Student visa advice & applications
Once you have secured your unconditional offer to study in the UK, the next step is thinking about applying for your visa. This can be a pretty daunting process. This step-by-step guide will simplify the process a whole lot, read on to find out more.
But first, a brief overview of the UK Immigration System...
Here in the UK, we use a points-based immigration system to regulate immigration to the UK from outside the European Economic Area. We have five tiers, but luckily we are only going through one of these today.
To study in the UK, international students from outside the UK or EU need to apply for a student visa. Student visas come under Tier 4. So, let’s have a look at what that involves.
The Tier 4 Student visa – an introduction
Firstly, there are two types of visa.
• Entry clearance: Applying for a visa from outside the UK is also known as applying for entry clearance.
• Leave to remain: Leave to remain means applying to remain in a foreign country, which is basically an extension of an entry clearance visa. In order to maintain a leave to remain status, the student needs to comply with any academic progression requirements, (basically to make sure they aren’t being sneaky and studying never-ending undergraduate degrees up and down the country).
Eligibility is calculated using a points-based rules system (PBS) called a Tier 4 Student Visa.
To qualify, 40 points must be achieved in total. No, before you start thinking about tests and scores and passing, this certainly does not mean that you have to sit an exam and score 40/40. Well, as far as we know, anyway. Funnily enough, these points are achieved after fulfilling two specific group requirements.
• 30 points are achieved after successfully applying for a course, and providing a CAS. A CAS statement basically confirms that the university has accepted you onto their program.
• 10 points are achieved after fulfilling financial requirements. UKVI has set a minimum amount of maintenance funds for students planning to reside outside of London and inside London (because, you know, London is pricey).
No more or no less for each category. Simple, right? There are two categories for student visa, Child and General. This guide will focus on the General student visa.
How to apply for the General student visa?
✓ Unconditional offer received
The first step to applying for a student visa is receiving an unconditional offer from a university. This means that the student has secured a place at a university without any other requirements, meaning they can start their preparations to arrive in the UK. Congratulations!
✓ Maintenance fund and ATAS
All incoming students will need to show that they have enough money to cover their course, and support themselves during their studies (maintenance fund), in order to come to the UK with a Tier 4 (General) student visa.
It is essential that they can show they have enough money for both:
• The full tuition fee for the first year of the course – this amount will be on the CAS statement.
• The standard amount of maintenance money set by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)
The Home Office (UKVI) has set the amount of maintenance funds you need to have available. You must show that you have:
• £1,015 per month for living costs if studying outside of London or
• £1,265 per month for living costs if you are studying in London
See below for official examples.
Funds example 1
• CAS Start Date: 03 October 2016, CAS End Date: 29 June 2019
• Course fees: £18,000 paid in full and shown on CAS
• Study in the UK = 33 months (Maximum of 9 months evidence of living costs required)
• (£18,000 - £18,000) + (9 x £1,015) = £9,135
Funds example 2
• CAS Start Date: 03 October 2016, CAS End Date: 02 March 2017
• Course fees: £20,000, £10,000 paid and shown on CAS
• Study in the UK = 6 months (you need to show maintenance for each month, even if it is not a whole month
• (£20,000 - £10,000) + 6 x £1,015 = £16,090
✓ CAS issued
A Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) ought to state the CAS number, creation and expiry date, course details and dates, language requirements, course fees and clear evidence that the student is progressing from one level to the next. There is no uniform layout for a CAS therefore every university will have a different layout.
If a student is applying to extend their Leave to remain status, they will need to demonstrate academic progression. Students will provide original copy evidence to demonstrate that they have achieved the NQF Level 6 undergraduate qualification, to have a successful visa application. This means eg. a degree certificate in original copy.
Important! The best time to ask for a CAS is 3 months before the course begins, as it has a 6-month expiry date. HEI’s can only issue the CAS once! Any failed visa applications will work against the university’s Highly Trusted Sponsor status, which could potentially jeopardize their future international student intake. Students can’t enter the UK more than one month before the course begins, anyway.
Once students have received all the documents for application, it is time to start applying!
Click here for a list of registered visa application centres to submit your application. Applications for Tier 4 student visas outside the UK are only made via online application
Image source: Codingparks
What documents are required? All documents must be in original copy.
Applicants outside the UK must have:
• Completed online Tier 4 visa application
• Valid tuberculosis test certificate
• Valid passport
• Immigration Health Surcharge (paid during the online application)
• Photographs that meet the Home Office requirements
• ATAS certificate (if applicable)
• All qualifications listed in CAS statement
• Evidence of finances that meet Tier 4 policy requirements (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/prospective/international/visa/tier-4-visa/money-requirements)
• If using a parent’s bank account, must provide parent’s bank statements, birth certificate or family register confirming relationship between applicant and parent, and letter from parent(s) confirming they will financially sponsor their studies.
• Letters from any financial sponsors
• Any non-English documents must be submitted with a fully certified translation by a professional translator or a translation company. This includes financial documents (http://www.bbk.ac.uk/prospective/international/visa/translation-requirements)
Standard, Priority and Premium services are offered, with the Premium services at the steeper price of £948, for same day decisions. Standard service costs £448.
For international students to use the National Health Service in the UK, there is an “immigration health surcharge”.
There is an 'immigration health surcharge' if you are applying to for a Tier 4 visa. Healthcare surcharge is a mandatory charge for all international students in order to use the National Health Service in the UK.
Step 2: Biometrics and credibility interview (if applicable)
Biometrics testing refers to fingerprint tests and the necessity to take a picture of the applicant’s face.
You may be asked to attend a credibility interview as part of the application process. Interviews are normally carried out by a secure telecommunications system (similar to Skype), although sometimes they will consist of a face-to-face interview. If students are required to attend an interview, it will take place at a Home Office Centre in the UK.
Step 3: Receive passport and visa vignette and documents
When you receive your visa back, it will be issued as a 30-day vignette stamped on a passport. You should take a photocopy of the vignette and the pages of your passport. Just in case.
30 days will start 30 days before the course start date on your CAS, or seven days before the date specified on your application, whichever is later.
Image source: Iberian Express
Step 4: Fly to the UK, collect BRP and then enrol
After touching down in the UK, all students will need to collect their biometric residence permit from a post office within ten days of arriving in the UK. The form will select post offices based on addresses provided on your application. You do not have to make an appointment at the post office but you must take your 30-day vignette and the letter you received with you. If you do not collect your BRP within ten days of arriving in the UK, you may have to pay a fine or your visa may be cancelled!
And that’s it, you’re done! Find out additional information via the links below.
Ready to start the process of applying for postgraduate studies in the UK? Click here to start your course search via ApplicationUK!
LSE has also provided a very comprehensive and useful guide on applying for a visa online, collecting BRP, and paying immigration health surcharge fees. Find it here. (After these steps are completed, the applicant must apply for their visa).
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