A Tier 4 (General) British student visa lets you work as a student union sabbatical officer, work as permitted by your course load and of course let you study! It doesn’t allow you to have access to public funds, work in certain jobs (e.g. sports coach) and study at a local authority funded school. Students are permitted to travel to the UK up to 1 month before their course begins (the course has to be longer than 6 months).
In certain cases, students can bring in their dependents (spouse or civil partner and children under 18 years of age) too:
- If they are sponsored by the British government or a government from any other country;
- The course is longer than 6 months and is at the postgraduate level.
It is the responsibility of the students to maintain additional maintenance funds for their dependents and pay further healthcare surcharge for them. Dependents are not allowed to work as professional sportspersons. They also cannot work as a doctor or dentist except under certain circumstances.
Arriving in the UK
At the British border, you will meet officers from the UK Border Agency (UKBA) who will scan your passport and check other details such as the landing card, the Certificate of Acceptance Studies (CAS) number, or the particulars of your course. They will also verify other documents like medical documentation, bank statements, and proof of residence in the UK or a local address. No forged documents should be handed out. Make sure that the required documents are in your hand luggage. At the end of scrutiny, you will be allowed to enter the country.
The initial British student visa is issued as a short-term entry permit (although multiple entries may be allowed) that allows students to stay in the UK for up to 30 days. Thereafter, students are expected to collect their longer-term biometric residence permit (BRP) within 10 days of arrival or before the expiry of the short-term permit (whichever is later). The BRP serves as an immigration document and contains biometric details (fingerprints and the photograph that were taken at the visa application center). It also details the terms and conditions of your British student visa. Separate BRPs should be collected for dependents. Some universities don’t allow you to officially begin your course unless you have the BRP. So, check carefully.
Thinking early about options
Tier 2 allows international graduates to stay in the country and pursue work-related activities. Ph.D. students are eligible to apply after completing 12 months of their Ph.D. program. To be eligible, students will need to find work with a UK-based employer who pays a minimum of £20,800 per annum. The employer should also demonstrate that they had advertised the job but were unable to find a suitable British student visa applicant. This is not an easy task given the competitiveness. Thus, one should plan early by looking for part-time jobs during the course tenure. Polishing your English-speaking skills could be another way, as a high standard of English is needed for working in the UK.