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Visa guidance for students applying for a visa to study in the UK, from OUTSIDE THE UK
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
EU/EEA nationals are NOT subject to visa restrictions . As such, this guidance is not relevant for you if you are a national of the European Union (EU) European Economic Area (EEA) , or Switzerland
Between 31 March 2009 and 1st February 2010, the UK government introduced a series of major changes to the immigration laws relating to people from all countries (except the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland) who want to come to study in the UK for periods of six months or longer. The new system is known as the ‘ Points Based System' , because visa applications from students (and other people, including workers) who want to come to the UK, will have to demonstrate they have the correct number of points for the relevant immigration category. For example, students will need to have 40 points.
The new system consists of 5 tiers. Tier 4 relates to students . See the table below for more information about the 5 tiers:
Under Tier 4, educational institutions, including all universities are now required to obtain a sponsor license to bring any non-EU/EEA students into the UK to study. Lancaster University has obtained its Tier 4 licence and is therefore is permitted to accept international students to study at Lancaster University. The University does have Highly Trusted Sponsor Status.
The kind of visa you must apply for will depend on certain factors such as how long your course is, whether you are being admitted onto a pre-sessional language course, or to a degree course, or whether you are a distance-learner - based mainly outside the UK throughout your course. See the table below for quick reference to check what kind of visa you require.
If you are a national of a non- EEA country and are coming to study in the UK, at Lancaster University for longer than six months, then you must obtain a Tier 4 (general) visa before you travel to the UK. This important rule applies to students from every (non EEA) country in the world, unless you are in the UK as the dependant of someone who has already has relevant immigration permission to be in the UK.
If you are planning to come and study in the UK as the dependant of someone who is living in the UK with relevant immigration permission, such as a Tier 1 or a Tier 2 visa, then you do not need to apply separately for a Tier 4 visa. However you should note that if your spouse/partner's visa expires and they do not obtain a visa extension, or if they leave the UK, you would also need to leave the UK and apply for a Tier 4 visa in your own right.
Q4. I will be studying in the UK for 6 months or less. Do I need a Tier 4 visa? ( not including pre-sessional English courses)
If you are a national of a non- EEA country and are coming to study at Lancaster University for a course of study of 6 months or less, you have a choice. You can apply for a Tier 4 (general) visa, or a student visitor visa.
A Tier 4 (general) visa must be obtained either from your home country, or from the country where you currently have residence. If you already have immigration permission as a student (for example if you have recently been studying in the UK), or other relevant immigration category , you also have the choice to apply for a Tier 4 extension from the UK.
A student visitor visa must be obtained from a British Embassy outside the UK if you are classed as a ‘visa national' . You can apply for a student visitor visa from any British diplomatic post, not just a British Embassy in your home country or country of current residence. However if you are classed as a ‘non-visa national', you are allowed to make an immigration application for entry as a student visitor when you land in the UK. See for guidance below on how to apply for your student visitor visa below
Please be aware of the following two important limitations about student visitor visas:
(i) if you choose to enter the UK on a student visitor visa, you will not be permitted to take any kind of employment – either paid or unpaid. For this reason, if you think that you will want to work during your stay in the UK, then you should apply for a Tier 4 (general) visa.
(ii) A student visitor visa cannot be extended in the UK. If you think you may later decide you want to stay and study for a longer period, then you should apply for a Tier 4 (general) visa before you travel to the UK.
Q5. I am coming to Lancaster to do a pre-sessional English course, before I start my degree course. Do I need a Tier 4 student visa or a student visitor visa?
If you are coming to Lancaster University or any other UK educational institution in the UK to study a pre-sessional language course, before starting your main Lancaster University degree course, you must apply for Tier 4 – (general) student visa from a British Embassy/High Commission/Visa Application Centre from your home country. You must not enter the UK with a student visitor visa.
The student visitor visa is not suitable for students who are continuing onto a degree course from a pre-sessional course for the following reasons:
In order to be able to apply for and obtain your Tier 4 (general) student visa, you must meet the requirements of the immigration rules and have 40 points in total as shown in the table below:
Please note that if any of your supporting documents are written in a language other than English, you will need to arrange for these to be translated , by an official translator. See the following link for further details: http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/studyingintheuk/adult-students/evidence/
Q7. How much money do I need to prove I have when I apply for my Tier 4 visa to pass the ‘maintenance (or money) test'?
