Applying for a visa from outside the UK

Information about how to apply for a visa in your home country

Timings and Process Overview

The information in this section is for applicants applying for their Tier 4 visa outside the UK. If you are applying for a Tier 4 visa in the UK, you will need to make this application via the University’s International @Campuslife team. Please email the team so they can offer you full guidance and support around that.

Important immigration updates:

From 5th November 2018 there will no longer be a requirement to provide original documentation with applications. This reason for this change as per the Explanatory Memorandam issued with the Home Office Statement of Intent is that it can be difficult for applicants to access original documents.

The Immigration Health Surchage is due to increase in December 2018 (exact date not yet released). This means Tier 4 students will need to pay £150 per 6 months or £300 per 12 months of visa length. If you know you need to make a Tier 4 visa application within the next few months and you are in a position to submit now, we would recommend that you made it as quickly as possible before this increase comes into effect.

When should I make my application?

You can start the application for a Tier 4 visa 3 months before the start of your course. A Confirmation of Acceptance to Study (CAS) statement can be issued 6 months before the course start date but cannot be used until the correct time. Applications submitted earlier will fall for automatic refusal.

How do make my application?

The visa application itself can be broken down into 3 stages which are further detailed in the tabs adjacent:

  1. Preparing documentation, completing the Tier 4 application form and paying relevant fees
  2. Going to a Visa Application Centre (VAC) and undertaking a Credibility Interview
  3. Posting your documents to the Embassy

Make sure you are also downloading and reading the extra visa information leaflets to the right of this box. They will help you to work out exactly how much money you need for your visa application and how you can reduce the risk of being refused becuase of your financial documents.

Documentation, Forms and Fees

You will need to provide the following documents with your visa application. Make sure that you are also using the leaflet ICL  Guide to documents for Tier 4 to help you to make sure all your documents meet UKVI requirements.

Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number
This will be sent to you or your Agent by email. You will need the unique CAS number on the CAS to include in your online application form.

Evidence of finances
You must be able to prove that you have enough money to pay your tuition fees and living costs during your studies. You can use our  How much money do I need for a Tier 4 visa application? leaflet to help you. The amount you will need is dependant on the length of your course and the cost of your fees as per the guidelines below:

Programmes of 9 months or more

£9,135 plus course fees for the first year

Programmes of 9 months or less

£1,015 for each month of the course plus the course fees

Course fees

The exact amount will be shown on your CAS

  • proof must be in the form of original bank statements or a bank letter covering 28 days. These must show the bank logo, and letters must be stamped by the bank
  • statements should be no more than one month old on the date of application
  • you may only use your bank statements or those of your parents/legal guardians
  • if you are using your parents’ or legal guardians’ bank statements, you must also provide a birth certificate to prove your relationship with them. You will also need an original signed and dated letter from them giving consent for you to use the money for your study in the UK
  • you can use overseas statements, but if they are not in English, you must also send a fully certified translation by a professional translator. This must include the translator’s qualifications, confirmation from the translator that it is an accurate translation of the original document, the date, and the translator’s signature
  • if you are using overseas currency, you must write on the document the closing balance in pounds sterling. Use the official exchange rate on the OANDA website

Make sure you also read the University information leaflet How to minimise risk of Tier 4 visa refusal

Proof of progress/qualifications as stated on your CAS (original certificates)

  • You will need to include the original transcripts and certificates of any qualifications that are listed on your CAS statement as having been used to assess your suitability for the course.

Proof of English language proficiency as stated on your CAS (original certificates)

  • If you need to prove your English Language level you would need to provide evidence related to that. Please see the University information about English Language Entry Requirements

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate (if applicable)

  • Certain postgraduate courses within science, engineering or technology disciplines may need to apply for an ATAS Certificate before they can issued a CAS. Your offer letter from the University will state if you need to do this. If it is not listed on your offer you should not need one. Further information on ATAS and how to apply if necessary can be found via the ATAS tab below.

Passport (current and any previous)

Visa application and Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fees available to you in appropriate format for online payment

  • A list of all UKVI fees can be found on the Gov.UK website Currently a standard overseas application costs £348
  • The IHS is payable on all Tier 4 applications and allows the payer access to free National Health Services in the UK. The cost is £150 per year of leave granted but this is due to increase to £300 in December2018 (no exact date given as yet) Periods of less than 6 months are charged at half the annual rate (£75 or £150 post December 2018).
  • You will have to pay the above fee as part of the online application process using a Mastercard or Visa debit or credit card- so make sure that the money is available for payment via that method

Passport photos x 2

  • You will find UKVI guidance on acceptable passport photos on the Gov.UK website

