Stay updated on the new rules for international students in the UK and learn about the new visa and requirements.
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The UK has long been a popular location for international students, and for many reasons. The UK has one of the best education systems in the world, with many of its universities and colleges featuring in the top places to study.
The nation is also known for its multicultural environment, meaning that international students are welcome and have many opportunities to practise their English language skills and enjoy plenty of culture.
In 2023, more than 679,970 international students chose the UK to be part of their education journey. But to start planning your own experience, you first need to know the requirements for studying in the UK – especially when student visa rules have recently been updated.
By being clear about the type of visa you need, who you can bring to the UK with you, and what happens to your immigration permission when you graduate, you can ensure a smoother application process.
What are the new immigration rules for international students wanting to study in the UK?
On July 17, 2023, the UK government announced some new rules for international students in the UK. From January 2024, international students in the UK will not be able to bring dependents to the UK via their student visa.
A dependent is stated as a partner (married or unmarried) or a child under 18 years. The only exception to this update is students who are studying with a postgraduate research programme visa – in this case, you may bring a dependent to the UK.
Another update is that starting from July 17, international students will not be able to change to a Graduate visa without completing the original course of study. The government has recently announced that the Migration Advisory Committee will be reviewing the Graduate visa in early 2024, so there may be some changes to that visa, too.
What types of UK international student visas are there?
There are three visas you can apply for as an international student in the UK.
1. Student visa
The student visa has replaced the Tier 4 (General) student visa. Requirements for the student visa include:
- You are 16 or over (if you’re 16 or 17, you will need proven consent from your parents)
- You have been offered a position to study at a licensed student sponsor
- You can financially support yourself and pay for your course
- You can speak, read, and write in English (with an Secure English Language Test certification)
2. Child student visa
This visa has replaced the Tier 4 (Child) student visa. Requirements for the child student visa include:
- You are aged 4 to 17
- You have an unconditional offer to study at an independent school in the UK
- You have financial support to live in the UK and pay for your course
- You have consent from a parent or guardian to study in the UK
3. Short-term study visa
Requirements for the short-term study visa include:
- You are studying an English language course lasting more than six months, up to 11 months
- You have paid the £200 fee for the visa, plus the healthcare surcharge (around £470)
- You do not plan to work, study at a state-funded school, change course or bring family members to the UK while on this visa
- You do not plan to extend this visa
Secure English Language Test (SELT) certification
When applying for a student visa, you must prove your knowledge of English. One way you can do this is to show appropriate qualifications if you studied at a UK school when you were under 18. If you do not have this experience, you have to pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT).
SELT consists of two parts. The first is a speaking and listening exam conducted live through an online conversation. The second is a listening, reading, writing, and speaking exam that features a written test on the computer and a spoken test via a live interview. Both tasks take about 10 minutes in total.
To get your SELT certification for an international student visa, you must use an approved provider, for example IELTS.
You also must achieve B2 level English to study a degree course or above. For below degree courses, the requirement is English level B1.
Prepare for your IELTS test with our free preparation webinars.
Can I bring my partner and children to the UK as an international student?
Your partner and children are referred to as ‘dependants’ in the visa process, and they may be allowed to come with you while you study in the UK. However, this is only possible for certain visas and course types. There are also specifications that your dependants must follow to legally join you in the UK.
Currently, you are eligible to bring your partner and children to the UK if you are a government-sponsored student enrolling in a course that lasts more than six months. Alternatively, you can be a full-time student studying a postgraduate course that lasts nine months or longer.
From January 2024, as part of the new rules for international students in the UK, dependants will only be able to apply for UK entry with you if you are studying on a postgraduate research programme visa. Specifically, a PhD or other doctorate, or a research-based higher degree.
You will have to provide evidence of your relationship to your dependant(s), i.e. a married or civil partnership certificate, and a birth certificate for children. Dependants must also prove that they have money to support themselves during your period of study. The amount is in addition to the money you must have to support yourself and will vary depending on where you study.
What happens to my visa after I graduate?
The expiration date for your student visa will depend on the length of your course. If you do not renew or apply for a new student visa, you will have to leave the UK before the date of your visa expiration. There is no ‘grace period’ for student visas.
According to the new rules for international students in the UK, you can apply for a Graduate visa and stay in the UK for two more years after you have completed your course of study. You must be in the UK to apply, and you must apply before your student visa expires. If you have a PhD or other doctoral qualification, your Graduate visa will last for three years.
Despite new rules for international students in the UK, the UK will continue to be a great place to study, live, and evolve your English language proficiency. Be sure to check the most up-to-date information on the UK government website, and where possible, speak to a legal advisor when organising your visa application.