To satisfy the maintenance test, you need to provide evidence that you can meet the costs of your course and living costs as follows:
Please note that the maintenance test is different for anyone studying in London. The above guidance relates to study outside of London.
If you are a prospective (new) student at Lancaster University, A CAS will automatically be produced for you by the University when your acceptance for studies becomes unconditional. You do not need to request it. Your CAS will be sent to the email address indicated on your application.
If you are a continuing (existing) student at Lancaster University and need to extend your student visa in order to complete the course of studies you are already on, you will need to specifically request your CAS from the Student Registry.
Certificates of Acceptance are only valid for a period of six months , so in any case will only be issued within six months of the start to your course. Please note that although your CAS may be sent to you up to six months before your course starts, you can only use it to apply for your visa within three months of your course start date.
You should contact your nearest British Embassy (or British High Commission/Consulate), or Visa Application Centre for details of the exact application process. In some countries it is possible to make your visa application on-line, whilst in other countries you will need to apply through the Visa Application Centre (VAC). See the following webpage to check the procedure in your country: http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/wheretoapply/
The two application forms you need to complete to apply for a visa to study in the UK are:
VAF9 – PBS Migrant
PBS Appendix 8 (General) Student
See also the PBS Migrant guidance notes before you start completing the VAF9 Form
You can access all the above forms here: http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/vafs/
For full information about all aspects of applying for a Tier 4 (general) student visa for the UK, please see the UK Border Agency website. This is the British government website for visa services:
Important: If you have a Tier 4 visa which has not expired, you MUST apply for this to be extended through the UKBA in the UK. Any application for a new Tier 4 visa in this situation, from a British diplomatic post in another country will be refused.
Please note that that there are two categories of student visa: general student visa and child student visa . If you are either 16 or 17 years old, you can apply in the category of child OR adult/general. However, Lancaster University is only licensed to sponsor Tier 4 (general) students.
If in doubt, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice.
Q10. Can I study at a different university than the one which I was granted a Tier 4 visa for/ applied for a visa for?
The answer to this question depends on whether you already have a Tier 4 visa or not and if you do have a Tier 4 visa, the date you applied for it. Choose the relevant option for you, below:
Nationals from some countries are required to obtain a student visitor visa before travelling to the UK, while nationals from other countries may apply for permission to enter the UK as a student visitor on arrival in the UK. This depends on whether you are a ‘visa national' , or a ‘non-visa national':
Remember however, that if you enter the UK as a student visitor, you cannot work in the UK, nor extend your visa from within the UK.
If you are a ‘visa national' , you MUST get your student visitor visa before leaving your home country (or country of residence), or you will be refused entry to the UK. Check the list on the following weblink. If the country of which you are a national is on the list, this means you are a ‘visa national'
You should contact your nearest British Embassy (or British High Commission/Consulate), or Visa Application Centre for details of the application process. In some countries it is possible to make your visa application on-line, whilst in other countries you will need to apply through the Visa Application Centre (VAC). See the following webpage to check the procedure in your country: http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/wheretoapply/ . The relevant application form for student visitors is VAF 1D. see following web page: http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/vafs/ (select link to VAF 1D)
If you are a ‘non-visa national' , you can choose whether to apply for your student visitor visa from your home country, or request permission to enter the UK as a student visitor when you arrive in the UK. Check the following web link. If the country of which you are national is NOT on the list, this means you are a ‘non-visa national':
As a non-visa national, if you choose to apply for a student visitor visa before travelling to the UK, even though you are not required to do so, see the guidance above on making an application at your nearest British Embassy/High Commission/Consulate.
As a non-visa national, if you choose to travel to the UK and request permission to enter the UK upon arrival, you should ensure you have in your hand luggage and available for inspection by an Immigration Officer, your visa letter, from Lancaster University, confirming the details of your period of study in the UK (of less than 6 months).
Remember, it is very important to state that you wish to enter the UK as a student visitor , NOT a general visitor . General visitors are not allowed to do any studying in the UK. You will be granted leave (permission) to enter the UK as a student visitor for a period of up to 6 months.
For further information about student visitor visas, see the following diagram:
Q12. I am studying on a distance-learning course or a modular course which does not require me to be in Lancaster all the time. What kind of visa do I require?
If you will only come to the UK and to Lancaster to study for short periods of time - ie a few weeks, once or twice a year, then you can enter the UK as a student visitor. You will not meet the immigration rules for a Tier 4 student visa.
