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UK Visa Guide

Most international students need a visa/entry clearance to study at CATS. You can check the UK Visas and Immigration website to see if you will need a visa/entry clearance to study in the UK.

You can find more information about different visa types and information about making an application below. If you have any questions please contact

EU student information

Further guidance for EU and EEA students, who from 1 January 2021 will need to comply with the new system. Download the CATS Immigration EU Student Guide.

EU and EEA citizens resident in the UK before 31 December should apply to the EU settlement scheme. If you have any questions please contact

Types of Study Visa

Important: The information contained below is for guidance only. Although every effort is made to ensure its accuracy, we strongly recommend you visit the UKVI website for up-to-date information.

There are four routes for students who wish to study in the UK. You can find more information about each one in the sections below.

Types of study visa

Student visa

This visa is for students 16 and above, who want to study in the UK (usually for over 6 months). It is generally used by over 18’s, except those studying on a Foundation course.

Child Student visa

This visa is for students under 18 who want to study in the UK (usually for over 6 months, excluding those studying on a Foundation course.

Standard Visitor visa

This visa is for courses under 6 months. For non-visa nationals this means that you do not need to apply in advance for entry clearance.

Study English in the UK (Short-term study visa)

This visa is for English language courses lasting longer than 6 months and up to 11 months.

Student visa route: Student or Child Student Visa

This is the route for those intending to study in the UK for more than six months. 

Please note that all students applying for Student or Child Student (for over 6 months) are issued entry clearance (yellow sticker) for one month only. Students will need to collect a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card within 10 days of arriving in the UK. The BRP card covers the full length of their student visa. Your institution will give you more details on how to collect the card and you will also receive a letter from UK Visas and Immigration with more information following a successful visa application.

A student cannot make a visa application more than six months before the start date of their course.
There are two categories under Student Route:

  • Student: For those aged 16 years or above.

Maximum length of stay under the Student Route is 2 years for courses below degree level (from student’s 18th birthday) and 5 years for courses at or above degree level, subject to certain concessions. Please refer to the UKVI website for details.

  • Child Student: For those aged 17 years and under, who are coming to study at independent fee-paying schools.. Note – children between 4 and 15 years old may only be educated at independent fee-paying schools and are unable to study pure English Language courses. Students aged 16 & 17 can only be assigned a Child Student CAS for a maximum of 3 years (in the case of a study plan that consists of main course and pre-sessional course, there should be no condition for progressing onto main academic course)

Students aged 16 or 17 years old can apply either as a ‘Student' or a ‘Child Student' if they are studying a course at Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), or National Qualifications Framework (NQF) / Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) Level 3 or above.

Please note that:

  • As of August 2015 – students wishing to join University Foundation courses will have to apply under the Student route and therefore must have a UKVI-recognised SELT.
  • We generally recommend that 16 or 17 year olds enrolling at CATS colleges apply under the Child Student visa, with the exception of Foundation courses. 
  • 16 or 17 year olds studying a course at RQF/QCF/NQF level 2 must apply under Child Student route. 

Standard Visitor visa route

Students wishing to study courses of up to 6 months (e.g. High School Term, AEM or Fast Track UFP) can apply for the Standard Visitor Visa. This visa is suitable for students of all ages and allows studying, sightseeing and visiting friends/family for up to 6 months. You can find more information in our Standard Visitor Visa guide or our Application Guide

The main things you are not allowed to do are:

  • paid or unpaid work for a UK company or as a self-employed person
  • live in the UK for long periods of time through frequent visits
  • claim public funds (benefits)
  • do a course of study that lasts longer than 6 months
  • Extend/switch your visa from within the UK

You will need to establish whether or not you are a visa national or a non-visa national. To do this, check whether the country you are a citizen of appears on the visa national list

Students who are non-visa nationals (this includes EU countries, Brazil, Japan and Korea amongst others) can apply to enter the UK as a visitor on arrival at the port of entry. Students should bring all the required documents to show at the border.

Students who are visa-nationals must apply for entry clearance as a visitor before travelling to the UK. It is a good idea to carry with you all of the documents that you submitted with your entry clearance application when you travel to the UK. The Border Force Officer may ask to see these documents when you arrive in the UK.

Short Term Student route (English only - up to 11 months)

Students (aged 16 or above) attending English language courses for 6 to 11 months can apply for a Short-Term Study visa (11 months). This is only possible if you are studying English. If you are studying any other course of over 6 months, you will need to apply for a Student or Child Student Visa. You can find more information in our Short-Term Study Visa guide

The English language course does not need to lead to a specific qualification and there are no minimum academic requirements for immigration purposes.

You are not allowed to study on any other course or change your course while in the UK. The other restrictions are the same a Standard Visitor Visa.


