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Student Visas

If you are a non-British, non-Irish citizen and want to study in the UK, you will need a student visa. You will also need to study at an educational institution that holds a sponsor licence.

Our Immigration Law team can advise you on the right option for you and support you through the student visa application process. We also regularly advise international students on their options for remaining in Scotland and the rest of the UK after they finish their studies.

Frequently asked questions

Here we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about student visas.

A student visa enables overseas students to enter the UK to undertake approved study. The visa will be for a stipulated time period for the agreed study, normally allowing a few extra weeks around the stated study time.

To apply for a student visa, you must:

  • Hold an unconditional offer from an educational institution that holds a UK sponsor licence
  • Have enough money to pay for your course and support yourself
  • Meet the English language requirement – to study at degree level you must prove you can read, write, speak and understand English to level B2 under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

We can help you apply for a student visa, advising you on your options and guiding you through the process.

A child student visa enables children aged between 4 and 17 to enter the UK to study at a private organisation, usually a primary or secondary school. The school can be either a day school or a boarding school.

You must have:

  • An unconditional offer of a place at the organisation
  • Enough money to pay for your course and support yourself

If you are interested in finding out more about child student visas and the niche rules around a parent joining the child student, please get in touch to arrange an initial consultation with one of our Immigration Law specialists.

A short-term study visa is available for students coming to the UK specifically to study on an accredited English language course lasting between 6 to 11 months.

You cannot extend a short-term study visa, nor switch to a different visa in the UK.

We can advise you on the appropriate visa for your education plans and on what you need to do to apply.

You can apply for a Graduate visa from within the UK if:

  • You currently hold immigration permission in the UK as a student
  • You have completed a UK bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree or other eligible course for a minimum period of time under your current visa
  • The education provider for your course is a licensed sponsor with a ‘track record of compliance’

If you are granted a graduate visa, you will be able to stay in the UK for two years for most applicants, or three years if you hold a PhD or Doctorate.

You will not be able to extend your time on a graduate visa. However, you can count time on a graduate visa towards a long residence visa.

You have to:

  • Have a Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) from your sponsoring educational organisation
  • Meet maintenance and financial requirements
  • Meet specified English language standards in speaking, listening, reading and writing

You will also have to provide biometric information (fingerprints and digital photo) at visa application centre as part of your application process.

The earliest you can apply for a UK student visa is six months before your course starts.

When applying for a visa to study in the UK you will have to pay two charges: the visa fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge.

Visa fee - This depends on the type of visa you are applying for:

Student visa


Child student visa


Short-term student visa


Graduate visa


Immigration Health Surcharge - For students and under-18s the surcharge is £470 per year. This is paid up front for the entire duration of the visa. For example, if you are applying for a two-year visa, the Immigration Health Surcharge will be £940.  For those applying for a Graduate visa, the surcharge is £624 per year, so for a two-year visa, the Immigration Health Surcharge will be £1,248.

How can Thorntons help?

Whether you want to send your children to be educated in the UK or need assistance with obtaining a student visa, we can help.

With the ability to advise academic staff, students, pupils and their families on all aspects of UK immigration law, we are Scotland’s leading law firm when it comes to immigration for those involved in education in Scotland. Our team works closely with a number of further and higher education institutions as well as with schools to assist with their immigration and visa requirements.

Understanding the issues from both the individual and organisational perspective, we can work with you to find the best option for your circumstances and support you through the process.

Consultation Service Package

You will receive an advice session as part of a fixed fee consultation service with an immigration specialist.  At the session, we will discuss the requirements for becoming a British citizen, assess and check your eligibility, answer any questions you have on the process and provide a follow-up summary email.  You can choose to either submit the application yourself or instruct us to support you further through our full representation service package.

Our initial consultation costs £350 plus VAT. If you are based overseas, then you may not be charged VAT. If you choose to use our full representation service within three months of the initial consultation package, then we will discount 50% of the cost of the initial consultation service from the cost of future work instructed under the Representative Service Package.

Our in-person consultations can take place at our Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow or St Andrews offices, or via a video call if you prefer. To arrange a consultation, please call 03330 430350 or complete our online enquiry form below.