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 by Ben Taylor
, posted on 19 Nov '20

The UK’s New ‘Student Route’ Visa – What’s Changed?

Last month the UK Government replaced the existing Tier 4 (general) student visa scheme with a new, points-based Student Route.

While the introduction of points might make it seem like student visas have become more difficult to apply for, the reality is that not a whole lot has changed. In fact, the ‘points’ you gain during the Student Route all come from eligibility criteria that you’ll meet as a genuine applicant during the visa process.

Here’s how you’ll meet the 70 points you need to receive a student visa:

  • 50 points – gaining a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) from your prospective UK university
  • 10 points – showing that you can support yourself financially during your studies
  • 10 points – meeting the English language requirements

While the core elements of the Student Route have remained the same, there are several ways in which the scheme differs to the previous Tier 4 student visas – all of which may actually make the visa process a little smoother for you.

We’ve summed up the main differences between the two visa schemes below.

You can now begin your visa application earlier

If you’re applying from outside the UK, you can begin your visa application six months before your postgraduate programme starts. Previously, you could only apply three months in advance.

However, if you’re applying from within the UK (to extend an existing student visa, for example), the three month rule still applies.

There’s no limit to the time you can spend studying a postgraduate qualification in the UK

Under the Tier 4 scheme, you could only spend five years studying in the UK while on the visa (unless you were studying a PhD).

With the new Student Route, there’s no limit to the time you can spend studying a postgraduate qualification(s) in the UK, which is great news for international students wanting to progress from a Bachelors at a British university to a Masters programme.

New ways to show that you meet the English language requirements

If you’ve already studied a degree-level qualification in (or you’re from) one of the following countries, this will show that you meet the English language requirements for the student visa:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • Malta
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America

If you haven’t studied in one of these countries, you’ll need to prove that you have English language proficiency of at least CEFR B2 (or higher, depending on the requirements set by your university).

Find out more about English language requirements for Masters and PhD students.

Brexit and student visas

Unfortunately, Brexit means that EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will need to apply for a visa if moving to the UK to study from January 2021 onwards.

However, there is some good news, in that they won’t need to prove that they can meet the usual financial requirements to study in the UK (along with a selection of other exempt countries).

If you aren’t from one of those places, you’ll need to show that you can support yourself financially for at least nine months of the year. If you’re based in London, this means having access to £1,265 per month, or £1,015 if you’re based outside of London.

For more information on applying for a student visa, check out our guides for Masters and PhD students.

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