Most student visa refusals under the Student route are due to errors in financial documentation. Please read this section carefully and check the UKVI website for up to date advice. 

Depending on the length of the course and your accommodation, the amount of finance required to satisfy the points-based assessment will vary as follows:

Boarding Full boarding fees paid, or available in student or parents' bank account
Independent Accommodation

Course fees (paid or in bank account) plus

  • £1,334 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses in London
  • £1,023 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses outside London

You might not need to provide financial evidence if you’re from an exempt country but you should still make sure you have enough funds. UK Visas and Immigration may ask you to show that you have them.

Types of funds you can rely on

You can show you have enough money using:

  • your own money
  • your parent’s money (if they provide a letter confirming they agree to you using it this way)
  • an official financial or government sponsorship or grant
  • a student loan from a government, government sponsored loan company, or a regulated student loans scheme

Evidence of Funds

Evidence of your own funds (not loan or sponsorship) can be provided in the following ways:

  • bank statements
  • building society passbooks
  • certificates of deposit
  • a letter from your bank or building society

For bank statements, they must:

  • Be dated no more than one month before the visa application submission date;
  • Show that the entire amount required (as per above) has been in the account for 28 consecutive days (and has not fallen below the required amount throughout the 28 days)
  • Be for a cash account
  • Show the date it was issued, account holders name, name of bank or building society and the balance over the 28 day period

Fees Paid to Institutions

Fees already paid to the College towards student's tuition or boarding fees can be deducted when calculating how much money a student needs to meet the finance requirements for a Student or Child Student visa application. 

Applying using your parent's documents

If parent's bank statements are used in the visa application, submission of the following to prove the relationship between parents and the applicant is also required:

  • Original legal documentation from parent/legal guardian who are financially supporting the applicant. The documentation should confirm the relationship between the parent/legal guardian and the applicant. This could include the following:
    • Birth certificate showing the applicant and the parents' names;
    • Certificate of adoption showing applicant and the parents' names;
    • Court document showing the applicant and the legal guardian's names;
    • A letter from parent/legal guardian confirming the relationship between the applicant and the parent/legal guardian and that parent/legal guardian consent to using their funds to pay for the tuition and maintenance during the applicant's studies in the UK.

Download and read our quick reference guide to evidencing your finances to ensure you satisfy the UKVI requirements.

Working whilst studying

International students are able to work in the UK as per the conditions imposed in their visa during their studies with opportunities available including:

  • part-time work
  • vacation work
  • course-related work placements.

Working whilst studying can bring many benefits including extra money and it can also help to improve the level of the English language. However, the students should be careful not to let their job interfere with their studies as this is, after all, the reason why they are here in the UK.

Do not under-estimate the hours needed to focus on studies in order to successfully achieve the desired academic result.

Students may work part-time for a number of hours during term time depending on their course, age and type of visa. The following restrictions apply:

Child students, who are over the age of 16, are allowed to work if it is no more than 10 hours a week during term-time; full-time during vacations.

Students - only if their sponsor is HEP (Cambridge Arts and Sciences is a registered HEP, Higher Education Provider) – are allowed to work between 10—20 hours during term-time (dependant on the level of the course), and full time during vacations.

Note: Please always refer to the UKVI website for up to date information in case of policy changes.

Visa Interview Guide

Click here to download our 'Your Visa Interview' guide

What is the Visa Interview (Credibility Test)?

Student-route applicants aged 16 or above can be asked to attend an interview during their visa application process. The purpose of visa interview is to check applicant’s credibility as a genuine student and interview questions can include applicant’s reasons for choosing to study their programme in the UK, their knowledge of the chosen programme and whether they can afford their studies in the UK. These interviews can be carried out via video link with the Home Office interviewing team in the UK, face-to-face with Entry Clearance Officers based in UK Embassies/High Commissions or via telephone.

  • Video-linked interviews: When students submit their applications in their home country at a Visa Application Centre (VAC), they could be asked to attend an interview with the Interviewing Officers, who are based in the UK, via the video-link facility. Interviewing Officers will be asking a series of questions around student’s intention to study their course with the institution in the UK.
  • Face-to-face interview with an Entry Clearance Officer at the local embassy or consulate for which students would normally be invited to attend an appointment in advance. The questions will be around intention, but can also be around their financial background, previous education/work history and other immigration-related questions.
  • Telephone interviews can also be conducted at times with a Visa Officer so students must make sure their telephone contact details are up to date and be prepared that there is a chance they might be called upon by the Visa Office.

Will students always be interviewed when they apply for a visa?

Yes, for Student-route General applicants applying from the countries where the Credibility Test has been rolled out and this will happen when they submit their visa applications at their local VACs. It is worth to note that UKVI defined ‘low risk’ countries are exempt from the Visa Interview requirement.

