If you’re an international student coming to the UK to study, we get that it can be a bit daunting, especially if it’s your first time at university. Recent studies show that the majority of overseas students are undergraduates, so there’s a good chance that you are one of them !
From visas and tuition fees, to bank accounts, there’s a lot for international students to consider when studying in the UK, so we’ve broken it down for you with tips.
We’ve also got some great tips for handling homesickness once you’ve arrived at your destination.
Here is the international student checklist:
Before you do anything else, you need to make sure you have the finances and that bit extra to fund your degree.
The funding available to you depends on where you are located in the world and the date you enrol at university.
Previously, students from the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (also known as EEA) and Switzerland were able to access Student Finance the same way UK students can. However, Brexit has changed these circumstances.
EU students, EEA students as well as Swiss students…
It has been confirmed that EU and EEA students will be considered as International students starting from the academic year of 2021/22.
This concludes that, unless individual universities decide to set their own academic fees for new EU students, EU/EEA students starting university in the UK from 1st August 2021 will have to pay the same fees that students coming from outside Europe do, unfortunately.
EU and EEA students who enrolled at a UK university before the academic year 2021/22 are eligible for Student Finance in the UK as they previously were entitled to. The cost of their tuition fees is covered by a loan that they’ll pay back after graduation or earning a prospective amount.
Students from abroad coming to the UK :
Students from outside the EU (apart from in certain specific circumstances) have in fact never been eligible for Student Finance in the UK, regardless of when the degree started.
You’ll have to fund your degree yourself, and you’ll often have to pay fees much higher than what UK students pay, which can range from £10,000 – £35,000 a year.
Don’t forget that for your visa application to be successful, you’ll need to provide evidence that you can cover this expense, as well as your living expenses and arrangements.
This is a hefty price and if you don’t have the money to pay for yourself, there are options available… you could also look into education loans or exchange programmes.
As an international student coming to the UK you might need to apply for a visa, depending on where you’re coming from.
On 1st January 2021, things changed for EU students, students from the EEA and Swiss students coming to the UK for study.
Until 31st December 2020, students abroad didn’t need a visa to live and study in the UK. If you were living in the UK before 31st December, you should be able to apply to the ‘EU Settlement Scheme’, which allows you to work, and study on the same grounds as you could prior to Brexit.
If you want to stay in the UK, you’ll have until 30th June 2021 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme also known as EUSS.
If you moved to the UK after 31st December 2020, you will now need to use the following information below regarding student visas.
Students from outside Europe coming to the UK:
If you’re from a country outside the EU and the EEA (excluding Switzerland), applying for a student visa was always essential.
If you’re planning on being on board a course less than six months in the UK, you’ll need a Standard Visitor visa. However, you cannot work in the UK if you have this visa, unless it’s part of your education (a placement which is an imperative part of a medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine course). If you want to work during your stay, you’ll need to apply for the option of a Student visa.
You can also apply for a Short-term study visa if your course is between 6-11 months and if you’re 16 or over that intends on studying an English language course. This implies that it is a course where you’ll be learning about the English language, not just a course that’s taught by your lecturers speaking English. Standard Visitor visas cost £95 and the Short-term study visas cost £186.
If your course lasts for longer than six months (or less than six months but you want to work in the UK), you’ll need a Student visa, which has now replaced the Tier 4 student visa.
Below are some of the documents you’ll need for your student visa application :
Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) – This is a 14-digit reference number you’ll receive from your university once you accept your conditional offer.
Proof of your finances – You’ll need to prove that you have enough money to pay for your first year of your study. On top of this, you need to prove you have £1,023, or £1,334 for those that are studying in London. The proof of finances will have to prove that you’re capable of covering your living expenses for the duration of 9 months. This can either be through self-funding, one of your sponsors or an education loan.
English language skills – You’ll have to prove that you can meet the minimum level of English language proficiency, which is done by taking a Secure English Language Test (SELT).
The Student visa costs £348 if you’re applying from abroad, or £475 if you’re already in the UK and want to extend the student visa.
You may also have to pay a healthcare charge as part of your visa application. This costs £235 for six months or £470 for the whole year, and will allow you to use the NHS services.
If you’re applying for a student visa from outside the UK, you can apply up to six months before you start your course or degree, while you have just three months if you’re applying from inside the UK (you must apply before your current visa expires).
