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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. Please note that in summer 2017 there are likely to be changes to the application form, an updated guidance document will be made available as a result.

The team also hold regular webinars for students applying for a Tier 4 visa from outside of the UK.

 

Step 1: Obtain ATAS Clearance

Students undertaking a PhD-level research degree or Masters course in certain science and technology subjects require an ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) clearance certificate to support their visa application. Graduate students who are required to apply for ATAS will have it included as a condition of offer and will be able to view an ATAS summary of research and the course JACS code, required for the ATAS application, in their applicant self-service. Undergraduate students undertaking an integrated Masters which requires ATAS clearance will receive instructions from the International Student Team by email. Current students should contact the International Student Team.

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 be sent the ATAS certificate via email and must have received it prior to being issued your CAS and applying for the Tier 4 visa. The FCO advises that it considers complete applications within 20 working days.

If your course requires ATAS clearance, you must submit the certificate with your visa application as a mandatory supporting document.

 

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

Your Tier 4 visa application must be supported with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). This is issued by the University once you have met all the conditions of your offer. The Graduate Admissions Office issues the CAS for new graduate students and graduate students continuing to a new graduate course. The International Student Team prepares all other CAS. Your CAS statement will be sent to you by email. You must enter the CAS reference number in the relevant section of the Tier 4 visa application.   

The CAS confirms the University is sponsoring you under Tier 4. You should ensure you understand your responsibilities whilst holding a Tier 4 visa.

REMEMBER:

  • You should make sure that all of the details in your CAS are correct and let the team who sent you your CAS know if you identify any errors. These will need to be corrected prior to you making your visa application.
  • A CAS can only be used for one visa application. If your visa application is refused, you must request a new CAS. This 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.
Step 3: When, where and how to apply

When- You must apply for your Tier 4 visa before you travel to the UK and 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 for visa application centres but note that during July - September it may take longer.

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-  You will first complete an online application form which includes payment of the relevant fee. In all countries except the USA, you will then attend a visa application centre to submit your supporting documents and enrol your biometrics (see step 8). The cost of a Tier 4 visa application is currently £335 per applicant.

Applying in the USA: The application process to apply for a UK visa in the USA is outlined on the GOV.UK webpages.

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. Information on the supporting documents required as part of the visa application can be found under steps 6 and 7.

 

Collecting your BRP

Applicants applying for a Tier 4 visa for 6 months or more will be issued with an entry permit in their passport. You will need to collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) within 10 days of arriving in the UK. The BRP is your visa document and evidence of your immigration permisson in the UK.

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.

 

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'.

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 the period immediately preceding your visa application, in one of the countries specified by the Home Office. The list of countries can be found on the Home Office website.

Yuo must be tested at a clinic that has been approved by the Home Office. 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 living costs for each month of your course up to a maximum of 9 month.

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 using your own or your parent's/legal guardian's funds, you will be required to show that the money has been held at the required level 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. The documents you submit with your visa application must be originals; copies are not acceptable.

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 OANDA currency converter.

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.

Please note: The financial undertaking 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:

  • Showing evidence of lower funds than the amount required.
  • 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 copies and not the originals of documents.
  • Submitting evidence where the money is not in cash funds (for example, shares, bonds, pay slips, credit cards).
  • 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 relative's bank statement other than a parent.

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

If you are a national of one of the following countries, you are subject to differentiation arrangements:

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 submit your financial documents or your qualifications with your visa application. However the Home Office is entitled to request 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 ensure you have the documents ready and in the manner required under Tier 4 at the point 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 other documents in support of your application.

The documents include your passport(s), two passport photographs, TB certificate (if applicable), ATAS certificate (if applicable), evidence of the qualifications outlined on your CAS (e.g. academic transcript/degree certificate) and proof of parental consent if you are under 18.

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. The exception is students who are applying for a visa to attend the ADTIS pre-sessional 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.

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. Copies of qualifications are not acceptable. If you are unable to provide this document, you must contact the International Student Team for further advice prior to submitting your visa application.

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

If you are a national of one of the following countries, you are subject to differentiation arrangements:

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 submit your financial documents or your qualifications with your visa application. However the Home Office is entitled to request these documents during the consideration process and failure to provide them within a specified time frame could result in your application being refused. You should therefore make sure you have the documents ready and in the manner required under Tier 4 at the point 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 in the USA 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.

You may 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 your passport and decision

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 also receive a decision letter which will outline the conditions of your immigration leave. You will need to bring this letter with you to the UK.

You will need to check that the information on the entry permit and in the decision letter are correct. If you identify any error, contact your Visa Application Centre before you travel. They will then issue instructions on how to correct the error.

If your visa is refused inform the International Student Team immediately. Only this office can advise you on your options following a visa refusal.

 

Step 10: Coming to Cambridge

You cannot travel to the UK to commence your studies until the visa application process has been completed and you have a 30 day permit in your passport. You will need to 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 cannot enter as a Tier 4 student priot to the validity of your entry permit. In addition, you cannot enter the UK earlier than this as a standard visitor (tourist) and then 'switch' inside the UK to Tier 4 even if the student entry permit is in your passport. If you enter the UK as a visitor, you will need to leave the UK and re-enter to activate your immigration permission as a student.

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.

 

 

 

Step 11: Collecting your BRP and other Tier 4 responsibilities

Once you arrive in Cambridge, you will need to collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) within 10 days of arriving in the UK. The BRP is a credit-card sized document which contains your personal and biometric information and will confirm your immigration permission in the UK.

Once you have collected your BRP, check to ensure the details are correct and include:

  • 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.

If you identify an error on your BRP after arrival in the UK, contact the International Student Team who will advise on the process for correction.

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.

Some students will be required to register with the police after they have collected their BRP.

You should ensure you understand and comply with the conditions of your Tier 4 visa and your responsibilities as a student sponsored under Tier 4 at Cambridge.

 

Dependant family members

If you are considering bringing dependant family members with you to the UK, read the section on Tier 4 dependants.

Further sources of information

It is your responsibility to ensure you understand and meet the UK immigration requirements.

You are advised to read the Tier 4 information on the Home Office website, including the Tier 4 Policy Guidance, prior to applying for your Tier 4 visa.

UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) provides information on applying for a Tier 4 visa from outside the UK.

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.