Studying in the UK


Any international student attending a British boarding school that does not hold a British, Commonwealth or EU passport must apply for a Tier 4 Child Student Visa. If you’re aged between 4 and 17 years and you want to study at an independent school in the UK you can apply for the Tier 4 (Child) student visa. To qualify you must:

  • have a place on a course
  • have the consent of your parent or guardian
  • have enough money to cover your course fees and living costs
  • be from a country that’s not in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland meet the eligibility requirements
When your child has been offered a place at a school you will be asked to pay a deposit. The amount varies from school to school. At this point you can also choose to pay the full year’s school fees upfront if you so choose.

When the school has received payment they will issue your child with a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) number in a letter that states the school will sponsor your child’s visa for the duration of their time at the school.

Once you are in receipt of the CAS number and sponsorship letter you can begin your child’s visa application. You can come to the UK up to one month before the start date of the course. The maximum length of stay without extension is six years. Where the visa is granted for the duration of the student’s course, four months are added to the visa after the end of the course.

Your age and the length of your course of study will affect how long you can stay.
Age when you apply How long you can stay
Under 16 Course length (up to 6 years) plus 4 months afterwards
16 or 17 Course length (up to 3 years) plus 4 months afterwards

You may apply for extension of his visa within the UK if his existing permission to remain runs out less than one calendar month before the start-date of the new course he intends to undertake. If the start date is more than one month after the expiry of the existing visa, application for extension has to be made from abroad.

Visa Conditions
Under the terms of a Tier 4 (Child) student visa you are allowed to engage in the following:
  • study at an independent school
  • apply from outside the UK
  • apply to extend your stay
If you’re 16 or over you can also engage in the following:
  • take up part-time employment during term for up to 10 hours per week
  • full-time employment during vacations
  • on a work placement as part of your course, (but not for more than 50% of your course time)
  • as a student union sabbatical officer for up to 2 years
You cannot:
  • study at an academy or a local authority-funded school (also known as a maintained school) or further education college
  • get public funds
  • take a full-time permanent job or be self-employed
  • work as a doctor or dentist in training
  • work as a professional sportsperson (eg a sports coach) or entertainer
  • settle in the UK on this visa
  • bring in family members (‘dependants’) - if your parents want to accompany you, they’ll need to apply for a Parent of a Tier 4 (Child) visa


Every child under 16 years of age must have a guardian in the UK but most schools will insist all ages of student have a guardian listed until they leave the school. You will need to provide information on your child’s guardian before they start at the school. You will also need this information for your child’s visa application.

The guardian will ideally live within 2 hours of the school. Most schools will not accept guardians under the age of 25.

Prep school students (4-13 years old) are required to have a guardian that will collect and return them to school; attend parent meetings and generally support the child in all areas of their education. Guardians will be expected to take care of a child if they are unwell and can not stay in school, and with purchasing items the child might need for school such as sports equipment. The guardian must be available for your child during short weekend breaks (also known as Exeat weekends) and half term holidays unless they are travelling home to their own country. In this instance guardians are responsible for taking the child in their care to the airport and collecting them on their return when no school transport is provided.

If you intend on visiting the UK for all holidays and you will attend all parent meetings then you can choose an emergency guardianship service, which is when a family is appointed to your child who will be there for them when you can not be. It is a good idea for you and your child to spend some time with the guardian in this instance to ensure your child is comfortable around them.

Senior school students (13-18 years old) are required to have a named guardian who can act on all of the above when required. The older the student gets the less schools require the guardian to be so heavily involved, but most schools would prefer as much interaction between them, the student and their guardian, throughout their time at the school, as possible.

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