Although you could get a response within a few weeks, it’s best to apply as soon as possible to ensure everything is put into place.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the UK is known for its cold and wet weather. We advise you to pack lots of warm clothes and waterproof items for the winter months, and don’t expect summer to be an absolute breeze either.
It’s not within the means of a student budget to have the heating on all the time either (although we have tricks to help you save on your energy bills), so warm clothes are essential.
Best way to manage Student Accommodation in UK:
You’ll want to get your accommodation sorted before you land in the UK – the last thing you want is to do is turn up and have absolutely nowhere to stay.
Your first point of contact should be your university, they will often offer guarantees to house all students who apply before a certain date.
Most students either live in university accommodation, which we call ‘halls of residence’, or ‘halls’ for short or there is the option to rent a room from a private landlord.
Living in halls is best for your first year of study, as it removes the hassle of trying to find a suitable room or space. This will also be a great way for international students to make friends and settle in.
These will either be self-catered, which means you’ll have access to a shared kitchen where you cook and prepare your meals. There is also the option of catered which means that your meals will be provided at a canteen.
If you’re not interested in halls and you’d prefer to do the accommodation hunt yourself, head to a student letting agents directory to find houses in the area of your university area to get the gist of properties available.
Health insurance a priority ::
All international students, from both inside and outside the EU, will need to prove they have health insurance to cover them for any healthcare or instances that occur while in the UK. Below is how to go about this:
EU students, students from the EEA and Swiss students
If you’re from the EU, the EEA or Switzerland and you came to the UK before 31st December 2020, organising your health insurance will be very simple.
You’ll need a European Health Insurance Card (also known as EHIC), which will entitle you to free or reduced healthcare costs from the National Health Service (NHS) while you’re here in the UK.
This can be done by applying for one through your home country’s national health insurance provider.
You’ll still be able to access UK healthcare using your EHIC from 1st January 2021 if you’re an EU national living in the UK before the end of 2020. As a precaution you should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) to protect your right to free healthcare in the UK.
If you’re from the EU and started living in the UK after 31st December 2020, the following information below applies.
Students from outside Europe coming into the UK in 2021-2022
If you’re a student from a country outside the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you’ll have to pay the health surcharge mentioned previously as part of your visa application, this gives you access to the NHS during your time studying.
However, don’t forget that neither the EHIC or health surcharge will cover any extra expenses or losses incurred as a result of a sudden illness or injury. This can include cancelled travel plans or lost course fees.
Endsleigh offers travel insurance for international students coming to the UK which will cover these extra expenses.
Student bank account Setup:
If you’re staying in the UK for longer than a term we would recommend setting up a bank account.
This will make it easier to pay your bills, keep your money safe, and avoid foreign currency charges you’d be paying if you use a non-UK bank account to pay for things while being in the UK.
Setting up a bank account can be a lengthy and hefty process, as banks will need lots of information to verify your identity as well as your credit rating.
Check whether you’re able to make the process quicker from your home country to save time. It’s also advised to look into whether your current bank has any links to UK banks, as this will likely make the process smoother and swift.
Student bank accounts are a great option to look into, as they offer numerous benefits including an interest-free overdraft of up to £3,000. However, it’s worth knowing that not all banks offer student bank accounts to students that are international.
Since it can take a while to get a bank account set up, and around 7-10 working days for your debit card to arrive, it’s best to take money with you to cover the first month of your studies. A prepaid card would be a good option for this, as carrying large amounts of cash can be unsafe.
If you’re panicking about whether your current phone will work in the UK, the answer is yes. There are two types of cellular frequencies that exist internationally and that is; the GSM band and the CDMA band.
The UK operates the same GSM band as does most of the world, but if you’re coming from Japan or North/South America, your phone may not work in the UK, so this is worth checking beforehand.
If your phone doesn’t look like it will work in the UK, it might be worth selling it for cash and buying a new one on a Pay As You Go contract. With a Pay As You Go (PAYG) SIM you’ll need to top up your phone with credit, this is a good method of keeping track of your spending but this can be a hassle if your credit runs out at the worst of times.
Monthly contracts are typically better value for money, as you’ll likely get unlimited (or close to) minutes and texts. You can now get one-month rolling contracts, meaning you’re never more than a few weeks away from being able to cancel your contract in case of having to move back home or move elsewhere.