Please note that as a student visitor, you are not allowed to take employment of any kind (paid or unpaid) in the UK. Nor can you extend your stay in the UK.
Each time your course requires you to come to Lancaster, you will need to obtain permission to enter the UK as a student visitor. Depending on your nationality, you may need to apply for a student visitor visa before travelling to the UK, from a British Embassy/High Commission or relevant Visa Application Centre.
See the FAQ above for how to apply for a student visitor visa.
Q13. I am coming to Lancaster to do a pre-sessional English course, before I start my degree course. Will my Tier 4 student visa cover me for both courses?
The length of your visa will depend on which one of the following two categories is relevant for you:
(i) If you hold an unconditional offer for your main degree course at Lancaster , which will start immediately after your pre-sessional course, then you can apply for a Tier 4 visa which covers both your pre-sessional and your degree course. For example your visa will include the following:
one month prior to your pre-sessional course, plus
the full length of your pre-sessional course, plus
the full length of your degree course, plus
four months at the end of your course
(ii) If you hold a conditional offer for your main degree course, which will start immediately after your pre-sessional course, you will only be granted a Tier 4 visa for the length of your pre-sessional course. For example your visa will include only the following:
one month prior to the start of your pre-sessional course, plus
the full length of your pre-sessional course, plus
one month at the end of your pre-sessional course (during which time you will apply to extend your visa)
Once you have successfully completed your pre-sessional course, you will have to apply for a new Tier 4 (general/adult) student visa to cover the duration of your main degree course.
Q14. Is there any information about the Points Based System and applying for a Tier 4 student visa, in languages other than English?
There are videos posted by the UK Border Agency, on YouTube, in the following languages: Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese. To view or hear the videos, click on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keBOZ9rFuuk&feature=channel
Q15. What is an ATAS Certificate and how do I know if I need one? (for postgraduates only) IMPORTANT
The ATAS is designed to ensure that people who are applying to study certain sensitive subjects in the UK do not have links to weapons of mass destruction programmes. If your course leads to a Master's or PhD, or any other postgraduate qualification in science, mathematics, engineering, technology or medicine field, then you will you need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) clearance certificate for the course.
The ATAS clearance certificate is issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which gives you security clearance to study certain subject areas. You can check the list of subject areas that require an ATAS clearance certificate, as follows:
You should refer to your Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) for the JACS code to find your course , or ask the Faculty Admissions Officer to supply you with your JACS, before you check the list.
If your course requires an ATAS clearance certificate, you will have to apply for, and be issued with an ATAS clearance certificate before you apply for your visa . It should take approximately four weeks to obtain an ATAS clearance certificate, so ensure you start the process early.
You can apply for an ATAS clearance certificate as soon as you have an offer of a place on a University course. Please note that an ATAS certificate is specific to a post graduate course and institution. You need to submit an application for each programme of study or Higher Education Institution that you are applying for. You apply for ATAS clearance certificates on-line. There is no fee to pay.
If you are doing a MEng that begins in the UK, you do not need an ATAS certificate regardless of the JACS code. However, if you are joining a MEng part-way through and have done the rest of your studies outside the UK then you may need an ATAS certificate. Please check to see if your JACS code is one of the ones on the Taught Masters list. If it is, you need to apply for ATAS clearance.
For full information about ATAS Certificates and the exact application process, please see the following website:
Please contact your nearest British diplomatic post for up-to-date visa application information, specific to your region/country and be ready to submit your application as soon as you are advised. Alternatively, see the following website for the UK Border Agency: http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/processingtimes
There are specific government guidelines as to how long Tier 4 visas should be, according to the length of your course . If you apply as a Tier 4 (general) student, the rule should always be as follows, whichever country you apply from anywhere in the world:
A course is described as ‘pre-sessional' if it prepares you for your main course of study in the UK and you undertake it prior to your main course.
There are specific government rules as to how long Tier 4 visas should be, according to the length of your course . If you apply as a Tier 4 student, your entry clearance should be granted as follows, from whichever country you apply, anywhere in the world (if you sponsored by an official financial sponsor, see also the note immediately below):
Check your visa end date when you get the visa! If it does not match the above rules, check with the relevant British Embassy/High Commission or Visa Application Centre and get it corrected as necessary before you travel to the UK .