How do I prepare for the Visa Interview?

We do recommend our students to prepare for these visa interviews so they can answer the questions properly and accurately to assist the Visa Officers who will be assessing their applications and this also ensures there is minimum delay to the processing of their visa application.

Here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Do attend - Failure to attend the interview may result in your application being automatically refused. In the event you cannot attend, contact the Visa Office to reschedule.
  • Do answer - You should always answer all questions fully and honestly.
  • Do think - You should think in advance about your course, the documents you provided for your visa application, and your intention to study. The UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) want to know that you have given serious thought before choosing your course and researched the options.
  • Do speak in English! - One of the most important things they will be checking is your level of English, so always answer in English, not via an interpreter.
  • Do ask - Ask for clarification if you do not understand a question to make sure you are providing the information they want.

General information

  • What is the name of the school? This may not be the same as the school's visa sponsor name – check your CAS statement for these details.
  • Did you use an educational agent at any stage (even if you stopped using them)? Who is/was your agent and why did you choose them?
  • Why did you choose this university/college/school? Why did you choose this course and how does it relate to your previous study? Why do you wish to study in the UK? Why not stay in your own country to study, if similar courses are available there?
  • What is your plan after completing the course? Do you intend to stay in the UK (for additional studies) or are you returning home?
  • If you are changing course or study pathway, why are you are making such a change of direction in your studies?
  • How do you explain any gaps in your previous education/employment history?

Intended Course(s)

  • What is the course name and academic level? What qualification will you get after the course if you pass? This is all on your CAS and/or offer letter.
  • When does the course start and finish? How many terms/semesters is it?
  • What are the modules/subjects of the course? What will you study during the course? How are you going to be assessed on the course? 
  • Did you do any research before choosing the school/course? What other schools/courses did you consider, and why did you decide on this one?
  • How is this course going to benefit you for your future career and/or academic plans?

Financial Circumstances

  • Who is going to pay your tuition fees and living costs? Where did they get the money? What is their salary?
  • You might need to provide documents to prove your financial ability to study in the UK, such as additional bank statements and proof of income from your financial sponsors. Do you have all of these? Make sure you bring additional documentations required by the Visa Office.
  • Do you know how much it costs to live in the UK and also what you might spend on day- to- day items such as food, travel and accommodation?
  • Do you know the total cost of the course and have an idea on any future courses?

Living in UK

  • Where is the school? Which city is it in and which part of the UK does it belong to?
  • Have you arranged accommodation? If not, why not? How will you/did you find it?
  • How much does accommodation cost in the city/town where you will be studying?
  • How will you commute between your accommodation and the school (bus, train, underground etc.)?

English language entry requirements


Students applying for Student Route must complete and pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT). The current list of approved tests can be found here.

All students requiring a SELT will need to take one of the approved tests at an approved SELT centre.

Please note that students progressing from a Child Student visa to a Student visa are exempt from the SELT requirement if they have successfully completed a GCSE or A Level in English Language or English Literature.

The minimum scores required by UKVI are below. However, each course has its own entry requirements which can be found here

  • RQF/QCF/NQF Level 3-5: CEFR Level B1
    IELTS 4.0 minimum in all 4 components
    LanguageCert International ESOL SELT B1 minimum 33 in all components
    Pearson PTE Academic UKVI minimum 43 in all components
  • Students over 18 with an English level below CEFR Level B1 will have to use the Short-term Study visa route.
  • Further details about the Student visa can be found here.

Child Student

  • There is no need for a Secure English Language Test (SELT) as CATS Colleges can self-assess entry level of English and recommend the appropriate course for each student's needs. Students can sit the CATS internal test to assess English level.
  • Students can take English language pre-sessional modules before their main academic course under one single CAS (as long as they are 16 or over and joining Pre: Programme/A Level/IB Diploma course)
  • Further details about the Child Student visa can be found here.

Secure English Language Tests (SELT)


Only the following types of students are not required to undertake a SELT in order to obtain a Student visa:

  • Student applicants who are 1) sponsored by a Higher Education Provider Institute (HEP) for 2) courses at or above RQF/QCF/NQF Level 6. 
  • Child Student applicants
  • Students who have successfully completed a GCSE or A Level in English (Language or Literature) in UK, which was started aged under 18.
  • Nationals from a majority English-speaking country
  • Students who have completed an academic qualification equivalent to a UK degree which was taught in a majority English-speaking country (with the exception of Canada), including UK.

UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) majority English-speaking countries’ list - nationals from these countries are exempt from requiring a SELT:

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

The Points-Based System

In order to qualify for Student or Child Student, students must pass a points-based assessment by satisfying the following:

Points Requirement: Child Student

The applicant must be awarded a total of 70 points based on the table below:

Points type Relevant requirements to be met Number of points
  • Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies requirement
  • Course requirement
  • Study at an independent school
  • Aged between 4 and 17 when applying
  • Parental consent
Financial Financial requirement: Boarding fees paid or a bank statement must be provided to confirm the student (or parent/legal guardian) has held the money for a minimum of 28 days 20

Points Requirement: Student

The applicant must be awarded a total of 70 points based on the table below.

Points type Relevant requirements to be met Number of points
Student (must meet all)
  • Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies requirement
  • Course requirement
  • Approved qualification requirement
  • Level of study requirement
  • Place of study requirement
Financial Financial requirement: Boarding fees paid or a bank statement must be provided to confirm the student (or parent/legal guardian) has held the money for a minimum of 28 days 10
English language English Language requirement: SELT 10

Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)

The Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) will include information about the student, their sponsor (educational provider), their course, the evidence used to obtain the offer and the fees.

The admissions team will send out CAS statements to those who need to apply under the Student route. This is conditional upon the student fulfilling the terms set out in their offer letter and having confirmed their place(s) by returning the required deposit or sponsorship letter. The CAS statement should then be included with their visa application.

The CAS statement from our admissions team will include:

  • The sponsor's licence number, address and contact details; ACL code for BRP collection (if applicable)
  • The student's name, date of birth, nationality, country of birth and passport/travel document number.
  • Course details such as name, level, start and end date, hours per week, address of student's main place of study.
  • Documents used to obtain the offer: this will give a brief description of our assessment of the student's academic level and English proficiency, including details such as student's previous courses/qualifications and Secure English Language Test results. If a student has previously studied in the UK under the Student route, an Academic Progression statement on how the new course of studies represents academic progression is also included here. 
  • Course/boarding fees for the first year and any payments already made. If relevant, any accommodation fees for the first year and any payments towards it already made.

Sponsor Licences

The sponsor licence register can be found here.

Colleges Sponsor Licence Name Sponsor Type Type of CAS Address
CATS Cambridge Cambridge Arts and Sciences
License No: RTC4328J1
Independent School Child Student and Student 1 High Street, Chesterton,
Cambridge, CB4 1NQ
CSVPA Cambridge Arts and Sciences
License No: RTC4328J1
Independent School (also registered as a Higher Education Provider) Child Student and Student 14 Round Church Street,
Cambridge, CB5 8AD
CATS London Cambridge Arts and Sciences
License No: RTC4328J1
Independent School Child Student and Student 43-45 Bloomsbury Square,
London, WC1A 2RA
CATS Canterbury CATS Canterbury
License No: JET1C37F8
Independent School Child Student and Student 68 New Dover Rd,
Canterbury CT1 3LQ

Note:  International students can only study with a licensed sponsor. As a condition of being a licensed sponsor, the education provider is responsible for the student while they are in the UK and are obliged to report students to the UKVI if they 1) do not arrive for the start of their course 2) withdraw from their course 3) defer or suspend their studies 4) are absent for significant periods of time.

Visa extension in the UK

Child Students can generally apply in the UK. Students are restricted in extending their visas in the UK, and it will depend on the following criteria. Please contact us with any queries.

  • Type of their current sponsor
  • Gap between the current visa end date and new course start date
  • Academic Progression requirement
  1. Type of Sponsor. Please refer to the Register of Student Sponsors to find out the type of the educational establishment. Only those on Student visas, who are currently sponsored by a HEP, Embedded College or Independent School, can extend their visa in the UK. CATS and CSVPA meet these requirements.
  2. Gap between the current visa end date and new course start date MUST NOT exceed 28 days.
  3. Academic Progression requirement must be met. According to the Home Office clarification – Academic Progression requirement is met when an applicant successfully completed (meaning you have achieved the qualification for which you were studying) the previous course for which you were last granted leave, and your new course must be above the level of the previous course for which you were given leave.

The visa checklist

Students will need to:

  • Complete the appropriate visa application form
  • Pay the visa application fee
  • Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)
  • Prepare for your visa interview (if applicable)
  • Students will need to provide the following:
    • a valid passport or travel document
    • a CAS statement from a licensed sponsor
    • documents to show they meet the maintenance requirements (such as a bank statement featuring the student's name (or parent or legal guardian, with evidence of relationship) or a loan in their name or government sponsorship and financial consent (if the account belongs to the parent or legal guardian)
    • Documents listed by their sponsors in the CAS statement assigned by their sponsor, such as academic transcripts and IELTS certificate.
    • Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) Card (if applicable)
    • TB certificate (click here to see if you are required to provide a TB certificate before submitting your application for your UK student visa)

Read more about visa interviews.