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
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
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
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
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:
Important things to know about the ‘financial evidence’:
Don’t miss out: How to get your CAS
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
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
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
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.
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
When you go to your visa appointment, you will need to take with you quite a few documents and prepare some details:
Don’t panic: There may be a visa interview
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
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.
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!