UK Visa Guide
Important: The information contained below is for guidance purposes only. Although every effort is made to ensure its accuracy, we strongly recommend you visit the UKBA website for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
There are two main routes for students who wish to study in the UK. They are:
Which is available under two categories: (generally for those intending to study for less than six months (or less than 11 months on the ESVV)
- a) Student Visitor Visa (SVV), and including Extended Student Visitor Visa (ESVV) for English Language courses
- b) Child Visitor Visa (CVV)
Under the Points-Based System (PBS) – which is available under two categories (generally for those intending to study for more than six months):
- a) Tier 4 General Student
- b) Tier 4 Child Student
Note: Students requiring a visa to study in the UK will need to obtain Entry Clearance before they travel to the UK and must follow the relevant immigration regulations during their studies in the UK as well as when they apply for their student visa.
Students enjoy freedom in that, they do not have to study full time and there is no requirement for the course to lead to an approved qualification.
However, Student Visitors are more restricted than their Tier 4 General Student counterparts in the following ways:
- they will not be allowed to do any work or work placement (even if it is part of a course, or is unpaid)
- they will not be able to extend their stay in the UK, i.e. they must return home and re-apply if they wish to come back to the UK for more studies.
To be considered for a Student Visitor Visa, students must show that they have been unconditionally accepted on a course that is provided by an organisation that is the holder of a Sponsor Licence for Tier 4 or accredited by a UKBA recognised accreditation body. Students must have the financial resources to accommodate and maintain themselves during the visit.
Since 10 January 2011, ESVV allows students wishing to study English Language courses to apply for a visa to stay in the UK for up to 11 months.
Useful link: Home Office website
Students are more restricted than their Tier 4 Child Student counterparts as they will not be able to extend their stay in the UK, i.e. they must return home and re-apply if they wish to come back to the UK for more studies.
When should you use the visitor visa route?
Students should only come as a 'visitor', ie applying under Student Visitor Visa (SVV), Child Visitor Visa (CVV) or Extended Student Visitor Visa (ESVV), if they are absolutely certain they:
- will not want to work in the UK
- will not want to stay for longer than six months (or 11 months in the case of ESVV for English Language courses)
- Does not have a SELT or SELT grades below relevant Tier 4 requirements. (see Tier 4 route section below for more information)
unless there will be enough of a gap between their studies to allow them to return home and re-apply for a new visa to continue their studies in the UK.
You should allow typically 1 - 3 months to apply for your visa depending on the time of year.
Full details on applying under each visitor route can be found here.
To find out if you need a visa to study in the UK, visit this webpage.
Generally speaking, this is the best route for those intending to study in the UK for more than six months. Those already in the UK under a valid Tier 4 visa can apply to extend their UK visa without having to return home, whereas this option is unavailable under the ‘visitor visa' route.
A student cannot make an application more than three months before the start of their course.
There are two categories under Tier 4:
Maximum length of stay under the Tier 4 General route is 3 years for courses below degree level and 5 years for courses at or above degree level. Please refer to the UKBA website for exceptions.
- Tier 4 Child Student: For those aged 17 years and under coming to study at independent fee-paying schools or further education colleges. Note – children between 4 and 15 years old may only be educated at independent fee-paying schools. Students aged 16 & 17 can only be assigned a Tier 4 Child CAS for a maximum of 3 years.
Students aged 16 or 17 years old can apply either as a ‘Tier 4 General Student' or a ‘Tier 4 Child Student' if they are studying a course at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 3 or above.
We generally advise that 16 or 17 year olds apply under a Tier 4 Child Student visa rather than the Tier 4 General. For 16 or 17 year olds studying a course at NQF level 2, then they must apply under Tier 4 Child route.
What is the Visa Interview (Credibility Test)?
UK Border Agency / Home Office has started rolling out the Credibility Test to Tier 4 route since spring 2013. By end of May, it has officially introduced the Credibility Test in China, Vietnam, Nigeria, Russia, India, Pakistan, Philippines and a few other countries.
Visa Interview is a way for Visa Officers to ascertain students’ intention to study. This takes forms of video-linked interview, face-to-face interview and telephone interview.
- a) Video-linked interview is carried out at the Visa Application Centre (VAC) when students submit their application in their home country. The Interviewing Officer will be based in the UK and the communication will be done via the video-link facility and the Interviewing Officer will be asking a series of questions around student’s intention to study the course with the institution in the UK.
- b) Credibility Test can also be a face-to-face interview with an Entry Clearance Officer at the local embassy or consulate for which students would normally be invited to attend an appointment in advance. The questions will be around intention, but can also be around their financial background, previous education/work history and other immigration-related questions.
- c) Telephone interview can also be conducted at times with a Visa Officer so students must make sure their telephone contact details are up to date and be prepared that there is a chance they might be called upon by the Visa Office.
- Do attend - Failure to attend the interview may result in your application being automatically refused. In the event you cannot attend, contact the Visa Office to reschedule.
- Do answer- You should always answer all questions fully and honestly.
- Do think - You should think in advance about your course, the documents you provided in your visa application, and your intention to study. The UKBA want to know that you have given serious thought before choosing your course.
- Do speak in English! - One of the most important things they will be checking is your level of English, so always answer in English, not via an interpreter.
- Do ask - Ask for clarification if you do not understand a question to make sure you are providing the information they want.
- What is the name of the school? This may not be the same as the school's Tier 4 name – check your CAS statement for such details.
- Did you use an educational agent at any stage (even if you stopped using them)? Who is/was your agent and why did you choose them?
- Why did you choose this university/college/school? Why did you choose this course and how does it relate to your previous study? Why do you wish to study in the UK? Why not stay in your own country to study, if similarthe courses is are available there
- What is your plan after completing the course? Do you intend to stay in the UK (for additional studies) or are you returning home?
- If you are changing course or study pathway, why are you are making such a change of direction in your studies?
- How do you explain any gaps in your previous education/employment history?
- What is the course name and academic level? What qualification will you get after the course if you pass? This is all on your CAS and/or offer letter.
- When does the course start and finish? How many terms/semesters is it?
- What are the modules/subjects of the course? What will you study during the course? How are you going to be assessed on the course? You can find all this information on the centre website.
- Did you do any research before choosing the school/course? What other schools/courses did you consider, and why did you decide on this one?
- How is this course going to benefit you for your future career and/or academic plans?
- Who is going to pay your tuition fees and living costs? Where did they get the money? What is their salary?
- You might need to provide documents to prove your financial ability to study in the UK, such as additional bank statements and proof of income from your financial sponsors. Do you have all of these? Make sure you bring additional documentations required by the Visa Office.
- Do you know how much it costs to live in the UK and also what you might spend on day- to- day items such as food, travel and accommodation?
- Do you know the total cost of the course and have an idea on any future courses?
- Where is the school? Which city is it in and which part of the UK does it belong to?
- Have you arranged accommodation? If not, why not? How will you/did you find it?
- How much does accommodation cost in the city/town where you will be studying?
- How will you commute between your accommodation and the school (bus, train, underground etc.)?
Will students always be interviewed when they apply for a visa?
Yes, for Tier 4 General applicants applying from the countries where the Credibility Test has been rolled out and this will happen when they submit their visa applications at their local VACs. However students are not likely to be interviewed for if they are applying under Tier 4 Child route or other visa routes. It is worth to note that UKBA defined ‘low risk’ countries are exempt from the Visa Interview requirement.
How do I prepare for the Visa Interview?
We do recommend our students to prepare for these visa interviews so they can answer the questions properly and accurately to assist the Visa Officers who will be assessing their applications and this also ensures there is minimum delay to the processing of their visa application.Here are a few things to bear in mind:
Living in UK
Tier 4 General Student
They must complete and pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT) for English language and academic courses as follows:
- NQF Level 3-5: CEFR Level B1 (IELTS 4.0 minimum in all 4 components)
- NQF Level 6+: CEFR Level B2 (IELTS 5.5 minimum in all 4 components)
All Pre-Master's programmes offered by Cambridge Education Group are at NQF Level 4, requiring only a minimum of CEFR B1/IELTS 4.0 for entry onto the Extended Pre-Master's Programme. Many Pre Master's programmes available from some other providers are graded at NQF Level 6 and therefore require a CEFR B2/IELTS 5.5.
Students over 18 with English below B1/IELTS 4.0 will have to use the Student Visitor Visa (SVV) routeTier 4 Child Student
- there is no need for a Secure English Language Test (SELT) as Cambridge Education Group can self-assess entry level of English (with no minimum restriction) and recommend appropriate English training to each student's needs
- students can take pre-sessional English language modules before their main academic course under one single CAS
Only CATS and CSVPA students may use the Tier 4 Child visa route. FoundationCampus and Stafford House School of English students will be close to university age, hence following the university visa route, i.e. Tier 4 General route.
In order to qualify for Tier 4, students must pass a points-based assessment and score 40 points by satisfying the following:
|Number of Points||
Presentation of a Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from a licensed Tier 4 sponsor.
Evidence to show they have the finances to study in the UK (known as maintenance) by demonstrating they can cover:
See table below for specific amounts depending on length of course.
Total points required to be granted a visa.
The Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) will include information about the student, their sponsor (education provider), their course and their finances.
Cambridge Education Group's admissions team will send out CAS statements to those who need to apply under the Tier 4 route. This is conditional upon the student fulfilling the terms set out in their offer letter and having confirmed their place(s) by returning the required deposit or sponsorship letter. The CAS statement should then be included with their visa application.
The CAS statement from our admissions team will include:
- The student's name, nationality and passport/travel document number.
- The sponsor's licence number, address and contact details; any details of partner institutions or overseas institution (if the course is jointly taught).
- Course details such as title, level, qualifications to be awarded, start and expected end date, hours per week, address of student's main place of study.
- Course fees for the first year and any payments already made. If relevant, any accommodation fees for the first year and any payments already made.
- Documents used to obtain the offer: this will give a brief description of our assessment of the student's academic level and English proficiency, including details such as student's previous courses/qualifications and Secure English Language Test results. If a student has previously studied in the UK under Tier 4 route, an Academic Progression statement on how the new course of studies represents academic progression is also included here.
For a list of UKBA approved Secure English Language Tests, visit this webpage.
Most student visa refusals under Tier 4 are due to errors in financial documentations. Please read this section carefully and use the link provided for up to date advice.
Depending on the length of the course, the amount of finance required to satisfy the points-based assessment will vary as follows:
|Length of course||Where you will study||Maintenance (finance) needed|
|9 months or less||London-based||Full course fees + £1,000 for each calendar month of the course|
|9 months or less||Outside London||Full course fees + £800 for each calendar month of the course|
|More than 9 months||London-based||First year of fees + £9,000 to cover the first 9 months|
|More than 9 months||Outside London||First year of fees + £7,200 to cover the first 9 months|
For more information on Tier 4 General maintenance requirements, visit this webpage.
Tier 4 Child
The financial evidence required will depend on whether you are boarding at the independent school or living independently. Please refer to the UKBA website for full details.
The Financing (or maintenance) criteria can be funded either by:
- The student (or parent or guardian) or
- A financial sponsor.
If it is through a financial sponsor, this means a student is given money to cover their course fees and living costs. If their financial sponsor is only covering some of the student's course fees or living costs, then he/she must show evidence that they have the rest of the money needed (as above).
The student must provide a letter of confirmation from their official financial sponsor, which may be Her Majesty's government, the student's home government, the British Council or any international organisation, company or university. It should not be a relative (except parents) or non-international company.
The letter of confirmation must be on official letter-headed paper or stationery of the organisation of the official financial sponsor, feature the official stamp of that organisation and show the:
- name and contact details of the official financial sponsor
- date of the letter
- full name of the student (that appears in their passport)
- length of their sponsorship
- amount of money that the official financial sponsor is giving to the student or a statement that they will cover all (or part) of the student's fees and living costs.
For bank statements, they must:
- Be dated no more than one month before the visa application submission date;
- Show that the entire amount required (as per above) has been in the account for 28 consecutive days (and has not fallen below the required amount throughout the 28 days)
- Be for a cash account
Fees Paid to Institutions
Fees already paid to institutions towards student's tuition fees can be deducted when calculating how much money a student needs to meet the maintenance funds requirements for a Tier 4 visa application. However as per the rules came into force since 6th April 2012, please note for fees paid towards accommodation fees, there is a maximum of £1,000 can be offset against the required funds for Tier 4 General students and Tier 4 Child students who live independently. If in any doubt, please contact our admissions team for advice before making a payment towards the balance of your fees.
If parent's bank statements are used in the visa application, submission of the following to prove the relationship between parents and the applicant is also required:
- Original legal documentations (or notarised copy) from parent/guardian who are financially supporting the applicant. The documentation should confirm the relationship between the parent/guardian and the applicant. This could include the following:
- Birth certificate showing the applicant and the parents' names;
- Certificate of adoption showing applicant and the parents' names;
- Court document showing the applicant and the legal guardian's names;
- A letter from parent/guardian confirming the relationship between the applicant and the parent/guardian and that parent/guardian consent to using their funds to pay for the tuition and maintenance during the applicant's studies in the UK.
Download and read our quick reference guide to evidencing your finances to ensure you satisfy the UKBA requirements.
There are currently three levels of Tier 4 sponsor ratings:
- Highly Trusted
- A Rated
- B Rated
All Cambridge Education Group Colleges and Centres have Highly Trusted sponsor status.
This means that students already in the UK holding a Tier 4 visa, wishing to transfer to any Cambridge Education Group College/Centre from another institution, can start their course with us as soon as they have sent their visa extension application, before having received a decision from the UKBA.
The Tier 4 sponsor licence register can be found here.
Tier 4 Sponsor Licence Details (as at Oct 2011)
|CEG Centre / Colleges||Tier 4 Sponsor Licence Name||Tier 4 License Number||Tier 4 Rating||Type of Tier 4 CAS||CEG College/Centre Address|
CATS College Cambridge
|Cambridge Arts and Sciences||RTC4328J1||Highly Trusted||General, Child||CATS College Cambridge & CSVPA: 14 Round Church Street, Cambridge, CB5 8AD
CATS College London: 43-45 Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2RA
|CATS College Canterbury||CATS Canterbury||JET1C37F8||Highly Trusted||General, Child||68 New Dover Road, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 3LQ|
|London FoundationCampus (Birkbeck)||FoundationCampus London||C2XBMG1V9||Highly Trusted||General||London FoundationCampus: Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HX|
|Coventry FoundationCampus||Coventry University||BDN68KDUX||Highly Trusted||General||Coventry FoundationCampus: Burges House, Coventry University, Ironmonger Row, Coventry CV1 1FD|
|UCLan FoundationCampus||University of Central Lancashire||8D76EMWQ4||Highly Trusted||General||UCLan FoundationCampus: Vernon Building, University of Central Lancashire, Preston PR1 2HE|
|LSBU FoundationCampus||London South Bank University||1F2MGYXUX||Highly Trusted||General||London South Bank University FoundationCampus: 90 London Road, London SE1 6LN|
|Sunderland FoundationCampus||University of Sunderland||URU3HMVC0||Highly Trusted||General||Sunderland FoundationCampus: The Gateway, City Campus, Chester Road, Sunderland SR1 3SD|
|Stafford House School of English (Canterbury & London)||Stafford House School of English||XNRCXW4C3||Highly Trusted||General||
Stafford House School of English Canterbury: 19 New Dover Road, Canterbury, Kent CT1 3AH
Note: International students can only study with a licensed sponsor. As a condition of being a licensed sponsor, the education provider is responsible for the student while they are in the UK. All Cambridge Education Group colleges and centres will liaise with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and are obliged to report students to the UKBA if they 1) do not arrive for the start of their course 2) withdraw from their course 3) defer or suspend their studies 4) are absent for significant periods of time.
- fill in the appropriate visa application form
- pay the visa application fee.
- Students will need to provide the following:
- passport or travel document
- a CAS statement from a licensed sponsor
- documents to show they meet the maintenance requirements (such as a bank statement featuring the student's name (or parent or guardian, with evidence of relationship) or a loan in their name or government sponsorship
- Documents listed by their sponsors in the CAS statement assigned by their Tier 4 sponsor, such as academic transcripts and IELTS certificate.
