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British-speak for students. How English are you?

Okay, our title might confuse non-English speakers, but there is a certain way British English is spoken. And when applying for a Tier 4 Student Visa, English proficiency is an immigration requirement.

Crispin ArandaOriginally posted on July 3, 2017; updated July 3, 2017

British-speak for students. How English are you?

Knowledge of English study in the UK

You must prove your knowledge of the English language when you apply. For the main eligibility requirements, continue reading after English requirement section.

(Source -  https://www.gov.uk/tier-4-general-visa/knowledge-of-english)

This usually means passing a secure English language test (SELT).

Where you’re studying

What you’re studying

Knowledge of English needed


Higher education institution (HEI)

Degree level or above

Reading, writing, listening and speaking

Equivalent to CEFR (Common European Framework for languages) level B2

Institution that’s not HEI

Degree level or above

SELT in reading, writing, listening and speaking

CEFR level B2

Any institution

Below degree

SELT in reading, writing, listening and speaking

CEFR level B1

HEIs can choose how to assess a student’s knowledge of English. They must still be at:

  • CEFR level B2 if you’re studying at a degree level or higher
  • SELT in reading, writing, listening and speaking and CEFR level B1 if you’re not studying at a degree level

Overview of Studying in the UK under the Tier 4 (General) Student Visa

Main Source – UK.gov

You can apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa to study in the UK if you’re 16 or over and you:

There will be no change to the rights and status of EU nationals living in the UK, nor UK nationals living in the EU, while the UK remains in the EU.

When to apply

The earliest you can apply for a visa is 3 months before you start your course. You must have received an unconditional offer of a place on a course with a licensed Tier 4 sponsor (see the link, above)

What course could you pursue?

  • At a minimum – a full-time leading to a qualification that’s at least level 6 on the Ofqual register, or
  • An overseas course of degree level study that’s equal to a UK higher education course and is being run by an overseas higher education institution, or
  • A full-time, with at least 15 hours per week of organised daytime study, leading to a qualification which is at least level 3 on the Ofqual register, or
  • A recognised foundation programme as a postgraduate doctor or dentistYou must have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course - the amount will vary depending on your circumstances.

Applicants outside the UK

The official rules on the Tiler 4 Guidance may be summed up as:

  • You must apply online for a Tier 4 (General) student visa. Follow this link for Phililppine study visa applicants - https://www.vfsglobal.co.uk/philippines/how_to_apply.html
  • You’ll need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre (to get a biometric residence permit) as part of your application.
  • You’ll have to collect your biometric residence permit within 10 days of when you said you’d arrive in the UK (even if you actually arrive at a later date).

Processing times

You’ll usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks. You can check visa processing times for your country. At time of writing, the following processing time was generated:

Points Based System Visas

PBS Tier 4

Most applications are processed within 15 days.

Number of days to process application

10 days

15 days

% of applications decided



Note: actual processing times may vary depending on a range of factors.

The above data is for all decisions made in May 2017

Fees (amount in Philippine pesos will vary depending on the exchange rate at time of lodging)

It costs £335 to apply for this visa from outside the UK.

You must pay £335 per person for any dependants.

You’ll also have to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application. Check how much you’ll have to pay before you apply.

How long you can stay

You can arrive in the UK before your course starts:

  • up to 1 week before, if your course lasts 6 months or less
  • up to 1 month before, if your course lasts more than 6 months

How long you can stay depends on the kind of course you’re doing and what study you’ve already completed.

What you can and can’t do

You can:

  • study
  • work as a student union sabbatical officer
  • apply from inside or outside the UK
  • apply to extend your stay
  • work in most jobs - depending on what level your course is and what kind of sponsor you have

You can’t:

  • get public funds
  • work in certain jobs, for example professional sportsperson or sports coach
  • study at an academy or a local authority-funded school (also known as a maintained school)
  • You may be able to bring in family members (dependants).

Authors & Contributors

Crispin Aranda

Crispin Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda is an established International Visa Conselor and Immigrant Advocate. He is the president of IVC and is in several migration radio programs.

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