In the last post on UK student visas, we cleared up general questions, like what is a CAS and who can be a sponsor.  I’d recommend you read it if you haven’t done so already.  When it’s time to apply for your student visa, follow these 13 steps.


Be informed: Read the visa guidelines

Reasons for getting your UK student visa rejected

I have a friend who is a migration barrister.  She tells me that a lot of the visa rejections she sees happen because applicants make mistakes in their visa application.  Isn’t that a shame?

So, how can you avoid giving wrong information and getting your visa rejected as a result?  Start by making sure you have all the information and advice you need before you apply.

I know, visa guidelines aren’t the easiest thing to read or understand, but a good place to start is your university website. The information and advice there will be easier to follow. I’d also recommend you check out the UKCISA website first and then the official UKVI website. Here are the links.


Be the real deal: Get your unconditional firm offer

visa tips for international students

As mentioned in my last post, you need a CAS – Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies – to apply for your visa.  To get your CAS, you need to have an unconditional firm offer with the university.

If your offer is still conditional, send your results to the university as soon as you have them.  Remember though, it may take the university a few days to update your offer status.  You won’t get a CAS until then.


Show you’re serious: Pay your course deposit

visa tips for international students

If your course asks for a deposit so that your place can be guaranteed, the university will not be able to send you your CAS until you have paid.

I remember from my last job that sometimes students would cause a lot of delay for themselves by paying the deposit at the very last minute.  Remember that once the university receives the payment it can take a few days for your admissions status to be update – and for your CAS to be ready.


Gather your evidence: Have the right money, in the right account

visa tips for international students

As mentioned in my last post, of the 40 points you need to get a student visa, 10 points come from having the right ‘financial evidence’.  This is a bank statement / letter / certificate that shows you have:

  • All your tuition fees for one year
  • Your living expenses – the amount depends on where your university is and how long your course is (see box).

Important things to know about the ‘financial evidence’:

  • Two rates: For visa purposes, there are two living expenses rates – a ‘London’ rate, and an ‘outside London’ rate.
  • University location: Some universities that are not in London are still in the ‘London’ category when it comes to the living expenses.   Check your university’s website for advice on which rate applies.
  • How many months:  You only have to show enough money to cover your living expenses for 9 months – even if your course is longer.  If your course is shorter than 9 months, you’d only show enough money for the number of months you’ll be staying.  Just to clarify: This is for living expenses only.  For your tuition fees, you have to have to full tuition fees for one year.
  • How much:  If the ‘London’ rate applies to your university, you’ll have to show that you have in your bank account £1,265 per month or a total of £11,385 for the year (because remember, you only have to show 9 months).  If your university is considered to be outside London you will need £1,015 per month, or a total of £9,135 if your course is 9 months or longer. This is IN ADDITION to your tuition fees.
  • A parent’s bank statement:  The bank statement can be yours or that of one of your parents – but in this case you’d have to provide a birth certificate or similar document to proof your relationship.  You will also need a letter from your parents confirming they’re paying for your education.
  • The 28-day rule:  Your tuition fees and living expenses need to be in the bank account for at least 28 days – before you can send your visa application. During the 28-day period your account can’t go below the total amount needed, not even for one day.  Of course you can have the money in the bank account for longer than 28 days.
  • The 31-day rule:  To show you’ve had the money for at least 28 days, you need a bank statement or letter that was given to you no more than 31 days ago. If it’s older than 31 days, you need to get a new statement.  You can get a statement only a few days before applying for your visa.
  • Converting the amount: Your bank statement needs to be in English.  If the amount is not in Pound Sterling, UKVI want you to use this currency conversion site to convert the amount.  You can write by hand the converted amount onto your bank statement, saying something like “Closing balance in Pound Sterling: £….. Converted on (date) using”.
  • University fees paid:  If you’ve paid any tuition or accommodation fees to the university, make sure the amount is showing in your CAS.  Any amount you’ve paid towards your tuition fees will be considered, but the visa office will only accept £1,265 paid towards your accommodation cost.  If you’ve paid more, they will still only accept that you’ve paid £1,265 and you have to show the rest in your bank account statement.
  • Scholarships or loans: If you’re getting a scholarship or a loan, you can send an official letter from the provider instead of (or in addition to) your bank statements. But always check the exact requirements for the type of funding you’re getting.
  • ‘Low-risk applicants’: If you’re an applicant from a ‘low-risk’ country you won’t need to provide financial evidence with your visa application.  However, it may  be a good idea to prepare your documents just in case.


