Student Visas UK

Since 31st March 2009 the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has imposed new rules for non- EU citizens applying for a Student Visa for those wishing to come to the UK to study.  These rules also apply to current international students who wish to extend their student visa in the UK.  These new rules, known as the Tier 4 Points-Based System, are to demonstrate that they are real students and not using the student visa as a means of illegally entering the country.  In many ways it is a simpler process than before, less information is asked for but the information that is collected is more robust and you must undergo tough scrutiny including fingerprinting and document checks against a range of immigration, terrorism and crime watch lists.

If you are over 16 years of age and not from the EU or EEA and wish to study in the UK for more than six months, or if you want the option of working while you study you must apply for one of these new UK visas.  Applying for the General Student Visa is straightforward and based on a transparent points based system.  You just need to score 40 points.

Before doing anything you need to make sure you have sufficient maintenance funds to finance your studies.  Having sufficient funds will earn you 10 points of your required 40.  The details are as follows:

If you are studying for less than nine months you will require your full course fees plus £600 for every month you intend to stay. For courses more than nine months you will need the fees for your course, the first year only if the course is longer than one year and £5,400.  If you are planning to study in London you will need £800 per month and your course fees.  You need to prove that you have these funds.  You can do this by including a personal bank or Building Society statement with your application, or a Building Society Pass Book or a letter from your bank or regulated financial institution confirming funds or loan will be released to you when you get you visa.  If you hold the funds you will need to show that you have held them for at least 28 days before your application.

You may apply to a number of institutions in the UK and receive offers of places from some or all of them but before you start applying make sure the institution is licensed by the UK Border Agency. Details of licensed institutions can be found here .

Once you have made your final decision on where you would like to study you need to ask the educational institution of your choice to provide you with a visa letter to allow you to make your visa application.  Once you have your visa letter from your chosen institution that will give you an additional 30 points.

The visa letter should confirm your acceptance to study at that institution and contain details about you and the course you intend to study, including how much the course costs and what evidence the sponsor has seen of your qualifications.

To find out more information and guidance visit www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/studyingintheuk .  Once you have been accepted onto a course by a licensed institution and have your visa letter and funds arranged you are ready to make your application for a UK Student Visa.

Applications can be made by email, post or in person. To see the options available in your own country visit www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/wheretoapply/

Your application will need to include the following: A visa fee of £145, a current passport or travel document, a visa letter from the licensed institution you are planning to study at, the proof of maintenance funds, a completed application form as well as evidence of the appropriate qualifications to be accepted onto the course.  Any other requirements specific to your country such as ID.  But remember if you provide false documents, lie or withhold information then you will be refused a visa and may be banned from coming to the UK for up to ten years. Please note that from February 2010 the UK Border Agency will only accept a confirmation of acceptance for studies and will no longer accept a visa letter.

However you apply for a visa you will need to visit a Visa Application Centre where they will take your finger prints and take a digital photograph of you.  To find out where your nearest UK Visa Office is visit www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/wheretoapply/

If you accurately provide all the correct information in your application you should receive your visa within ten to fifteen days.  This can take longer during busy periods so be sure to apply as early as possible.

When you arrive in the UK with your visa, keep your supporting documents in your hand luggage as you may need to show them again.  For more information and a copy of an application form visit http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/studyingintheuk/

What are the main differences of the new points-based system to the old student visa application?   Applying for Tier 4 Student Visa should be far more straightforward.  One of the things that used to happen was the inconsistency that used to occur by Entry Clearance Officers who may have approved a visa to one applicant but deny it to a very similar applicant.  Now it is more objective.  Entry Clearance Officers can no longer deny visas on subjective perceptions of applicants.

This should be a vast improvement on the old scheme.  However, there are disadvantages, one of these being that if you are refused a student visa there is no right of appeal.  Instead there is a system called an Administrative Review which is basically a review by another Entry Clearance Manager.

However, if your application is one of the many thousands that were applied for before the new ruling and are still awaiting a result from a British Embassy posting, then you can still appeal if you are refused.  These appeals are conducted at the AIT in London where your case will be heard before an independent immigration judge.  So bear in mind, if your application is still in the pipeline and you do get refused you should still have the right of an appeal so don’t forget to exercise that right within 28 days.