Translations of any documents not in English *The UKVI are very specific about what they will consider acceptable translations and will only accept fully certified translations by a professional translator. The translation must contain:

  • confirmation from the translator or translation company that it is an accurate translation of the original document. E.g. “I can confirm that this is a true and accurate translation of the original document”
  • the date of the translation
  • the full name and original signature of the translator, or of an authorised official of the translation company
  • the contact details of the translator or translation company

*Remember – to avoid any risk of refusal, you need to make sure that your translation contains all of the information listed above. You can ask the International @Campuslife to check a translation before application if you are unsure if it meets all requirements. You would need to scan a clear copy of the document to the ICL email account. You can also see our example translation in the leaflet ICL Document Guidelines for Tier 4 Applications.

TB test

  • Applicants from some countries will need to take a TB test before applying for their visa. You can find a full list of guidance and UKVI approved clinics on the Gov.UK website

You must include originals of all documents as well as a copy of each. Make sure you keep copies of everything you submit for your own records. If you need further confirmation of acceptable documents it is possible to look at the UKVI Tier 4 Policy Guidance

Some nationalities are considered to be low-risk and do not officially need to provide all these supporting documents with their application.  

However, we strongly recommend that you prepare and have all these documents available to you on the date of your application as the UKVI can ask to see them at any point during the visa application process.

Completing the Tier 4 form

You will need to complete an online application form on the Gov.uk website

There is guidance available as you are completing the form, this is found by clicking on the little question marks (?) that you will find next to the questions. Make sure that you are reading each question carefully and double check that your answers are correct.

Once you have made your IHS fee payment, you will be asked where you wish to collect your Biometric Resident Permit from and there will be a space to enter an Alternative Location Code (ALC). It is very important that you enter the University’s ALC code: 2HE544 at this point- as this means your visa card will be sent directly to the University for collection on your arrival in the UK. If you do not enter this code you will have to collect from somewhere else and it could be quite difficult to get there on public transport. Having your visa card sent to the University also enables us to help you should the card be delayed or missing.

If you get totally stuck on a question, you can access support and guidance from the University’s ICL team via email.

Once you have completed your application and submitted your answers, you will be asked to make a payment online. This payment will be for both the visa and Immigration Health Surcharge fees.

N.B. In the unlikely situation that you not able to make an online application in your home country, you will need to print out and complete a VAF2 application form. You will need to take this completed form to your appointment in the VAC as per the next tab. You can find the form and further guidance on the Gov.uk website

At the VAC & Credibility Interviews

Once you have completed your online form and paid all fees, you will be able to book an appointment at a Visa Application Centre During this appointment you will be asked to submit your biometric information (have photographs and your fingerprints taken) and usually have a short interview- referred to as a Credibility Interview.

As you may already be aware, the UKVI undertake credibility interviews which will be carried out as part of the Tier 4 visa application process. This interview is to find out a bit more about you, the University, your course and why you have chosen it and what you future plans are. It’s essential that you are well-prepared in advance of these interviews as questions can cover a wide variety of subjects. In order to help you prepare, see the credibility information below.

 If, after you make your initial application, you should be called for a second interview please contact the International @Campuslife team so that they can offer you further guidance.

Once you have attended your appointment at the Visa Application Centre, you will be given confirmation that you attended your appointment and be given details of where to send your documents. In some cases you might not have to send your documents as they have undertaken all scanning etc at the Centre.

Make sure that you send all original documents required and that they meet all the requirements outlined above. Any documents that are not addressed to the UKVI will be returned to you but make sure that you take copies of all documents for your records. Be aware that the quicker you send your documents, the quicker you will receive your application decision.

What happens next?

How long will my application take?

A standard application outside the UK usually takes around 3 weeks to process- although this is sometimes longer at peak times (September/October). You can check the current visa processing time for your country on the Gov.UK website

Some countries also offer a Priority Visa Application Service that takes around 3-5 days. To see whether this service will be available to you, please check the information on the individual Visa Application Centres above.

What do I do when I receive my visa?

You will receive your visa in the form of a vignette (or sticker) in your passport. If your length of leave is longer than 6 months, this vignette will just cover you to travel to the UK and then you will be expected to collect your Biometric Resident Permit (BRP- visa card) on arrival in the UK. If you put the Swansea University Alternative Location Code (ALC 2HE544) in your application form, you will collect your BRP directly from the University. If you did not use the code, you will collect from a local Post Office. 

Make sure you check your visa vignette to make sure your name, date of birth and other details are correct and that it states you are . If not, you should contact the Visa Application Centre immediately so that they can correct this for you.

