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International Students

 

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to apply for a Tier 4 visa from outside the UK (entry clearance).

The International Student Team's guidance document provides advice on completing the Tier 4 entry clearance visa application form. The team also hold regular webinars for students applying for a Tier 4 visa from outside of the UK.

 

Step 1: Obtain ATAS Clearance

Any student requiring a Tier 4 (General) visa undertaking a PhD-level research degree or Masters course in certain science and technology subjects requires an ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) clearance certificate to support their visa application. Your self-service account will confirm if you require ATAS and is where you can also view your ATAS summary of research and JACS codes (this information is required for your ATAS application).

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) manages this scheme. You must apply online to the FCO. The application is free and you can apply when you have a conditional offer. You will receive an ATAS Certificate via email and you must have it before receiving your CAS and applying for the Tier 4 visa. The FCO advises that it considers complete applications within 20 working days. The University monitors the outcome of your application.

Graduate Admissions provide details of the ATAS process for new graduate students and graduate students continuing on to a new graduate course.

Current students should contact the International Student Team.

Step 2: Obtain a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies)

The University will only issue you with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) once you have met all the conditions of your offer. The Graduate Admissions Office prepares and issues the CAS for new graduate students and graduate students continuing to a new graduate course. The International Student Team prepares all other CAS.

In addition to your CAS Statement, which will be sent to you by email, you will also receive some information notes which provide further guidance about the application process and explain what is required from you whilst you hold a Tier 4 visa. It is your responsibility to understand what you commit to undertake whilst holding a Tier 4 visa.

REMEMBER:

  • If your visa application is refused, you must request another CAS as a CAS can only be used once. A new CAS will only be issued upon receipt of your full refusal notice and if the University is satisfied you will be able to meet the requirements for a new visa application.
  • You can only apply for your visa within 3 months of the course start date, even if you receive your CAS earlier than this.
  • You should make sure that all of the details in your CAS are correct and let the team who sent you your CAS know of any errors.
Step 3: When, where and how to apply

When- You must apply for your Tier 4 visa before you commence your studies at Cambridge. You can only apply for your visa within 3 months of your course start date even if you receive your CAS earlier than this. Visa processing times vary according to when and where you make your application. The Home Office provides information on current visa processing times at your nearest visa application centre.

Where- You should apply for your Tier 4 visa in your country of nationality or a country where you have immigration permission other than as a visitor (tourist).

How- In all countries except the U.S and North Korea an applicant will complete an online application form, pay the application fee and then attend a visa application centre to submit their supporting documents and enrol their biometrics (see step 8). The cost of submitting a Tier 4 visa application is currently £328 per applicant

U.S applicants: Please see here for further information on the process of applying for a Tier 4 visa.

Applicants applying in China: From February 2017 a new system for the submission of supporting documents will be introduced which allows applicants using the standard service to get their documents back on the same day as their visa application centre appointment, with the exception of their passport. Applicants will be required to provide their original documents plus A4 sized photocopies. The originals will be checked by a member of staff and then returned to the applicant. This does not affect super priority or priority service applicants. Further details can be found here. Information on the supporting documents required as part of the visa application can be found under steps 6 and 7.

30 day permit and BRP

Applicants applying for a Tier 4 visa for 6 months or more will be issued with an entry permit in their passport. The permit will be valid for 30 days starting 1 month before the course start date or 7 days before the intended travel date stated on the application form, whichever is later.

You will need to enter the UK during the period stated on the permit and then collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) within 10 days of arriving in the UK. The BRP is your UK visa and will confirm the duration of your immigration permission.

You will be able to collect your BRP from the University but in order to do this, you must enter a particular code in the relevant section of your visa application. Guidance on this part of the application form can be found in the application guidance document at the top of this page. If you do not use this code in your application, you will need to collect your BRP from a designated Post Office within 10 days of your arrival in the UK. You may prefer to collect from the Post Office if you plan to enter the UK more than 10 days prior to your course start date.

If you are bringing family members with you to the UK under Tier 4 you can also have their BRPs sent the University for collection. They will also need to enter the relevant code in their application. You can collect your dependants BRPs on their behalf as long as you bring their passports with you

Step 4: Healthcare surcharge

Applicants coming to the UK for 6 months or longer will be required to pay a mandatory immigration health surcharge of £150 for every year of study as part of their visa application in order to access healthcare services in the UK. If the leave includes part of a year that is 6 months or less, the amount payable for that year would be £75. Any Tier 4 dependant will also be required to pay the surcharge.

Payment is part of the visa application process using an online payment procedure. The amount owed is calculated based on the course start and end dates inputted into the form. Once payment has been made, you will receive a reference number starting with 'IHS'.

The immigration health surcharge will entitle Tier 4 students to access NHS care in the UK free of charge in the same way as a permanent UK resident. This includes at the Doctor's surgery (known as General Practitioner or GP), a healthcare centre or in a hospital. You may need to pay for dental and optical treatment as well as medicine prescribed by the doctor and collected from a pharmacy. There are also exceptions for particularly expensive discretionary treatments.

If your visa application is not successful, you will automatically be refunded the immigration health surcharge (but not the visa application fee).

Step 5: TB Screening

You will need to take a Tuberculosis (TB) test if you are coming to the UK for more than 6 months and have lived for at least 6 months in one of the countries specified by the Home Office in the period immediately preceding your visa application. The list of countries can be found on the Home Office website.

The test will involve being given a chest x-ray. If the test shows that you don’t have TB, you will be given a certificate which is valid for 6 months and must be submitted with your visa application.

Please note that the requirement to have this test, and provide evidence with your visa application, is dependent on the country in which you are applying and not your nationality.

Step 6: Financial documents

As part of your visa application you must submit evidence to prove that you have sufficient funds to cover your course fees as stated in your CAS plus £1015 in maintenance for each month of your course up to a maximum of 9 months.

You must ensure that your financial documentation meets the specific Tier 4 requirements. You are advised to use our Tier 4 Financial Checker tool to help determine the financial evidence you require as part of your visa application based on your circumstances. Please note in particular that if you are relying on your own or your parent's/legal guardians funds, you will be required to show that the money has been in the account for a consecutive 28 day period (finishing on the date of the closing balance) and the financial evidence used must not be more than 31 days old.

The Home Office outlines the specific documents you will need to provide including the types of acceptable financial evidence you can submit and the definition of an official financial sponsor. It is important you read the Tier 4 Policy Guidance in good time to ensure you fully understand the requirements and make the necessary preparations.

You can provide evidence of funds in UK Sterling (GBP) or in another recognised world currency. If the money is not in GBP please make sure that the amount meets the minimum level requirements on the date of application using the currency converter https://www.oanda.com/currency/converter/

Please note: The Financial Undertaking Form you sign as part of the conditions of your admission to the University is different to the financial requirements of the Home Office. You cannot submit this form as evidence that you have the required funds available to you.

Avoiding a refusal on financial grounds

Failure to meet the Home Office financial requirements is the most common reason for visa application refusals. Common mistakes include:

  • Submitting bank statements that do not evidence that the funds have been in the account for a consecutive 28 day period.
  • Submitting financial evidence that is older than 31 days old
  • Submitting evidence where the money is not in cash funds (for example, shares, bonds, pay slips, credit cards)
  • Showing evidence of lower funds than the amount required
  • Claiming to have paid more fees than is recorded in the CAS
  • Using a parent's bank statements without providing an original birth certificate and a letter from the parent(s) confirming their relationship and giving permission for the applicant to use their funds to pay for their studies.
  • Using another relatives bank statement other than a parent.

Applicants from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ghana, India, Iran, Pakistan, the Phillipines and Sri Lanka should also check Appendix P of the Immigration Rules to ensure that their financial evidence is from an institution that the Home Office accepts.

