How to emigrate to the UK by studying at a UK University

UK universities are recognised as some of the best in the world, albeit very liberal, meaning graduates are in high-demand in the local job market.

What’s more, if you study in the UK on a Tier 4 (General) student visa, it’s far easier to get a job in the UK and switch to a Tier 2 (general) work permit and even one day naturalise as a British citizen.

This is according to Sable International’s John Dunn, who indicated that South Africans over the age of 18 can apply to study at a UK university or college through a Tier 4 (General) student visa.

This visa works on a points system, and you will need 40 points to be eligible, including the following:

  • Confirmation of acceptance for studies: 30 points
  • Proof of sufficient funds: 10 points

Main requirements:

You will need to have received an unconditional offer of a place in a course at a university or college that is a licensed Tier 4 sponsor, said Dunn.

“Once you have received your offer, your university or college will send you a reference number called a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS).”

The amount you will need for your course will vary depending on the length of your course and where you will be studying, he said.

“Tuition fees are, on average, approximately £12,000 (R217,850) per year, but they can range from £8,000 to £36,000 (R145,234 – R653,555) per year.”

You must also show that you have:

  • £1,265 (R22,965) per month for living costs if you are studying in London for the majority of your studies
  • £1,015 (R18,426) per month for living costs if you are studying outside London or anywhere else in the UK for the majority of your studies

Other requirements

The other major requirement required of analysts is that they are able to speak, read and understand English.

The level of English required of you differs based on your degree level, explained Dunn.

“If you are going to be studying at degree level or above, you will need to have an English level equivalent to Common European Framework for languages (CEFR) level B2, as well as your SELT from an approved provider,” he said.

There is also an immigration healthcare surcharge which will grant you access to UK’s National Health Service (NHS) during your stay.


If you’re not quite ready to leave the UK once you’ve completed your degree, you have the option to live, work and naturalise in the UK after you graduate, said Dunn.

“You can do this by applying for a Tier 2 (general) work permit. In order to apply for this visa, you will need to receive a job offer from a UK-based company.”

However, as a UK graduate it’s much easier to find a job in the UK, said Dunn.

You will need to obtain 70 points in order to be eligible for this visa. Below is a breakdown of the required points:

  • 30 points for having a valid job offer from a registered Tier 2 sponsor
  • 20 points for an offer of a minimum salary of £20,800 (R377,610)  (or the industry equivalent)
  • 10 points for having at least £945 (R17,155) available to you
  • 10 points for meeting the English language requirement

“If you meet all of the requirements and your application is done correctly, you should receive your visa within eight weeks of your application,” said Dunn.

“The major benefit of switching is that your potential employer will be much more willing to hire someone who graduated in the UK than an employee who graduated outside the UK,” he said.

“This is because employers are exempt from having to search for a local candidate for a position that is being filled by a UK university graduate, regardless of that graduate’s nationality. Employers are also exempt from paying the Immigration Skills Charge when they hire a UK university graduate.

“This means that it will be much easier for you find work in the UK, as your employer will be able to save valuable time and money employing you as opposed to an international graduate.”

The Tier 2 visa is valid for five years and you are allowed to bring dependents with you on this visa. After you’ve been in the UK for five years, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain and ultimately naturalise and become a British citizen.



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