Don’t miss out:  How to get your CAS

visa tips for international students

As mentioned before, you can apply for your student visa only once you have a CAS reference number from your university. A valid CAS gives you 30 of the 40 points you need to get a student visa.

Some universities will send you the CAS automatically once you become unconditional firm.  Others will want you to request it first – so make sure you find out what process and requirements your university has for this.


Don’t allow mistakes: Check and double-check your CAS email

Always check your CAS for any mistakes

Many universities will send you a ‘CAS email’ before sending you the CAS reference number.  The CAS email includes important details about you and your course.  You should check it carefully to make sure there aren’t any errors in it.  That’s because the details the university has included in the CAS will be sent electronically by the university to the UK visa authorities.  When you apply for your visa, the visa officers will check the information you have provided and the information the university has given them.    If any of the information is wrong,  your visa application could get rejected just because of this. Now, you wouldn’t want this to happen, would you?

That’s because the details the university has included in the CAS will be sent electronically by the university to the UK visa authorities.  When you apply for your visa, the visa officers will check the information you have provided and the information the university has given them.   If any of the details don’t match, your visa application could get rejected.   How disappointing would that be?


Get online: Start your visa application on Visa4UK

You start your visa application on Visa4UK.  Register for an account and then check your emails as they will send you details for how you can complete your application.

When you’re filling in the online form, it’s a good idea to have your CAS email in front of you so you can copy some of the information from it. Remember, if the CAS and your visa application say different things, your visa application could get rejected.

For the same reason, before you submit your visa application, I’d recommend you check the information you’ve provided – not once – but twice.


Be patient: Pay your healthcare charge

visa tips for international students

Here’s a piece of good news: As an international  student studying in the UK studying for six months or more, you get free healthcare under the NHS (National Health Service).  You usually only pay for your medical prescriptions, dental treatment and eye tests.

But, here some not so great news:  There’s now an ‘Immigration Health Surcharge’ (IHS) for international students.  You pay £150 per year, plus £75 for the 4 months you get extra on your visa at the end of your degree.  If you’re coming to do an undergraduate degree, this can get quie expensive.  You pay for your IHS online  as part of your visa application.

As far as I know, the only countries exempt from the IHS are Australia and New Zealand.  So if you’re a national of either, you won’t have to pay the IHS. But you need to go onto the IHS payment website to get a reference number confirming you don’t have to pay.


Book an appointment:  Go to your nearest visa office

visa tips for international students

Once you’re happy with the information you’ve provided in your visa application, submit it online.  Remember, you can save and return to it many times, so don’t hit submit until you’re ready.  Once you’ve submitted it, you won’t be able to make any more changes.

After you’ve done this, you will need to book an appointment to submit your application and all relevant documents in person.  Your ‘biometric data’ (no scifi, just your photograph and fingerprints) will also be taken during the appointment .  Look out for the appointment booking option during the online visa application process.

Very important:

Once you have booked your appointment online, choose from this list the UK Visa Application Centre that is most convenient for you.  Select the relevant country – this will take you to the right TLSContact website.  On the TLSContact website, create an account, otherwise your visa appointment might either not be confirmed or it may be delayed.


Pay again:  It’s now time to pay your visa fee

Once you’ve submitted your online visa application, you will need to pay your visa application fee.  The cost of the visa will depend on which country you’re applying from (on the date I’m writing this post, the general fee is £328 but always check).

I’ve seen on the Visas4UK website that you can pay online using many different methods, including PayPal and credit card.  I’m not sure if they accept cash payment when you go to your appointment, you can always contact them and check.

