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Studentbeans.com easy guide

International students

Are you an international student coming to study in the UK? Get the low-down on visas, fees, financial help and working when it comes to UK university life...

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What's in this guide

Last updated September 01 2011

The university application process is hard enough for students who are from the UK - let alone international students. Not only do they have to get their heads around a whole new culture, but they also have a number of extra things to think about before starting at a UK university.

Visas for international students

Make sure you’ve got clearance - To come to the UK as an international student you need to first apply for ‘entry clearance’ before you leave the country where you live to travel to the UK.

OR you can be a provisional student - It IS possible to come to the UK prior to getting a place on a course providing you get entry clearance as a ‘prospective student’. Prospective students can stay in the UK for up to six months. Assuming you enrol in a course during this time you will then have to extend you stay in the UK as a ‘student’.

Contact immigration to extend your stay - You can usually stay in the UK to extend your immigration permission, but occasionally you will have to return to your home country to do this - it is best to check with immigration if you are unsure.

Overstaying can bring severe penalties - If international students in the UK overstay for more than 28 days days you may be barred from coming back to the UK for at least a year, but potentially five or ten years.

ALWAYS keep a copy of your passport - Losing your passport can really complicate immigration issues, so make sure you have a copy of every page (except the blank ones, of course) just in case.

Fees for international students

Home or away? - Whether you will be charged the cheaper ‘home’ fees or more expensive ‘overseas’ fees is a complicated issue and is decided by each of the devolved governments in the UK - to determine which category you fall into visit the UKCISA site.

Fees range greatly - The exact cost of your tuition fees will depend on the institution you apply to, the level of your course, and the course itself. The most that any UK universities charges international students is £18,000 per year.

Can I receive financial help as an international student?

EU students: Financial help

If you’re coming over to study from another EU country, you can apply for financial assistance towards tuition (and potentially living) costs.

You will be eligible to apply for financial help if:

  • You have been living with the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or Switzerland for a minimum of three years, and

  • Your main reason for being there was not full-time education.

Furthermore, you may be able to apply for financial help with living costs if you:

  • Have lived in the UK (including Channel Islands and Isle of Man) for at three years

  • Are a student from England who is returning from residency elsewhere in the EEA or Switzerland

EU students: Financial help with tuition fees

The list of countries below indicate those within the EEA. If you are a citizen of one of those countries then you can apply for financial assitance:

Contact information

Contact the Student Finance Services European Team for any advice on applying for student finance in the UK:

  • Helpline: (+44) (0) 141 243 3570 (Mon-Fri; 9.00am-5.30pm)
  • Address: PO Box 89, Darlington, DL1 9AZ.

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

(Switzerland is not a member of the EEA however Swiss nationals have the same rights as citizens of the other European countries when it comes to university funding).

Apply for financial help - Head to DirectGov to download the relevant application forms to apply for financial assistance with tuition fees.

EU students: Financial help with living costs and other expenses - If you are elgible for additional financial support, you will follow the same application process as British students and will be entitled to the same amount as them.

International students: Financial help (not from UK or EU)

If you are not from the UK or another EU country then you will be classed as an international student. For more information on finance, head to the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) site.

Overseas fees - These range from £3,500 to around £18,000 per year, dependent on university and course. Contact the university you are looking at to find out their specific course fees.

You might be eligible for a grant - The education departments of the devolved UK governments determine which students are eligible for student loans and grants and bursaries - to find out whether you qualify, click here.

Get financial help from the British Council - For information about scholarships and other sources of funding for international students from your country studying in the UK contact the British Council. Here are some options that the website suggests you can look in to:

  • Scholarships and funding - search the Education UK website for potential scholarships.

  • Chevening Scholarships - Considered a potential future leader in your field? The Chevening scholarship could be for you. There are currently over 500 scholars at unis in the UK. Find out more, here.

  • UK 9/11 Scholarship fund - Set up by the British Council and the World Trade Center Disaster Fund, this scholarship is awarded to children or dependents of victims of 9/11, looking to study in the UK.

International students working in the UK

Part time jobs are fine while studying - In the majority of cases, assuming you have student immigration permission, you can work during your period of study.

You cannot, however:

  • Be self-employed

  • Be empolyed as a professional sportsperson or coach

  • Be employed as an entertainer

  • Take a permanent full-time job

Hours of work allowed - If you made your student immigration application on or after 4 July 2011, during term time you may work:

  • Up to 20 hours a week if you are studying at degree level or above at a higher education institution

  • Up to 20 hours a week if you are on a study abroad programme at an ‘overseas higher education institution’ in the UK

  • Up to 10 hours a week if you are studying a course that is below degree level at a ‘higher education institution’

If you made your student immigration application before 4 July, check the UKCISA site for information on term-time working hours.

As long as it’s term time you are free to work - Please note that just because you may not have to attend classes (for example if you are writing a dissertation), this still counts as studying and the limit of 10 or 20 hours per week still applies. Speak to your university to find out exactly when terms/holiday begin and end.

Working during the holidays - You can work full-time during the holidays.

Working in the UK after your studies - If you have immigration permission for up to four months after your studies have ended, you are allowed to work full-time for that period only. Once this is over, you will be required to either make a new immigration application if you are eligible, or leave the UK when that four month period comes to an end.

Should you apply to stay as a Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) migrant, you will be allowed to work full-time until your application is decided.

You can’t take a year off to work in the UK - You are unable to take gap years while studying in the UK to get a job here - if you want to defer your course for a year you must return home and come back when your studies resume.

Like everyone else, you WILL have to pay tax - Assuming you earn more than a specified personal allowance within a tax year you will have to pay income tax like anyone else. Visit the HM Revenue & Customs site for details. You will not need a National Insurance number prior to starting work but you must get one when you do find a job - details on how to apply for one of these can also be found at HM Revenue & Customs.