Applying for a UK Student Visa
Everything you need to know to about the UK student visa application and interview process.
Getting accepted to study a degree program in the UK is a great achievement. However, the next important step is to apply for a student visa—known as the Tier 4, General Student Visa—applicable to students over 16. Here is a guide that will help you with this process.
To begin the visa application, you need to first pass the online Tier 4 test which involves two steps:
Course Confirmation: In order to qualify for your visa, you need a ‘Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies’ from your university, which will come in the form of a reference number. This must be approved by UK Visa and Immigration, who require the course to be a full-time program. Also, the university must have a ‘Highly Trusted Status’ on the UK Visa and Immigration Tier 4 Sponsor list (the sponsor list can be viewed on the UK Gov website).
Funding: You’ll need to prove that you can afford your course tuition fees and living costs. This can seem unfair, but is required to demonstrate that you are entering the UK specifically to study. The average annual tuition fee is GBP12,000, although this can range from GBP8,000 to GBP36,000. If you plan on studying in London you will also be expected to have GBP1,000 (and for outside London GBP 800) per month of study, to go towards your living costs. You’ll be required to supply a bank statement as evidence for this, demonstrating you have held these funds for 28 days or more.
If you can show evidence for both course confirmation and funding, you can progress towards completing your Tier 4 visa application, which can be done online at the UK Visa and Immigration website.
The form is quite straightforward, although there is one extra cost to pay. In order to use the UK’s National Health Service, you’ll need to make an extra payment of GBP150 per year or GBP75 for six months or less. This charge has to be paid upfront for the total period of your UK visa through the website; but don’t worry—this will be refunded if your application is rejected.
Next, go to your nearest visa application centre (all centres are listed on the UK Government website) in order to supply your ‘biometric information’—which means that they take a digital photograph and a record of your fingerprints. During this visit, it’s likely you will be interviewed by a UK Visas and Immigration official by online video conference.
Video Conference Interview
The best preparation for your interview will be to truthfully consider the answers to the following questions:
How is this degree going to help you achieve your professional aspirations?
Be sure to demonstrate genuine passion for what you are studying and underline how your chosen university is the best place to attain your degree.
What will you do with the skills learnt on the degree when you return to your country?
The interviewing officer will want you to give evidence for how you plan to use your qualification when you return home after study, as this will demonstrate that you’re coming to the UK specifically to study and won’t illegally stay after the course.
Are you confident with the English language?
You will have to pass this interview without an interpreter and the officer will notice if your answers are rehearsed. So if you make a mistake, use this as a chance to correct yourself and show off your vocabulary as you rephrase your answers.
You can submit your visa application either online or by mail, three months before the start of the course. This may sound like a long time, but it would make sense to apply as early as possible. After submitting your application, your visa should arrive by post between ten and fifteen days, but can take longer during busy periods. Don’t worry if you are rejected, there’s no limit to how many times you can apply, so simply prepare for your next attempt.
Think positive, keep your documentation organised and prepare for the paperwork ahead. Try to consider your visa application as a head start for getting your teeth into the course when it begins. Good luck in your application!
About the Author: As well as being a published author, Dan Petley has worked in the education sector supporting students with emotional and behavioural difficulties. He also works with freelance artists in building a recognisable public identity through writing statements, biographies and funding applications.