Student Finance for International Students in the UK

Student Finance for International Students and Public Funds

The question that often arises is – ‘are there student finance for international students in the UK?’ Access to public funds and student finance England can impact your ability to study in the UK. Whether you are an immigrant from Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Russia, etc., you can attend university in the UK (unless you have particular immigration bail conditions).

You will, however, need to meet the entrance requirements for your course. Depending on where you want to study in the UK, you may have different requirements including financial requirements.

Is there Student Finance for international students in the UK?

While there are many scholarships available to international students in the UK, such as the British Chevening Scholarship and several others, in short, public funds and student finance are not available to the following groups of persons:

  • UASC Care Leavers: Unaccompanied Asylum Seeing Children who have ‘aged out’ of the care system but have not yet been notified of their immigration status.
  • Carers of British citizen children who are not EEA nationals are known as ‘Zambrano’ carers. 
  • Individuals in the UK with a spousal visa, international students on student visa, or who have been granted limited leave under the family or private life rules.

Under the UK Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, section 115 states that if a person is subject to immigration control, he or she will not have recourse to public funds, thereby leading to the unavailability of student finance for international students.

Such a person will, therefore, not be entitled to most welfare benefits, such as income support, housing benefits, and various allowances and tax credits.

Firstly, you will need to speak good English and have the appropriate skills and qualifications to complete a degree programme in the UK. It will also be necessary to be able to pay for the course if you cannot access any student finance for international students in the UK.

If you are an immigrant, the amount you will have to pay and the amount of aid you can obtain are determined by your immigration status. Students from overseas are usually classed as ‘overseas students’.

Can ‘Public Funds’ act as student finance for international students?

According to the UK Immigration Rules, access to public funding refers to a list of benefits and other payments that can be accessed by an individual, such as student finance, disability living allowance, housing benefit, income support and universal credit.

There are currently no benefits available to overseas students with the immigration condition of ‘No recourse to public funds’ in their passports or Biometric Residence Permits. This means international students cannot receive money directly from the Government, and public funds are not student finance for international students.

As a result of UK immigration conditions, overseas students with overseas status cannot receive certain types of welfare benefits and local authority housing when they study overseas in the UK.

However, using the National Health Service (NHS), sending your child to a state school, and being exempt from the Council Tax do not constitute the use of public funds and you can access them. It would not violate your immigration conditions for you to claim any of these things if you are entitled to them.

What is Student Finance England?

Student Finance England (SFE) is a financial service provided by the Student Loans Company of the UK Government. They provide financial assistance to home students admitted to higher education programmes in the UK. Student Finance England grants funding for both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, including PhDs. The financial support is a tuition fee loan and maintenance loan for the duration of the programme.

Can international students access free healthcare under the NHS?

Yes, the NHS is not considered public funds for immigration purposes and international/overseas students can access the NHS while studying in the UK. The UK’s four nations’ health departments have rules regarding access to NHS care, as health is a devolved matter.

International students who are not settled in the UK and stay for more than 6 months are required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (unless they qualify for one of the exemptions). Some charges may apply for services for which a surcharge is not payable or for which there is no exemption from the surcharge.

Can international students pay ‘Home’ fee rates to access Student Finance England?

Student finance support towards tuition fees for university courses is not classified as public funds for immigration purposes. Thus, you may still be able to apply for home fees or to receive student support in the case of student finance for international students, even if you are subject to the “no recourse to public funds” (NRPF) condition. But there are some conditions.

For international students in England who qualify for ‘home’ tuition fees, the UK government partially funds course fees as part of student finance commitments. Those students who do not qualify for the home tuition rate because they are ‘overseas’ students will be charged the overseas tuition rate, which is generally higher.

Not every international student is classed as an overseas fee-paying student, regardless of whether they live in the UK or not. Some students can also receive financial assistance from loans from private institutions, e.g. banks, grants, scholarships and bursaries

A student, however, must meet specific requirements related to their immigration status and length of residence in the UK to qualify for home fees and student support, e.g. through student finance.

There are complex rules explained in detail by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), which can also offer students telephone advice. The UKCISA can also provide advice and recommendations about the rules governing Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Are there restrictions on public funds for international students?

A person considering coming to the UK must be able to support and accommodate themselves and their families until they are settled. The purpose of this is to assure the British public that immigration brings real benefits to the country and to protect its limited resources for British citizens and those legally settled here permanently.

It is a requirement for non-British citizens to be living in the UK (for example, with permission to stay permanently or enter indefinitely or with an unlimited stay) and not subject to an NRPF condition in order to qualify for certain welfare benefits and assistance.

The following are public benefits and funds that international students cannot access on a student visa:

  • Attendance Allowance
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Council Tax Reduction (sometimes called Council Tax Support) – council tax discounts, however, such as sole occupancy discounts, are not considered public funds for the purposes of the Immigration Rules. Note that this is different from council tax exemption which you may be qualified for as a full-time degree student.
  • Discretionary Welfare Payment: discretionary support payment made by a local authority under section 1 of the Localism Act 2011, any regulations made under article 135 of the Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015 or from a welfare fund under the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Act 2015
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Domestic Rate Relief (Northern Ireland)
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance not contribution-based employment and support allowance, which may also be known as ‘new style’ employment and support allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance not contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance, which may also be known as ‘new style’ jobseeker’s allowance
  • Income Support
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Social Fund Payment – these are a range of payments generally available only to people already in receipt of other benefits. Some funds are administered by local authorities as local welfare assistance, the Scottish Welfare Fund or the Discretionary Support Scheme in Northern Ireland
  • State Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

Many other benefits are not considered to be restricted for immigration purposes, and they can be accessed by student visa holders, such as:

  • Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Guardian’s Allowance (if in receipt of Child Benefit)
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Retirement Pension
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Statutory Sickness Pay
  • Widow’s Benefit and Bereavement Benefit

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