Also, I’ve read that some visa application centres charge an extra fee for using their services.


Prepare meticulously:  They’ll want quite a few documents

visa tips for international students

When you go to your visa appointment, you will need to take with you quite a few documents and prepare some details:

  • A Valid Passport – Make sure your passport isn’t about to expire soon.
  • A printed copy of your visa application – This is the form you have filled in and submitted online.
  • Your CAS reference number – You don’t have to include the actual CAS email, but I’d suggest you take a copy of the CAS email with you just in case.
  • Your financial evidence – You don’t need this if you’re a ‘low-risk’ national.  For everyone else, remember, your bank statement / letter can’t be older than 31 days, and the money has to be in your account for at least 28 days. Get advice about the requirements if you’re submitting a sponsorship letter from an official scholarship provider or a government organisation.
  • Your qualification certificates – This should be for all the qualifications the university has listed in your CAS as evidence they’ve used when making you an offer.  Also not needed for ‘low-risk’ nationals.
  • Certified translations – Get official translations of any documents that are not in English.  Official means they have to be signed and stamped by a sworn / certified translator and can’t be translated by you or an acquaintance.
  • Your Biometric Data – Take at least two passport-sized photographs.  Your finger-prints will be taken at the visa application centre.
  • IHS and visa fee payment confirmation – Take with you either confirmation that you have paid or you don’t have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. Also print out the receipt for your visa fee payment.
  • ATAS certification – If your Masters or PhD degree need ATAS clearance (check your offer lettter), you will need to get your ATAS certificate  before sending your visa application.


 Don’t panic:  There may be a visa interview

visa tips for international students

When you go to your visa appointment, the officers there will decide whether they need to interview you.  If they ask you for a short interview, usually it’s because they want to clarify a few things about your qualifications, financial situation or about your future plans.

It may also be the case that they don’t interview you when you go in to submit your application, but that they email you later for a ‘follow-up’ interview.

In either case, don’t worry and don’t panic – but do prepare.  Make sure you know enough about the university, course and city you have chosen.  Give good reasons for why this degree makes sense for your future plans – and why can’t you get a similar qualification in your country.  And avoid saying anything that might cause a misunderstanding that your main aim in coming to the UK is to live and work here, rather than study.


Be on time: Know when to apply and book your flights

visa tips for international students

The earliest you can apply for your student visa is three months before your course starts.

The UK visa authorities say it takes about three weeks to process your visa application.  But I’ve seen in the past that it can take much longer during busy periods, say from June onwards.  So what I would suggest is that you apply for your visa as soon as you have your CAS, financial evidence and all other documents.

Once you have your visa, you have six months to use it.  You can book your flights to arrive in the UK a month earlier than your course start date – if you’re doing an undergraduate, Masters or PhD degree (even if you’re doing a pre-sessional course before).  But, if you’re coming to do only a short course, you can arrive 7 days before your course starts.

At the end of your degree, you get to stay for another four months if you want to.  You can use this time to look for Tier 2 visa sponsorship.

Final Thoughts

Applying for a UK student visa can seem more difficult than it actually is. Every year, thousands and thousands of international students come to the UK to study here on a student visa.  If they can, you can.

However, you need to prepare your visa application to make sure small mistakes don’t get in the way.  Read the UK government’s visa information and get more advice from the UKCISA and your university’s website.

Gather all your documents and make sure they meet the requirements.  If you need help completing your visa application, get it from someone who is experienced and qualified in this area.

Don’t be worried if you’re asked for a short interview with a visa officer.  But do go to your appointment prepared and be ready to answer some questions about your application.

Good luck and see you in the UK!

Hi everyone,

I’m giving you this information as someone who’s worked with international students for many years.  I do try keep up with ‘student visa’ developments but I’m not qualified to give any legal or visa advice.  So please make sure you read and follow the advice on your university’s website, the UK Visas and Immigration website, or the UKCISA website.

If you feel you need help with your visa application, make sure that the person or agency providing this service is qualified.

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