In recent years there have been lots of low-cost international call providers like Lebara and LycaMobile, Three.
Alternatively, you can use online services like Skype, Zoom,Imo, FaceTime (for apple users), Viber, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp that all stream for free. These usually rely on you having a WiFi or 4G/5G connection.
Figuring out public transport in the UK
Getting to grips with the public transport system when you first land in a country can be a bit daunting and confusing. Below is a guide on travel in the UK.
All cities will have a local bus service which is one of the convenient ways of getting around. First, figure out how far away you’re going to be living from your uni lectures, and whether it’s worth investing in a student bus pass which can be useful if you happen to travel a lot in town.
Bigger cities might also have a subway system, like the Tube in the city of London or the Metro in Newcastle. Investing in annual or monthly passes can help reduce costs.
If you’re confident enough to ride on the roads, then travelling by bike is a great way to save money as well as reducing your carbon footprint.
If you’re over in the UK you’ll probably want to visit a few different cities and be a tourist while you’re here. The two main common options for travel are coach or train.
Trains are the quickest way to get around the UK. However, tickets should be booked as early as possible to save money, as last minute train tickets can be pricey.
You’ll probably also want to invest in a 16–25 Railcard or a 26–30 Railcard, which will save you a third on all rail fares across the country. Given how little they cost, and how expensive tickets can be, you could make your money back to go towards future train journeys.
Coaches are a cheaper alternative to trains, but they can take twice as long to get to the destination. One great platform for saving money is Megabus, with journeys starting at £1 between the major cities.
If you can’t find a suitable arrival and departure point, then try National Express as they offer the largest coach network in the UK, and they always have coach journeys available.
Travelling by plane is also an option for longer distances, for example, if you’re travelling from London to Edinburgh, although sometimes it can be expensive, that’s why it’s worth shopping around first.
If you want to make some extra finances while you’re studying, then you may be wondering what options you have in terms of work. With your student visa, you’ll be able to work up to 20 hours per week during the course of your study. You can work full-time during the holidays, as well as before and after your course starts.
Although, if you’re from an EU or EEA country or Switzerland and have since secured EU settled status, you are free to work as many hours as you desire and can continue working as long as you’d like even after you graduate.
However, you shouldn’t rely on a part-time job as your main source of income to fund your living costs while studying in the UK. While they’re a great way to boost your finances, you’ll unlikely be able to earn enough to live comfortably , and working long shifts will distract you from your studies. Try applying for an international students’ scholarship instead to make matters easier.
Advice for Eu Students:
EU / EEA students need a uk student visa?
If you are entering the UK after January 1, 2021, you will need to apply for a student visa. If you are already in the UK before 1 January 2021, you need to apply for the EU settlement scheme.
Who can apply for a uk student visa?
EU / EEA and non-EU / EEA citizens can apply for the new UK student visa if they achieve 70 points in the points-based system. The system measures whether you meet the requirements to study in the UK, such as:
- Have you been accepted into an approved institution? The institution issues proof of acceptance for studies (CAS);
- Do you have the financial resources to finance your stay? In addition to the money needed to pay for the course, you also need £ 1,265 per month if you are studying in London or £ 1,015 per month if you are studying outside London. If you have dependents, you need around £ 800 per month for each of them;
- Do you know English well? When applying for the visa, you must pass an English proficiency test from an approved provider.
- B2 for undergraduate or higher courses.
- B1 for master’s degree courses.
- Uk student visa course requirements
You can get a UK student visa if you have been accepted into one of the following courses:
- A full-time course, below the undergraduate level (more than 15 hours of study per week). Referred to as RQF level 3, 4 or 5, this includes levels A (basically the last two years of high school), apprenticeship or the first two years of a degree.
- A full-time course leading to a bachelor’s degree or higher level qualification. Includes RQF levels 6, 7 and 8 (bachelor’s, postgraduate, master’s or doctorate);
- A part-time course at an undergraduate level above RQF 7 (specialist degree, master’s or doctorate);
- An approved program for postgraduate doctors or dentists;
- An English language course (level B2 or higher) in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Uk student visa processing time
If you are applying outside of the UK, it will take around 3 weeks for us to get a decision on your student visa application. If you apply from within the UK (switch to student visa), it will take around 8 weeks to make a decision on your application.