[Update November 2017: Read the new article on UK Student Visas for LL.M. Students]
So, you've been accepted to an LL.M. program in the UK. You'll want to get started with sorting out your student visa as soon as possible. Here is a FAQ guide to help you get started.
Do I even need a visa to study in the UK?
If you are a national of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you wont need a visa to study in the UK. You can enter freely by showing your passport or national identity card. All other students will need a visa to study in the UK.
What kind of visa will I need to study in the UK?
The visa system in the UK has five tiers, each of which have different conditions, entitlements, and entry requirements. The student visa is called a Tier 4 student visa.
What are the requirements of a student visa?
The Tier 4 student visa is granted on a points-based system, and you will need 40 points to be accepted. Thirty points are awarded for doing a full-time (minimum 15 hours per week) course at an acceptable level with an approved education provider, and 10 points are awarded for proving that you have enough money to cover your course fees and living costs (more on this below).
In addition, it is essential that you make it clear to any immigration and visa officers that you intend to return to your home country after the course is completed.
You will need to pay an application fee: currently £199 for those applying from outside the UK; £357 for those applying from inside the UK by post; and £628 for those applying in-person in the UK.
You must also apply for an Identity Card for Foreign Nationals. In order to obtain this card, you must go through a biometric enrollment process, which involves having your digital photograph and fingerprints taken. If you are applying from outside the UK, you must attend in-person to register your biometric data at the offices of the British mission, the visa issuing post, or in certain cases, the host government.
Where a document used in your application is not in English or Welsh, the original must be accompanied by a fully certified translation by a professional translator/translation company.
How much money do I need to have?
Basically, you need to show that you have either paid your tuition fees, or that you have enough money to do so. You also need to prove that you have enough money to cover your living expenses for nine months.
If you are studying in central London, for more than half of your study time, you will need to show that you have at least £800 per month for living costs, or £7,200 for the whole nine-month period. If you are studying anywhere else in the UK, you will only need to show that you have £600 per month for living costs, or £5,400 for nine months.
If you have already established a presence studying in the UK, you need only show that you have enough money to cover living costs for two months (£1,600 for inner London or £1,200 for anywhere else).
How do I prove that I have enough money?
You will need to provide documentary evidence that you can cover your tuition and living costs. There are a several documents that can help you do this:
- A letter from your university stating the full cost of the course, and whether you have already paid fees or a deposit;
- Bank statements or a letter from your bank confirming that the required funds have been held for a consecutive 28-day period;
- A letter that you have secured a loan from the financial institution that granted it;
- Proof that your are related to and have permission to use money from your parents' or legal guardians' account;
- Mention of any financial assistance from your university on your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies form;
- *A letter of confirmation from any other organization giving you official financial sponsorship.
When and where should I apply for my student visa?
The earliest that you can make your Tier 4 application is three months before the start of your course, and since visa application processing times can vary, you should ensure that you gather the necessary documentation and apply as early as possible.
Candidates who need a visa even for entry to the UK as a visitor must apply for a student visa at the British Embassy/Consulate/High Commission in their home country. These individuals cannot enter the UK without a valid visa.
Other candidates can choose between applying at the British Embassy/Consulate/High commission in their home country, presenting the relevant documents to the Immigration Officer upon entry into the UK, or entering the UK in another visa category, and applying from within the UK to switch to Tier 4 student visa.
Those opting for the last of these options (switching visas) should make sure that their existing visa does not run out more than a month before the start of the course.
How long will my visa application take?
Visa application processing times vary depending upon where you make your application. Take a look here to get an idea of how long visa processing will take.
When can I come to the UK?
If you are doing a course that is six months or more, or a preparatory course, your Tier 4 student visa allows you to come to the UK up to one month before the start date of the course. If your course is less than six months in duration, you can come to the United Kingdom up to seven days before the start date of the course.
How long can I stay in the UK?
If your course goes for a year or more, your visa will grant you permission to stay in the UK for the length of the course plus 4 months. Shorter courses have different entitlements.
International students also have special immigration options available to them after graduation. You can apply for a Tier 1 visa under the Post-Study Work sub-category within 12 months of graduation. This visa allows recipients to remain in the UK for two years after which they can move to another type of visa.
Can I work during my studies?
The Tier 4 student visa allows you to work 20 hours per week while school is in session and 40 hours per week during holidays.
Where can I get more information?
Information on whether you require a visa, how to apply, guidance notes, and application forms are available from the UK Border Agency website.
Please be advised that the above is general information and should not be considered legal advice. Each case is different and UK immigration laws are complex. To receive advice specific to your situation, please consult with a qualified immigration lawyer.