If you are in the United Kingdom and want to study at an English learning institution, it is best to start the application process early. For students wishing to study for more than 6 months, a visa is required. As always, it is best to start early when applying so that all necessary paperwork is completed well before you start your course work. Deciding what courses to take and where is very important since over the last 10 years the UK has tightened its policies for students entering the country, according to travel consultants at Skill Clear.

Deciding What School to Attend

Decide what schools you want to attend after determining what courses you want to take. There is a listing of schools that a non-UK student can attend while in the country. This has been created to make certain that students do not enter into the country under false pretenses, as mentioned by Skill Clear.

Know that you can attend a variety of schools including public, private and independent schools. They are listed in the Register of Education and Training providers listed by the UK Border Agency and include Catholic high schools as well as graduate schools like the London School of Economics.

Note that whether you are a member of the European Commission Area, such as France or Austria, you may study in the UK. The same applies if you are a from a non European Commission Area nation like the United States. The educational institution that you apply to must be an approved educational provider.

Ask if the school that you wish to attend could be registered as an approved educational provider if it is not on the current list. This requires that it obtains a license from the UK Border Agency. This should be done well in advanced of starting your classes. There are certain requirements that the school has to meet, and determining if the school qualifies may take time.

Getting the Proper Forms

Apply to be accepted as a student at an approved UK school, and follow current visa application procedures. As of March 31, 2009, a Tier 4 point-based system is involved in the application process based on whether you are a child student or adult student. Child students are those who are between the ages of 4 and 17. Adult students are engaging in study after what's termed the "post-16 education." To apply as a student you need to have completed a VAF9 form and have it be accepted. Points are awarded based on what forms are turned in, so providing all needed forms is very important.

Gather all necessary items for the VAF9, student visa form. These include a valid passport and previous passports, showing financial means to pay for the tuition and living expenses. Such proof can be shown if you have a bank account or loan in your name. If you are a child student, the bank account would need to be in your parent's name. Other means of proof include showing that you have governmental or financial sponsorship.

Provide other required items, including the completed visa application and biometric data, or prints of all 10 fingers, and a recent passport-sized photo.

Note that if you are a postgraduate dentist or doctor, other requirements are needed and may be found at ukvisa.gov.uk.

Know that other personal information is also needed. If you are not single, proof of marriage or civil union is required. In case of convictions, a record of those is required. A fee of 145 pounds sterling is required to be paid for the visa application under the points program. The fee should be paid in local currency. See the UK Border Patrol Agency for more information on where the visa centers are. After applying for a visa online, you will be given information on where to have your biometric scanning completed.

Provide proof of the ability pay living expenses, among other information, if a dependent is going to be staying with you as you study in England

Send in a visa letter from your application. This letter is an unconditional, official letter from your institution, or sponsor, to study at that school. The visa letter should be sent no later than 6 months before officially applying for a visa. In the future, however, it is planned that sponsors be able to give you the electronic reference numbers termed confirmation of acceptance (CAS) letters in place of the visa letter.

Other Necessary Items

Spend money wisely. The UK, especially if you study in London, can be a rather expensive place to live.

Complete a separate form in order to have dependents stay in the country with you as you complete your course work. See the UK Border Control for details.

Note that if you are an ESL student you may be able to take pre-sessional or foundational courses to improve your English before taking your other classes. This holds true for other students who may need to take prep classes prior to their formal studies.