NOTE about financial sponsorship and sponsorship letters : The length of your visa will be exactly matched to the length of your official financial sponsorship (ie from the UK government, your home government, the British Council, or any international organisation, company or university) as stated in your scholarship/sponsorship letter . If you want permission to remain in the UK for the purpose of studies after your sponsorship ends, then you must provide evidence of your sponsor's unconditional, written permission for you to remain in the UK. You will also have to prove that you have sufficient money to cover your costs after your sponsorship ends.
If you are currently receiving official financial sponsorship, or this financial sponsorship has ended within 12 months of your Tier 4 application being made , you will need to provide a letter from your sponsor , which gives their unconditional consent to your studies in the UK. If you don't provide this, your Tier 4 student application will be refused.
As a Tier 4 general student, studying at degree-level or above, you will be allowed to work part-time during term time, for up to (and no more than ) 20 hours a week . In your vacations, you can work full-time. You should check what your visa (entry clearance, residence permit, or ID Card) says to be sure of your working entitlement. If the wording is any of the options mentioned below, you are legally allowed to work in the UK, with the following restrictions:
Your passport sticker or identity card might say something a bit different from the above examples, however if your visa indicates the following wording, you are definitely not allowed to work:
You can do most kinds of work, but you must not:
If your immigration permission does NOT allow you to work, you must not:
You will be allowed to do a work placement as part of your course of study, as long as the work placement is an assessed part of the course. The work placement must be no more than 50% of the length of your course in the UK unless you are studying a course which requires you to spend more than half of your course doing a work placement, such as a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).
For more information about working in the UK, please see the following website:
Anyone wanting to travel to the UK, who requires a visa to come, is required to provide biometric details as part of their visa application. This means having a fingerprint scan and a digital photograph at either a British diplomatic post (i.e. British Embassy) or at the premises of one of their commercial partners (ie Visa Application Centre).
The collection of this data is very quick and easy, taking only a couple of minutes. See the following website for further details about the Biometric collection process, including a YouTube video: http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/biometricvisa/
If you will be studying in the UK for more than six months, you can bring your family members to the UK. They must be able to support themselves financially for the entire length of their stay without needing help from state benefits (also known as public funds). Family members (also known as dependants) can be any of the following:
your husband, wife or civil partner; or
your unmarried or same-sex partner; or
your children aged under 18 years old
For full information about UK government rules and regulations relating to student dependants, please see the following policy document, on the UK Border Agency website:
The money that your family members will need to have will depends on your circumstances ie:
the length of your course;
where you will be studying; and
whether you are currently studying or have recently studied in the UK
Your family members (or you) must have enough money to cover their monthly living costs. Your family member may have to pay a lower amount of living costs if YOU are applying having completed a course, or are about to complete a course of study in the United Kingdom that was at least six months long in the past four months. If your family member does not have enough money and cannot prove it, their application will be refused.
If you are applying for a visa, having completed a course, or are about to complete a course of study in the United Kingdom that was at least six months long in the past four months , the money you or your family will need to show is as follows:
If you do not meet the above criteria for having already studies in the UK, then the amount of money that your family members (or you) will need to show (as well as the money you must show to cover your own living costs in the United Kingdom) is as follows:
The correct visa application to complete depends on your, the student's visa. Please select the relevant option for your circumstances:
Your application as a (general/adult) student under Tier 4 can be refused under general grounds for refusal listed in the immigration rules. This means that even if you meet the requirements of the category you are applying for, there may be other reasons why the UK Border Agency (International Group) might refuse your application.
For example, this could be because the Entry Clearance Officer has doubts that one or more of your supporting documents is genuine, or is not satisfied that your information on your documents accurately reflects statements made in your application form. Visa refusals can also be linked to an applicant's previous immigration history.
You can find more detailed information about general grounds for refusal on the UKBA website at: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/policyandlaw/IDIs/idischapter9/
If your visa application is refused and you think that the Entry Clearance Officer has made a mistake in their decision, you can request an administrative review to be conducted. This process is free of charge, but must be requested within 28 days of receipt of the visa refusal decision. You will receive an administrative review request form with your visa refusal notice, which you should complete and submit to the address on the form.
You can only request an administrative review one time per refused decision and you must not include any new evidence . If you want new evidence to be included, you will have to make a new visa application. The time to review your case should take not more than 28 days from the date the post received your administrative review request form.
For more information about the appeal rights and administrative review, see the UKBA Tier 4 Policy Guidance pages 51-53. Click on the following link:
Where to find further information