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Tier 4 General Student or Short-Term Student?

If you are coming to the UK for a period of study lasting up to and including 6 months you have two options for the type of immigration permission (visa) you can apply for: Tier 4 General Student or Short-Term Student. Each route has advantages and disadvantages and the following list of ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ may help you decide which one is best for you.

Please note that if you are a citizen of a country which is on the UK government’s visa national list, you must apply for a visa before leaving your home country, whichever route you choose. The list of visa national countries can be found here.

If you plan to undertake your MSc summer project in the UK, you should use the Tier 4 route.

Tier 4 Advantages

  • Your visa will be multi-entry so travelling in and out of the UK is straightforward for the duration of the visa
  • During term time you can take part-time work in UK subject to certain restrictions, full time work is allowed during holidays
  • You may be able to extend this visa in the UK if you change your study plans and need to stay longer to complete your course
  • Dependants can apply for dependant visas
  • If you are eligible for a work-based immigration category following your studies, you can usually switch to a different type of visa from within the UK · for courses completing in and after summer 2021 you will be able to apply for the 2-year post study visa

Tier 4 Disadvantages

  • You must obtain Entry Clearance/Visa from a Visa Application Centre in your home country before travelling to the UK
  • You must have a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) from LSHTM
  • The visa application fee is £348.00
  • Very strict rules must be followed regarding the documents required for your visa application
  • You must have a set amount of funds to cover living costs and tuition fees in a bank account for 28 days before applying
  • You must pay an immigration healthcare surcharge as part of your visa application, which is £300
  • LSHTM is required to monitor your attendance throughout your studies and report non-attendance or other changes in circumstance to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
  • Counts towards study cap in the UK

More information on the Tier 4 route can be found here.

Short-Term Student Advantages

  • Quicker to obtain
  • You only need a visa invitation letter confirming that you hold an unconditional place; CAS is not required
  • No set amount of money needed in your bank account; instead you must show ‘sufficient funds’ to cover fees and living costs
  • No requirement to assess or give details about your English Language ability
  • Can be obtained at port of entry to the UK by non-visa nationals – free of charge
  • For visa nationals the visa application fee is £95.00 for a 6-month period; can be applied for from any country
  • Does not count towards study cap in the UK
  • Travel in and out of UK allowed

Short-Term Student Disadvantages

  • Maximum duration 6 months; cannot be extended
  • You must return to your home country to apply for a different visa
  • You cannot take any kind of paid or unpaid work during your stay
  • No immigration health surcharge – you may need to consider taking personal health insurance
  • You cannot switch to another immigration category/visa
  • You cannot bring dependants
  • You will not be able to apply for the 2-year post study visa

More information on the short-term study route can be found here.

Further useful information is available from the independent organisation the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA).