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We have been speaking to Ehren Mierau from York College, an expert in Visa applications for students, to help clarify what it is you need to do to be sure of getting that stamp in your passport!
Applying for a Visa to any country can seem rather complicated and sometimes even put people off of travelling. The UK in particular does not have a reputation for being easy to get a Visa. The truth is that the UK government really do want you to come here, and are making it as straight forward as possible to obtain your Visa. We have been speaking to Ehren Mierau from York College, an expert in Visa applications for students, to help clarify what it is you need to do to be sure of getting that stamp in your passport!
Applying for a visa to any country can be a daunting experience. Following strict guidelines and making sense of a detailed application form is not always easy, especially when it is in a foreign language. However, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Organisations such as High Schools International and York College are always available to assist you and explain the process.
With regards to the UK specifically, it is true that in recent years there have been a number of changes to the way in which students apply for a visa and to the requirements students must meet. Chief amongst these is the requirement for students demonstrate their English language ability, at least for students who are applying for a non-child visa. There is also an increasing trend towards online applications which is clearly no surprise in the modern world.
The main visa category for students is called Tier 4, and there are two different versions. The Tier 4 (Child) Student visa is aimed mainly at students under the age of 16 who will be attending fee-paying independent schools. Our students, who are all at least 16 years old at the start of the academic year, come to the UK on the Tier 4 (General) Student visa.
Courses which last less than six months don’t require a Tier 4 visa; for those courses, such as the one term study programme offered at York College something called a Student Visitor Visa will suffice.
Before a student applies for a visa, the university or college must issue something called a CAS, which stands for Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies. This is a letter which, in addition to confirming some of the key details such as the start and end dates of the course, lists the documents which need to be provided with the visa application because they formed the basis of the student’s offer of a place on the programme. These include the English language qualification, such as IELTS, the academic evidence (certificates or transcripts) and financial evidence. There is also a unique reference number on the letter which must be entered on the visa application form.
For further details about the required evidence, we recommend that students have a look through the information on the UKCISA website at http://www.ukcisa.org.uk/International-Students/Immigration-/Making-a-Tier-4-General-application-in-the-UK/Requirements-and-evidence/.
The most common ground for applications being rejected is insufficient evidence of maintenance funds. It’s very important that students can demonstrate that the required funds have been in their bank accounts or otherwise available for at least 28 consecutive days, and that the final date on that financial document is not more than 31 days old on the date of submitting the application. Information about how much money students need is available here at http://www.ukcisa.org.uk/International-Students/Immigration-/Making-a-Tier-4-General-application-in-the-UK/Requirements-and-evidence/Your-finances/.
Students must also make sure that their passports are valid for the entire duration of their study programme. We do check passport expiry dates as part of the our admission process, but we would advise all applicants whose passports are due to expire within the same year as the course end date to renew them prior to applying to York College. Students in that situation who then progress to UK university courses would need to renew their passports anyway, so it’s just one less thing to worry about later!
Plan ahead! The rules are not complicated, but they are very strict – students must answer all of the required questions, make sure their photographs are in the correct format, supply all of the correct documents and pay the correct fee. If the application is rejected, there is no right of appeal and the application fee is lost; applying again means another application fee, more delays, and generally isn’t something we want students to have to endure! Luckily in our case rejection is extremely rare and the vast majority of students applying to York College have no problem obtaining a visa.
From the moment an applicant accepts their offer they should be collecting the necessary documents so that the visa application is ready to send as soon as they receive the CAS. I would also strongly recommend that students take photocopies of everything submitted with the application in case something goes missing.
In partnership with our agents and applicants, we work hard to support students throughout their visa application process. Our official role is to act as the students sponsor. This means that we are responsible for issuing their CAS and checking their academic ability, including English language qualifications. The earliest date we can issue a CAS is three months prior to the start of a student’s course and we also wait until students have paid their course deposit.
Beyond this, we are also available to answer any questions and to guide students through the process of application. This is an important additional role which we take very seriously. It is very much at the heart of our approach and ethos. Students should keep in mind that we can’t see the electronic application form without actually starting an application ourselves, so if they have specific questions about a particular bit of the form it would be helpful to send us a screenshot of the page so that we know the context.