- Biometric details
- Biometric Residence Permit/Identity Card (if they are applying from inside the UK)
- Signed declaration of genuine funds (since 4 July 2011)
International students are able to work in the UK as per the conditions imposed in their visa during their studies with opportunities available including:
- part-time work
- vacation work
- course-related work placements.
The post-study work category of Tier 1 (this route is closed since 6th April 2012).
Working whilst studying brings many benefits including extra money and it can also help to improve their English language. However, they should be careful not to let their job interfere with their studies as this is, after all, the reason why they are here in the UK. Do not under-estimate the hours needed to focus on studies in order to successfully achieve the desired academic result.
Students may work part-time for a number of hours during term time depending on their course, age and type of visa. The following restrictions apply as part of the conditions for visa applications submitted on or after 4 July 2011:
For those applying for new visas from 4th July 2011, only those studying at a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI) or a publicly funded further education college will be entitled to work under a Tier 4 General Student visa.
For those at a UK Higher Education Institution (HEI, i.e. publicly funded universities):
For courses at or above NQF 6/QCF 6/SCQF 9, or a short-term study abroad degree programme, students are allowed to:
- work for up to 20 hours per week during term time;
- work full-time during vacations;
- do a work placement as part of their course;
- volunteer and non-paid work is permitted.
For courses below NQF 6/QCF 6/SCQF 9,(applicable to all the modern FoundationCampus Centres Coventry, LSBU, UCLan, Sunderland) students are allowed to:
- work for up to 10 hours per week during term time;
- work full-time during vacations;
- do a work placement as part of their course;
- Volunteer and non-paid work is permitted.
At a publicly funded institute for courses at any level, students are allowed to:
- work for up to 10 hours per week during term time;
- work full-time during vacations;
- do a work placement as part of their course, provided the education provider is a Highly Trusted sponsor or the course is at or above NQF 6/QCF 6/SCQF 9;
- volunteer and non-paid work is permitted.
The student's ability to work is determined by their age.
- Under 16yrs: cannot work at all during their time in the UK;
- 16yrs and above are allowed to:
- Work for up to 10 hours per week during term time;
- Work full-time during vacations;
- Do a work placement as part of their course;
- Volunteer and non-paid work is permitted.
Students do not have to seek approval from the UK Border Agency for such employment.
If you require any assistance or clarification on any of the above, please contact our admissions team and we will be happy to assist.
Note: Please note the information contained in this document is correct at the time of going to print. Please always refer to the UK border Agency website for up to date information in case of policy changes.
The only students who are eligible to bring dependants from 4 July 2011 will be either:
- Post-graduate students on courses at NQF level 7 or above of more than 12 months' duration or;
- Government-sponsored students
- Dependants of both of these categories of students will be able to work
Only the following types of students are not required to undertake a SELT in order to obtain a Tier 4 General visa:
- Tier 4 General applicants who are 1) sponsored by a Higher Education Institute (HEI) for 2) courses at or above NQF Level 6.
- Tier 4 Child applicants
- students who have successfully completed a course as a Tier 4 (Child) student/Under Pre-PBS rules when granted permission as an under 18 year old, which was 1) at least six months in length, and 2) ended less than two years before the date their Tier 4 General CAS is assigned
- nationals from a Majority English-speaking country
- students who have completed a qualification equivalent to a UK degree which was taught in English in a Majority English-speaking country (including UK).
Hints and tips on getting a SELT
- Book a SELT test (IELTS/TOEFL/Pearson/Cambridge ESOL) as early as possible before your intended course start date
- We are working closely with Pearson, who can offer rapid access to test locations in many countries: http://www.pearsonpte.com/TestMe/Taking/Pages/TestCentersandFees.aspx. If you need assistance, please contact our Central Admissions team.
- Use the Child route where you can (CATS/CSVPA/SoE only)
- Use the SVV (or ESVV) route, especially where students risk failing the CEFR B1 (minimum IELTS 4.0 or equivalent in all of the four components)
Students from these countries are exempt from requiring a SELT:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and New Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United States of America
- United Kingdom - (not actually listed in the policy guidance but clearly ok!)