. This will enable you to access the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). You must pay this charge as part of your online application, although you will be entitled to a full refund if your application is refused or withdrawn.
Can you stay in the UK after a short term study visa?
If your application for a short term study visa is successful, you will be permitted to stay in the UK for the full length of your course plus an extra 30 days, provided your overall stay is no longer than 11 months. You will not, however, be permitted to extend this visa under the rules.
If you would like to undertake a further course of study or accept work in the UK, you will need to leave the country and apply for a new visa under the relevant immigration route.
If you leave the UK and apply for a second period of leave as a short term study visa holder where less than 2 months have passed since you last left the UK, this may be seen as an attempt to live in the UK or circumvent the stricter requirements of the standard student route. In these circumstances, your application for a second visa may be refused.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists, and can advise both employers and graduates on Home Office applications such as short term study visas. For advice, please contact us.
Short term study visa FAQs
What is a short term study visa?
A short term study visa is specifically designed for foreign students aged 16 or over to come to the UK to undertake an English language course lasting longer than 6 months but no more than 11 months. If you are looking to study an English language course in the UK that lasts longer than 11 months, or any other course that lasts longer than 6 months, you will need to apply for a standard student visa.
Can you work on a short term study visa?
The short term study visa does not permit the visa holder to undertake any work, either paid or unpaid, including work experience or work placements. You will also not be permitted to engage in any business or professional activities in the UK.
How long is a short term study visa?
A short term study visa will be granted for a maximum of 11 months. You will only be allowed to stay in the UK for the length of your course plus an extra 30 days, provided your overall stay is no longer than 11 months. You will not be permitted to extend this visa.
Do you need a CAS for a short term study visa?
When applying for a short term study visa you do not need a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). This is an electronic document providing a unique reference number issued by your UK licensed sponsor when you apply for a standard student visa.
Last updated: 27 March 2021