uk student visa 2020
Getting a UK student visa in 2020 will be easier and safer for students from the US and South America. Source: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

Before the pandemic, Americans and South Americans planning to study in the UK faced a lengthy process to obtain student visas. They no longer will.

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) — a division of the Home Office — and visa services partner VFS Global have introduced new measures to support applicants from these two continents. Visa rules will be more flexible; all Premium Application Centres will follow “standardised protective measures” to ensure a comfortable and safe environment for all customers and employeesAppointments are available for applicants in 10 cities in the US: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Seattle, Washington DC and San Francisco. 

“This is a facility offered exclusively for student visa customers in the US and ensures a convenient visa application process for whenever these students are ready to travel. Submitting applications at Premium Application Centres comes at an additional fee,” said the press statement. American students who are applying via the UK visa Standard service must book an appointment at a USCIS Application Support Center to provide their biometrics. “These centres are not operated by VFS Global and must be scheduled through the online appointment system,” said the statement.

“Over the last few years we have continued to see thousands of students from the US choose the UK’s world-class higher-education system as the destination for their studies … Despite the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important we provide international students with the support and flexibility they need to pursue their studies in the UK, in a safe manner,” said Martin Potter, head of customer experience and account management for UKVI.

The UK’s Graduate route is guaranteed to open in Summer 2021 – which means students who successfully complete a undergraduate or postgraduate degree can stay and work, look for work, and gain experience in the UK for two years (three years for PhD students). International students who start their courses online overseas will be eligible to apply for the Graduate route provided they are in the UK before April 6, 2021 and complete their courses. 

Support for South American international students to study in the UK

In a separate statement, VFS Global said students from South America can avail of the optional On Demand Mobile Visa (ODMV) service that enables them to submit their visa application and enrol biometrics from the comfort and safety of their home. Once a visa decision is reached, passports can be couriered to the customer’s home.   

UK Visa Application Centres have reopened in countries across South America in a phased manner since August 2020. This includes Brazil (in Sao Paolo, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro), Colombia (Bogota, Medellin and Cali), Venezuela (Caracas); Argentina (Buenos Aires); Peru (Lima), Mexico (Mexico City), Boliva (La Paz) Ecuador (Quito and Guayaquil), and Guatemala as an ODMV service location. These centres are receiving Tier 4 applications and are subject to local lockdown regulations. According to data from UKVI, in the year ending June 2020, almost 3,800 student visas in total to the UK were granted to nationals from Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Panama and Venezuela.