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Everything study abroad students need to know about the Tier 4 UK Student Visa

Tier 4 UK Student Visa

If you’re going to be studying abroad for a semester or year, you will probably need a student visa. Unfortunately, getting one of these treasured documents isn’t exactly easy. Luckily, having gotten a student visa in both the UK and China, I can tell you that although it’s very inconvenient, it’s very doable. Here’s how.

Do You Need A Visa To Study Abroad?

Seeing as getting approved for a visa through the UK border agency was harder than China, I’ll use them as an example. In the UK you can study a course lasting up to 6 months as a student visitor, i.e. without applying for a visa. However, If you want to study in the UK for more than 6 months and/or you want to work at all while you’re there, you need to get a visa under Tier 4 of the points-based system. Speaking from experience, even students who don’t think they will be there for more than 6 months usually still apply for a Tier 4 student visa.

Applying For Your UK Student Visa

First things first, you’ll need a passport. Once you have a passport, you’ll head to the UK border agency website. In order to be approved for a Tier 4 (General) student visa , you must meet the 40 point assessment. This is your score:

  • 30 points for having a valid confirmation of acceptance for studies, which you get for studying a course at an acceptable level with an approved education provider (also known as a ‘Tier 4 sponsor’), and for having acceptable English language skills; and

  • 10 points for having enough money to cover your course fees and living costs.

A confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) is just a document that confirms that you have been given an unconditional offer to study with a licensed Tier 4 . If you have a valid CAS, you can score 30 points in the points assessment. Evidence (documents) required:

  • The CAS reference number on your application form – Your Tier 4 sponsor (abroad university) will include the reference number on either your acceptance letter or a letter with info more specific to obtaining your visa.

  • The documents you used to obtain the CAS – Basically everything you used when applying to your abroad university, i.e. original transcripts, home institution approval, etc. More than likely you’ll also send your acceptance letter and a letter stating you’re housing situation while abroad (dorm, host family).

Because you won’t have access to most state benefits while studying abroad in the UK, the UK Border Agency needs to make sure you have enough money to support yourself while you’re there. To score the 10 points you have to show proof that you have paid all or part of your course fees and accommodation fees to your Tier 4 sponsor; and/or are receiving official financial sponsorship; and/or have enough money to cover your remaining course fees and living costs. Evidence (documents) required:

  • Evidence of money already paid to your education provider – essentially, you’ll want to include all financial aid info including how you are paying your tuition, and whether or not you have already paid some or all of it.

  • Evidence of money that is available to you – You must show that you have held the required money for a consecutive 28-day period ending no more than one month before your application. Basically, they want a statement from your bank saying that you either have enough money in your account or have an approved loan to cover the remaining costs of whatever tuition you haven’t paid and your living expenses. (It needs to be on official bank letterhead.) This amount is different for everyone.

  • If your home institution is taking care of your financial arrangements, you’ll also want to include a letter from them stating as such.

As part of your application, you will need to register your fingerprints and facial image (known as ‘bio metric information’) at a visa application center (or in my case, the local immigration center).

And of course, you’ll also have to send in your passport and passport quality photographs.

Don’t pay too much attention to the number 40. In reality, if you complete the necessary paperwork and send in the correct documents, you should get approved. If in doubt about sending in any of the documents, just send them.

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