For many decades the UK has been the place to study for international students. With some of the most prestigious universities, colleges, and schools in the world, it is easy to understand the appeal. Given the importance of international students to UK learning establishments, the standard of education available in this country has remained extremely high. However, not all of those who choose to study in the UK are of university age; around 17,000 of the half a million international students who come to the UK each year are children (aged between 4 and 17 years).
Many will be familiar with some of the most well-known independent schools in the UK, including Eton, Westminster, King’s College, Magdalen, Rugby, and Charterhouse. There are, in fact, around 2,600 independent schools in the UK, each of which provides a wealth of options for those parents seeking the best educational foundation for their children. And many of those children go on to leverage their British independent school education to their advantage by gaining a place at a prestigious UK university, including Russell Group establishments, considered to be some of the very best in the world.
There are a number of requirements that must be met to the satisfaction of the British Home Office in order for your child to be granted a child student visa (Tier 4). The full detailed guidance can be found on the UK Government website. To apply for a child study visa, the child must:
Before submitting an application for a child student visa (Tier 4), you will need to ensure that your child has an unconditional place with a UK learning establishment holding a Tier 4 sponsorship license. The course must be taught in accordance with either the national curriculum, the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), or the independent school education inspection standards. If the course does not align to these curriculum standards, the course may be suitable for a child study visa if it is accepted by one of the following UK educational oversight bodies as being at an equivalent level:
And crucially, any offer must be unconditional, i.e. not dependant on meeting a set of criteria (e.g. an exam or test result).
Under the current guidance, the Home Office will not grant child study visas for a child who wishes to complete a ‘foundation’ course in order to enter the tertiary study at a higher education establishment in the UK.
As part of the child study visa application process, you will be asked to provide the CAS reference number given to you by the course provider. The CAS must have the same details as on the child’s passport, and it must have been issued no more than six months before the date of the application. The CAS will automatically expire if not used within six months of the issue and it cannot be used more than once (i.e. if the Tier 4 child study visa application is refused by the Home Office, the same CAS cannot be used for a subsequent application). It should also be noted that having a CAS is no guarantee that your child will be granted a Tier 4 child study visa, however, assuming all other criteria met, there is every reason to expect the application to be successful.
If your child will be attending an independent school away from their family, you will naturally want to do everything to ensure their welfare and protection is paramount. The Home Office has a legal duty to ensure this is the case under the Borders, Citizenship, and Immigration Act 2009. Children (i.e. anyone under the age of 18) coming to the UK to study at an independent school must have proper and suitable care arrangements in place for their travel and reception on arrival in the UK. To this end, the care and accommodation arranged for your child must comply with strict UK health and safety law, including for boarding schools and residential special schools.
To support the application for a Tier 4 child study visa, you will need to provide as a minimum:
If any other documents are required, you will be advised when the online application is submitted.
When applying, you will also be expected to pay the visa application fee of £348 in addition to the immigration health surcharge (£300 for each period of 12 months of study).
For those looking to give their child the best possible chance in life, studying in the UK can be a rich and rewarding experience that will provide a wealth of opportunity in the future. The process of applying for a tier 4 child study visa is relatively straightforward, and you can expect to receive a decision from the Home Office within three weeks. We wish your child every success with their life and studies in the UK.
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