As an international student (non EEA/Swiss) coming to the University to study a full-time course of more than six months you must apply for a visa under Tier 4 (General) Student before coming to the UK to start your course, otherwise you will not be allowed to enter the UK.
The UK government requires you to be formally sponsored by a licensed UK higher education institution – the University of your choice. Once your offer to study is unconditional (you have met all academic and financial conditions) the University will contact you by email about the preparation of your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). This is a unique number that will enable government officers to access information which your college and the University have provided.
1. Receiving your CAS number
If you are an undergraduate or visiting student, your college will contact you by email about your CAS. If you are a postgraduate or recognised student, your department or faculty will contact you.
If you have an unconditional offer and have not received your CAS three months before the start of your course, contact your college or department. Check your CAS and follow the instructions to report any errors or changes. Your CAS is valid to use for a visa application for six months but you cannot apply for your visa until three months before your course start date as given on the CAS.
Your CAS number, which you need for your visa application, will be emailed to you in a ‘CAS statement’ which lists the information that the University has sent to the Home Office and the University’s Tier 4 Licensed Sponsor number, name and address.
For your visa application you will need original certificates or transcripts for the qualifications listed on your CAS statement (though some nationals will be exempt from submitting them). The statement lists your course fees for one year and whether you have paid any money for University accommodation. You must follow Home Office instructions about sending or having available documents showing you have funding for your fees and living expenses.
2. Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)
Some postgraduate research students and undergraduate students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a Tier 4 visa.
This requirement has now been expanded to study on all types of visa, for example Tier 2 or as a dependant. If you are not applying under Tier 4 and wish to study one of the ATAS subjects, you will need to obtain an ATAS certificate before you can enrol on your course. This does not apply retrospectively to those who already have a non-Tier 4 visa. Visit visas for your family.
All subject areas studied at UK universities are identified by a JACS code. The UK government has used these codes to identify the areas of study for which students require an ATAS certificate. Contact your department to find the JACS code of your course and see if you need an ATAS certificate.
You do not have to wait for your CAS to be issued to apply for an ATAS certificate although you must obtain the approved research statement from your department or, at undergraduate level, a list of modules from your college, before applying. If this applies to your subject your CAS will also state that you require an ATAS certificate. Contact your department if you have been offered a place but have not received this research statement.
ATAS applications are free, submitted online, take up to 20 working days to process and certificates are sent to you by email.
3. Where and how to apply for your visa
Find out where and how to apply for your visa (Entry Clearance) in your home country on the Home Office website. In most countries you have to apply online.
Visa application processing may take longer if your country sends applications to another country for processing.
For those applying for a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa from both overseas and in the UK:
- There is a maximum five year time limit for study on courses at degree level (undergraduate and master’s). There are some exceptions, including those studying for a DPhil. Do check that your planned course of study will not take you over the maximum time limit allowed by the Home Office;
- The amount of maintenance you need to show is £1015 a month;
- If you will be or are currently living in University accommodation you will only be able to offset a maximum of £1265 against the amount you have to show for maintenance (if you will be or are currently living in University accommodation) even if you have paid more than this to the University;
- Student visa interviews are now part of the visa application process in many countries. For information, check the website belonging to the country from where you are applying for a visa.
- (Overseas applications only) Do ensure that you have at least one blank page, front and back, in your passport or travel document otherwise processing may be delayed or rejected.
4. Tuberculosis (TB) Screening
If you will be studying in the UK for more than six months, nationals of certain countries must be screened for TB before applying for a visa to come to the UK. The Home Office provides a list of the countries where TB testing is a requirement. Nationals of these countries are required to obtain a certificate from an accredited clinic showing that they are free from infectious tuberculosis. You will have to meet the cost of this screening. Applicants without a certificate are normally refused a visa.
5. Check your visa requirements
When applying, be aware of the following options when selecting ‘Type of application’:
- Tier 4 (General) Student: if you will be self or family funded, privately funded or funded by a student loan;
- Tier 4 (General) (Sponsored) Student: if you are going to be funded by an “official financial sponsor”, which includes university scholarships / bursaries, the UK government, your home government (not including student loans), the British Council or any international organisation or international company;
- Tier 4 (Scholarship) Student: only if you are the holder of a Chevening Scholarship or Fellowship, a British Marshall Scholarship, a Fulbright Scholarship or a Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan.
6. Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) for access to NHS treatment
For anyone coming to the UK for more than 6 months an IHS is paid as part of a Tier 4 and other visa applications, including student dependants. The IHS must be paid even if you have your own private medical insurance and do not intend to use the NHS.
The IHS is £150 for each year or part year over six months of the visa being applied for, plus £75 for part of a year that is less than six months. If a student (or a dependant) is making a visa application in the UK, they will be required to pay the health surcharge even if the period applied for is less than six months.
Students who already have a visa will be covered as normal for NHS treatment unless and until they need to make a further visa application.
Full details of how charging (and refunds) are administered are available on the Home Office website
7. Biometric appointment and processing your visa
After you have commenced your visa application you will be invited to attend a biometric appointment to give a face scan and fingerprints. The processing of your visa application only begins after you have submitted your biometric details. Follow the instructions on the Home Office website about when and how to send in your documents. Processing times vary widely between countries; some will process applications in five working days while other countries may take several weeks or longer. You can check the processing times for your country using the Home Office guide.
8. When your visa is issued
If your Tier 4 visa application is for a course longer than six months a short 30 day travel visa will be stuck into your passport to allow you to travel to the UK. On arrival in the UK you will have the choice to collect your BRP (Biometric Residence Permit), with the full visa duration for your course, from a Post Office near to your residential address.
9. When can you come to the UK?
The date you can arrive in the UK will be the ‘valid from’ date on your visa. This will usually be seven days before the ‘intended date of travel’ you put on your visa application and not earlier than one month before your course starts, ie your intended travel (or arrival) date cannot be earlier than one month before your course starts. You should not attempt to enter the UK before your travel visa is valid. If you are coming for less than six months, and are not on a pre-sessional course, you will be issued with the full-length visa which is stuck into your passport before you travel but it will only start seven days before the course.