Documents not in English or Welsh

Any documents that you need to submit that are not in English or Welsh must be accompanied by a full translation that can be independently verified by the Home Office. The translation must provide confirmation from the translator/translation company that it is an accurate translation of the original document; the date of the translation; the translator/an official of the translation company's full name and signature; and the translator/translation company's contact details.

Nationals subject to differentiation arrangements

You are subject to the Home Office differentiation arrangements if you are a national of one of the countries listed in Appendix H of the Immigration Rules and are applying in that country. The countries are:

Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong*, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan**, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, British National Overseas*

This means that you do not need to provide certain supporting documents with your visa application including your financial evidence and academic qualifications. However the Home Office is entitled to ask for these documents during the consideration process and failure to provide them within a specified time frame could result in your application being refused. You are therefore advised to have the evidence available to you at the time of making your visa application.

As the University of Cambridge is participating in a Tier 4 visa pilot scheme, all students applying for a visa to undertake a Masters course of 13 months or less are subject to the differentation arrangements.

* Where the applicant is a rightful holder of a passport which has been issued by the relevant competent authority and where the applicant is applying for entry clearance in the territory related to that passport

**Those who hold a passport issued by Taiwan that includes the number of the identification card issued by the competent authority in Taiwan

Step 7: Additional supporting documents

In addition to your financial documents, you will need to provide a number of documents in support of your application. You must provide these in order for your application to be considered by the UKVI and they must be the originals.

The documents include your passport(s), two passport photographs, TB certificate (if applicable), ATAS certificate (if applicable) and evidence of the qualifications outlined on your CAS (e.g. academic transcript/degree certificate).

English Language Ability

No evidence of english language ability is required as part of the visa application, even if this was a condition of your offer to study at Cambridge, unless you have been issued a CAS for attendance on the ADTIS course only.

In the relevant section of the application form you should select one of the following statements that is most relevant to you (please see your CAS if you are unsure):

  • National of a majority english speaking country
  • Your sponsor is a Higher Education Institution and has made its own assessment of your English language ability

If you have received a CAS for the ADTIS pre-sessional course only, you are required to have a Secure English Language Test (SELT) showing that you are at level CEFR B1 in all four language components. You will also require a separate CAS for your main course.

Evidence of qualifications

The Home Office requires you to submit the original version of any documents or certificates listed in your CAS statement. For most students this would be an official transcript or certificate relating to a previous qualification. If you are unable to provide this document please get in touch with the International Student Team immediately

Documents not in English or Welsh

Any documents that you need to submit that are not in English or Welsh must be accompanied by a full translation that can be independently verified by the Home Office. The translation must provide confirmation from the translator/translation company that it is an accurate translation of the original document; the date of the translation; the translator/an official of the translation company's full name and signature; and the translator/translation company's contact details.

Nationals subject to differentiation arrangements

You are subject to the Home Office differentiation arrangements if you are a national of one of the countries listed in Appendix H of the Immigration Rules and are applying in that country. The countries are:

Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Hong Kong*, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan**, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, British National Overseas*

This means that you do not need to provide certain supporting documents with your visa application including your financial evidence and academic qualifications. However the Home Office is entitled to ask for these documents during the consideration process and failure to provide them within a specified time frame could result in your application being refused. You are therefore advised to have the evidence available to you at the time of making your visa application.

As the University of Cambridge is participating in a Tier 4 visa pilot scheme, all students applying for a visa to undertake a Masters course of 13 months or less are subject to the differentation arrangements.

* Where the applicant is a rightful holder of a passport which has been issued by the relevant competent authority and where the applicant is applying for entry clearance in the territory related to that passport

**Those who hold a passport issued by Taiwan that includes the number of the identification card issued by the competent authority in Taiwan

Step 8: Attend a visa application centre

In most countries you have to complete an online application form and then attend a visa application centre in order to enrol your biometrics (have your fingerprints and a facial image taken), submit your supporting documents (see steps 5 and 6 for more information) and in some cases attend an interview.

