Applying for a UK student visa
Here’s everything you need to know about the changed visa rules to guarantee yourself a smooth passage to the UKUpdated: Jul 07, 2010 10:08 IST
How do you qualify for a UK student visa?
The UK welcomes genuine students who would like to take up the opportunity to study in the UK. If you would like to study in the UK you will probably be applying for a student visa under Tier 4 of the points based system. This is a transparent and straightforward process in which you will need to pass a points-based assessment and meet the UK’s Immigration Rules.
The first step is to get an unconditional offer from an education provider in the UK (also called your sponsor) that is licensed by the UK Border Agency to recruit international students. A list of licensed sponsors is available on the UK Border Agency website: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk. You get 30 points for this unconditional offer which is contained in a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). You then need to show that you have enough funds to cover your course fees and living costs, for which you receive 10 points. The amount of funds you need to show depends on the duration of your course and whether you are studying inside or outside London. You will need to provide evidence of additional funds to support any dependants coming with you.
It is really important that you read and follow the official and most up to date Tier 4 guidance which is available at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/applicationforms/ pbs/Tier4migrantguidance1.pdf.
What is a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)?
You need an unconditional offer from your education provider (sponsor). The CAS shows that your education provider, confident that you are capable of doing the course of study for which you have applied, will act as your ‘immigration sponsor’ and accept responsibility for you while you are in the UK. The CAS includes information about you, the course, and the documents you submitted that led to the offer of a place. It is important that you ask your sponsor for all this information so that you can complete your visa application form accurately and provide all the necessary supporting documentation. If your sponsor has assessed your qualifications in order to give you a CAS, you must provide either the original certificate or original transcript of results (see paragraph 75 for more information about supporting documentation for the CAS).
The CAS replaced the Visa Letter for overseas Tier 4 applications on February 22, 2010. The Visa Letter is no longer accepted in support of a visa application. The CAS is a virtual document, not an actual certificate, and it is a unique 14 digit electronic reference number. Your sponsor will provide you with the CAS reference number and you must write it on your visa application.
The CAS will become invalid if not used to make a visa application within six months of issue. Holding a valid CAS does not guarantee that your application will be successful, as you must also meet all the requirements of Tier 4 and the UK’s Immigration Rules. You may hold several CASs issued by different sponsors, but can only use one to apply for a Tier 4 visa.
A CAS may be used only once. If you would like to make another visa application you will need to request a new CAS from your sponsor first. A CAS may be withdrawn or cancelled by the sponsor or the UK Border Agency at any time.
What is a licensed sponsor?
You must study with an education provider that is registered with the UK Border Agency as being permitted to recruit international students. Before you apply for your visa you should check whether your education provider is registered.
The register of sponsors has the name, location and rating of the organisation. There are three categories of sponsors:
. Highly trusted sponsors have to demonstrate high levels of compliance with their sponsorship duties and offer a wider range of courses than other education providers.
. ‘A’ rated (trusted) sponsors are meeting their sponsorship duties
. ‘B’ rated sponsors are working with the UK Border Agency to improve their systems. This is a transitional rating.
The sponsors’ register is available at: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/employersandsponsors/pointsbasedsystem/registerofsponsorseducation.
What kinds of evidence do you need to supply?
Please remember that the UK Border Agency will only accept as evidence the documents stipulated in the Tier 4 guidance. Documents must be in the format specified and contain all the information set out in the guidance. You must also provide all the documents assessed by your sponsor when you were accepted onto the course. These will be specified in the CAS, so it is important that you know what they are.
Please note that current visa fees can be found at: www.vfs-uk-in.com. The visa application forms are available free of charge at: www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/vafs.
Please complete your visa application form fully and accurately and include all relevant information.
Please ensure that you provide all supporting documentation with your application.
If you do not provide all the mandatory information, your application will be refused. No further evidence can be accepted after you have made your application.
Normally your visa application will be processed on the basis of the visa application and supporting information and the results of checking your biometric data (finger scans and digital photograph that you provide at the time you make the application).
What are the English language requirements?
If you are intending to study a course that is below NQF level 6 - equivalent to a degree course (excluding foundation degrees), or an English language course, your sponsor must also ensure that you are competent in English language to a minimum of level B1 CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).
It is currently the responsibility of your sponsor to make the assessment and to decide how best to do this. If the sponsor used an English language test to assess your English language proficiency please remember to include this document with your visa application.
In the future, it will be mandatory for some students to pass a UK Border Agency-approved English language test before they apply for a visa. Further information about testing will be announced in due course.
When and where can you apply for a student visa?
You should allow very good time to apply for your visa. You can apply up to three months in advance of your intended date of travel and once you hold an unconditional offer of study (ie a CAS). You need to go to one of the visa application centres (VACs) in India in person, with your completed forms, supporting documentation and the visa fee. Please note that you are required to make an appointment before you attend the visa application centre. Guidance on how to schedule an appointment is available at www.vfs-uk-in.com.
Do you need to go through a student agent?
You do not require an agent to make your application, but if you would like assistance, then you should choose an agent carefully. Some agents will charge a fee — this should be reasonable. Please note that agents have no influence on the decision to issue a visa and cannot make you any guarantees about the outcome of your application.
What happens if I apply to an education provider whose licence is suspended or withdrawn?
You must check that your chosen education provider is on the sponsors’ register before you apply for your visa. You can still apply for a visa if your sponsor has been suspended, but no decision to issue a visa can be made on your application until the status of the sponsor is resolved. You may withdraw your visa application and re-submit the application with a new sponsor and CAS, however, your visa fee will not be refunded.
You are also advised to check the sponsors’ register again before you travel. If the sponsor has been suspended since your visa was issued, you are advised not to travel until the status of the sponsor has been resolved. If you have any doubts about your sponsor’s status, please contact them to ask. If your sponsor’s licence has been withdrawn, your CAS will be invalid and you cannot use it to make a visa application. If you already have a visa, this will be cancelled and you will not be permitted to enter the UK.
There have been a number of changes to Tier 4 in 2010 - what are these?
There have been a number of significant changes to the Tier 4 rules in the 2010. The aim of the changes has been to ensure that those who seek to use Tier 4 to circumvent the UK’s immigration rules are prevented from doing so, while the interests of genuine students are protected. Recent changes include the following:
. If you are a General Student following a course of six months or less, you are no longer permitted to bring your dependents with you.
. If you are following a course below degree level (excluding foundation degree) you are permitted to work 10 hours per week during term time, reduced from 20 hours. Students following a foundation degree, degree or postgraduate course may still work 20 hours in term time.
. If you are following a course below degree level, your dependents will not be permitted to work unless they qualify in their own right under Tiers 1 or 2 of the points based system.
. The minimum level for English language courses has been raised to a minimum of B2 CEFR from A2.
. The highly trusted sponsor category has been introduced to supply a wider selection of courses.
First Published: Jul 06, 2010 11:45 IST