Studying Abroad in the UK: A Complete Guide for 2023

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World-class universities, major cities that are melting pots of culture, and a rich history all make the United Kingdom a popular draw for international students. If you’re looking to make the move yourself, there will be a whole list of things to tick off, and it can all seem pretty complicated.

That’s why our experts at Remitly have created this swift summary of important points to keep in mind when you’re preparing to settle in the UK as a student. It covers everything from how to get your student visa to finding a place to live, so let’s get into it.

Applying for a student visa

Having successfully landed your place at an educational institution in the UK, the next thing you need to do is obtain a student visa. As of this writing, it costs £348 to apply from outside the UK, you can begin the process up to six months before your course commences. The visa will let you stay in the UK for up to five years if it’s a degree-level course, and for your application to be successful you’ll need to: 

  • Verify your identity at a Visa Application Centre or through the UK Immigration: ID Check app.
  • Prove you have an unconditional offer of a place on a course by providing your Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) reference number.
  • Prove you can afford to pay for the course and cover your living expenses (£1,334 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses in London, £1,023 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses outside London), unless your home nation is on a list of countries exempt from this condition. The list can be found here.  
  • Prove you have a good knowledge of English by passing a Secure English Language Test from an approved provider, unless you’re from one of the countries listed here.
  • Pay the immigration health surcharge to allow access to the NHS. This is £470 per year for a student visa. 

You can apply for your student visa online at the official UK government website.

Finding accommodation

Next on the to-do list when moving to the UK is arranging where you’ll actually live. The main options to consider are:

  • Student halls of residence, which are owned and run by the educational institutions themselves. Featuring private rooms, shared kitchens and social areas, with bills included in the rent, student halls provide a convenient way to settle in and make new friends.
  • Private halls of residence, which operate much like regular halls except that they’re owned by private companies. 
  • Private rentals, such as moving into a flat or house with other students, or getting your own room in a family home. This is a particularly popular option among students after they complete their first year in halls.

You’ll find information on all of these options at your college or university’s website and local estate agent listings online. 

Finding a part-time job while studying in the UK

Working part-time while studying will be on the agenda of many international students heading to the UK. With a student visa, anyone studying at degree level or above will be entitled to work up to 20 hours a week during a term/semester. You’ll also be free to work full-time during breaks/vacation periods.

Bear in mind that you cannot be self-employed (for example, as a freelancer writer or a private tutor) or work as an entertainer or sportsperson.

Getting a part-time job will almost always require having a well-written, up-to-date CV/résumé which lists your schooling, exam grades, work experience and practical skills. You’ll be able to search for potential jobs using online agency listings, checking notice boards at your college or university, or even walk into shops, bars and restaurants to submit your CV in person. 

If you’re liable to pay income tax on your earnings – which may not be the case as you’ll only be working part-time – this amount will be automatically deducted by your employer. If you haven’t been provided with a National Insurance number as part of your visa process, you’ll have to to apply for one in order to work in the UK.

Setting up a bank account

Having your own UK bank account will make it far easier to settle into your new life. Thanks to the power of the internet, you’ll have all the relevant information at your fingertips long before you travel over to the UK, with bank websites laying out what services they offer. Things to consider when choosing a UK bank include:

  • What fees may be charged for various aspects of the account.
  • Whether the bank provides an easy-to-use mobile app.
  • Whether there are bank staff who can speak your native language.
  • What other services the bank offers, from overdrafts and loans to insurance and savings accounts.

Sending money back home

Moving to study in a new country can be challenging and exciting in equal measure, and you’ll certainly have a lot on your plate when you relocate. But, here at Remitly, we also know that one of your priorities, throughout the whole process of moving, settling in and studying, may be to send money back to your loved ones at home. That’s why we recommend you take some time out to research the easiest ways to make international money transfers.

Sending via your UK bank account will certainly be one convenient option. However, you can also look into dedicated, online remittance companies which may provide a more cost-effective way to send. As they don’t have physical retailers, their running costs tend to be lower than banks and traditional money transfer firms. This can in turn translate to lower fees for their customers. 

Ready to start sending?

At Remitly, we feel privileged to handle money transfers for millions of people around the world who’ve made the brave decision to relocate and continue to support their family and friends at home. Offering a transparent fee structure and exchange rates, as well as a securely encrypted mobile app, Remitly is here to ensure your money gets where it needs to be. Like to know more? Download the Remitly app to get started. 

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