Applicants from the US attend a biometrics appointment and must then send a print out of the online application and supporting documents to the British Consulate General in New York within the timeframe specified on the biometric confirmation sheet.

Most students will be asked to attend a 'credibility interview'. These interviews are held when you lodge your application and take place, via a video link, with a visa officer based in the UK. This takes about 10 to 15 minutes. The questions will focus on your chosen course of study, how you will pay for your course, your previous immigration history and reasons for studying in the UK. The interview will be conducted in English. The transcript of the interview will be included with your application form and other supporting documents and will be an additional piece of evidence to help the visa officer assess your visa application.

Step 9: Collect and check your visa

Applicants applying for a Tier 4 visa for 6 months or more will be issued with an entry permit in their passport. The permit will be valid for 30 days starting 1 month before the course start date or 7 days before the intended travel date stated on the application form, whichever is later.

You will need to enter the UK during the period stated on the permit and then collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) within 10 days of arriving in the UK. The BRP is your UK visa and will confirm the duration of your immigration permission.

You will need to check that the information in the decision letter you receive with your permit and your BRP once you collect it has:

  • The correct start and end date (you should receive the length of the course plus 4 months for courses of more than 12 months, length of course plus 2 months for courses between 6 and 12 months, or the length of course plus 6 months if you fall under the Tier 4 visa pilot for Master's students);
  • Either the University’s Sponsor License number (4NUV7KB58) or your CAS number.
  • Your correct personal details

You should take your BRP to your College as soon as you collect it so that a copy can be uploaded onto your student record. Only then can you begin your studies.

REMEMBER: Keep your passport and BRP safe. Take copies of both before travelling and keep secure in a different place to your originals.

Errors

If you receive your visa under the old system of a vignette in your passport and you think that an error has been made on your visa, such as you have not been given as much leave as you are entitled to or your name or sponsor license number is incorrect, your visa can be amended free of charge. Please contact the International Student Team as soon as you spot the error.

If your receive your visa under the new system, and spot an error in your permit or BRP letter before you to travel to the UK please contact your Visa Application Centre. They will then issue instructions on how to correct the error. If the error is on your BRP card please contact the International Student Team.

If your visa is refused inform the International Student Team’s Visa Advice Service immediately. Only this office can inform you of the options available to you.

Further information about what to do if you lose your documents, find an error in your immigration permission or receive a visa refusal, see Tier 4 visa issues.

Step 10: Coming to Cambridge

You should make sure you arrive in the UK before your 30 day permit expires.The permit will usually be valid from one month before your course starts. If you are coming for less than six months, and are not on a pre-sessional course, you can only enter the UK up to seven days before the course start date.

You should arrive at Cambridge by the date given as the ‘Course start date’ in your CAS, and certainly by the ‘latest arrival date’.

You should inform your College if you are delayed, providing the new date of your arrival and the reason for the delay.

REMINDER: Please note that if you are required to have a visa and you do not already have current valid leave that allows you to study, you cannot arrive in the UK until the visa application process has been completed and you have a 30 day permit in your passport. If you try to enter the UK before you have your permit it is likely that you will either not be permitted entry to the UK or you will be granted entry as a tourist which does not allow you to study.You cannot switch from a tourist visa to Tier 4 from inside the UK even if you already have a Tier 4 entry permit in your passport.

Step 11: Collecting your BRP and other Tier 4 responsibilities

Information on how to collect your Biometric Residence Permit, registering with the police and your other responsibilities whilst in the UK under Tier 4 can be found here

Family members

If you are considering bringing dependant family members with you to the UK, see our Tier 4 dependant guidance.

 

Further information

It is your responsibility to make sure you understand and meet the UK immigration requirements. Further information on the Tier 4 application process is available from:

UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA)

Home Office

We Are International has produced two videos to explain the Tier 4 student visa application process for students applying from China and India.

Contact us

The University's International Student Team provides a Visa Advice Service and can assist with queries in relation to your Tier 4 visa application.