Thinking of going to the UK to prepare for your English language exam? Great idea! There are lots of English preparation courses available in language schools and universities in the UK. These English pathway programmes are meant to help you to get the best possible score for your English university preparation exam (most often Cambridge, TOEFL or IELTS) and help you get into an international university.
Even if you apply for a short English course, you may still require a visa. What kind of visa do you need and how do you apply for it?
By following the guide below, and you can save lots of time and extra stress. That leaves you free to do the important things, like finding the perfect English language course!
1. Do I really need a study visa for the UK?
If you are a citizen of an EU country or Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you don’t need a visa. If you come from any other country and want to take English exam preparation in the UK, you will need a visa.
2. What type of visa do I need?
Visa regulations for English learning courses are different than those for university degree courses in the UK. Make sure you apply for the right learner visa to avoid any problems.
To attend an English language course, you will need to apply for a short-term study visa. If you are over 18 years old you have these two options:
- a short-term study visa for up to 6 months.
- a short-term study visa (6-11 months) for English language courses only.
If you are under 18 years old, you can only apply for a short-term study (child) visa for no more than 6 months.
People from non-visa national countries can come to the UK and apply for a short-term study visa of up to six months on arrival at the airport. If they plan to study English for more than six months, they must apply for their short-term study visa in their home country. Anyone from a visa national country has to apply for short-term visas from their home country.
Do not apply for the Tier 4 student visas if you just want to take an English training course. They are much more expensive and you need to prove that you have reached a good level of English already.
3. What do I need to apply for short-term UK visa?
To apply you must provide proof of:
Identity (passport or travel ID);
Acceptance letter to attend an exam preparation course in the UK at an accredited English language school;
- Enough money for travel and to support you during your stay (you will need to show bank accounts for the past six months);
- Language learners under 18 need permission from a parent or guardian and documents confirming booked travel and accommodation;
- Application fee of 89 GBP for the short term study (6 months) visa and 170 GBP for extended study (11 months) visa;
- Tuberculosis test results - but these are only for people staying for over six months who come from certain countries;
- Certified translations for documents that are not in English.
Tip: Don’t pay for anything else before getting your visa.
4. How do I apply for a visa?
Just visit the Visa4UK website, register an account and follow the steps there.
You will need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre in your country. Here’s a useful list.
You can apply for a visa 3 months before your language course in the UK starts. It's better that you apply well in advance as the visa process can be slower in some countries.
You should usually get an answer about your visa within 3 weeks. Visit the UK Council for International Affairs webpage for more information.
5. What can and can't I do with a short-term visa?
On a visa of up to six months, you can either study a short course or an English language course in the UK. With a short-term visa of 6-11 months, you can only study an English course.
If you change your mind and want to take a different English course, you have the option of changing your language school.
You won’t be allowed to:
- Extend your short term visa, or change it to another type of visa
- Work or look for work
- Bring any family with you
- Get public funding, such as benefits or housing.
If you're still not sure about how to apply, here is more information from the UK government.