If you are a non-EEA (European Economic Area) citizen, you will need to apply for a student visa. Depending on the country in which you currently reside, you can apply by either mail, courier, online, or in person. Once you have accepted admission at a university, start collecting documents and making copies for your student visa application. I was in Korea when I applied for my visa and it took me about a month to collect all the necessary documents, which included a passport, birth certificate, bank statements, diploma, transcripts, and letter of acceptance. You should apply as early as possible, however, you cannot apply three months before the start date of your course. It should take no more than ten working days to receive your visa, but it can take more than a couple of months, especially if you are applying during the summer.
It took more than a month to receive my UK visa in Korea. The weeks before I received my visa were extremely stressful because I had a pre-booked return flight to the United States and needed to be in Korea to receive my visa. The follow-up process was frustratingly opaque and bureaucratic. In Korea, you have to submit your visa application at the Visa Application Centre, which serves as an information and collection agency. It is separate from the British Embassy, which is the governing body that does the actual visa review and approval. However, to follow up on your visa, you have to go through the Visa Application Centre and most of the time they know just as much as you. You cannot follow up at the British Embassy unless you have a scheduled appointment. The guards at the Embassy wouldn’t even let me pass through the gates because I was neither British nor had an appointment. They were appallingly rude and told me to contact the embassy via phone. After several phone calls, I was finally told that my reviewer had been on vacation and would be completing my review this week. Fortunately, I received my visa just in time for my flight to Seattle.
Most people receive their visas right away, so you probably won’t have any problems, but always expect the worst. Apply early. Make sure to proofread you application, gather all your documents, and make copies well in advance. To view the most current visa requirements and to download an application, go to the UK Border Agency’s website.