ATAS, Visa Lengths, Refusals/Admin Review & Tier 4 Responsibilities

ATAS

ATAS is the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) run Academic Technology Approval Scheme. It requires postgraduate students, who are studying certain courses in the fields of science, engineering or technology, to gain a certificate of approval to study before they can be granted a visa to study, or continue studying, in the UK.

This is a requirement for all types of visa holders: Tier 4; Tiers 1 or 2; Short Term Study or Dependants. If your chosen course requires ATAS, you will not be able to be issued a CAS or Visa Letter, to be granted a visa or enrol on your course unless you have applied for and received the ATAS Certificate.

If you are a Tier 4 student, your offer letter statement from the University should state whether you require an ATAS certificate or not. If it is not stated on your offer letter then you will not need one.

If you are a Doctoral or Masters by Research student and you have received a Joint Academic Coding of Subjects (JACS) code (the code will be a letter followed by 4 digits),  you can check this code on the  Foreign and Commonwealth Office Find out if I need an ATAS Certificate web page.

  • How can I get my ATAS certificate?

You will need to make your ATAS application online via the FCO website, the application is free and the website has comprehensive guidance on making the application which you should follow carefully.

You will need to have your offer letter to hand and these should have the JACS code of the course you have been accepted on. You will also need the following information to fill in the form:

  • your full name and contact details
  • passport details
  • name and nationality of your spouse/partner (if applicable)
  • full details of any previous and current employment (if applicable)
  • the programme of study you are applying to follow in the UK (including JACS code)
  • for a PhD or Masters by research: your full research proposal and not just the title
  • for a taught Masters: details of the optional modules you anticipate taking
  • full details of published papers (if applicable)
  • previous ATAS applications (if applicable)
  • names and contact details of two referees. You must have known both of your referees for at least three years. At least one of these must be an academic from your country of origin
  • details of how you will be funding your studies

You will not be asked to submit or attach any documentation to support your ATAS application.

  • How long will it take to get my ATAS certificate?

The standard processing time for ATAS applications is 20 working days. You will be sent an initial email acknowledging your application and a further email, within 20 working days, with the result of your application, including an ATAS certificate, if approved.

If you have not heard anything within 20 working days please check your inbox is not full (and therefore rejecting their message) and please also check your ‘Spam’ folder to make sure that their message has not been filtered out.

You can contact the ATAS Team if you are concerned you have missed their response but they will not respond if 20 working days have not elapsed since your time of application.

  • How can I make sure that my ATAS application is not subject to delays?

The main reasons why ATAS applications are delayed are:

  • Applicants using initials instead of full names
  • Not including a reference from their home country
  • Incorrect or missing passport details
  • Wrong or missing JACS codes
  • Wrong or missing research statements

Make sure that you include all of this required information when you apply!

  • What happens if I change my start date?

If your course start date is more than 6 months after the ATAS has been issued, or if your course end date has changed by more than 3 months you will need to make a new ATAS application. Failure to make a new application could lead to problems with any immigration applications you make, and could mean the University is unable to enrol you onto your course.

  • What if I make a change to my course?

The Tier 4 Policy Guidance explains that an 'ATAS certificate is issued for a specific course with a named Tier 4 sponsor and remains valid as long as the Tier 4 sponsor and/or course details do not change, including the length of the course’. This means that you must apply for a new ATAS certificate if you:

  1. change your course;
  2. change your institution; or
  3. apply to extend your leave in order to complete your course.
  • What do I do when I have my ATAS certificate?

Once you have obtained your ATAS certificate you should either forward a copy of your ATAS to the International Admissions team (for new courses) or take/email a printed copy to MyUniHub (continuing students).  You will then be able to access a CAS or Visa Letter to complete your immigration application. Make sure you include a copy in your visa application and bring a printed copy to enrolment.

Possession of an ATAS certificate does not guarantee your visa application will be successful, but your application will automatically be refused if you need an ATAS certificate but do not provide one.

  • What happens if my ATAS application is unsuccessful?

If your ATAS application is unsuccessful, please email the international @campuslife team for advice.

 

Visa Lengths

It is important for you to check that your visa has been issued for the correct length of time.

When considering your application for entry clearance (a visa) the British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate in your country should comply with the following guidance:

Type/length of course Length of stay allowed
12 months or more The full length of the course + 4 months after the end of your course
6 months or more but less than 12 months The full length of the course + 2 months after the end of your course
Pre-sessional course of less than 6 months The full length of the course + 1 month after the end of your course
Course of less than 6 months that is not a pre-sessional course The full length of the course + 7 days after the end of your course
Postgraduate doctor or dentist The full length of the course + 1 month after the end of your course

It is important that you make sure that you have the right entry clearance (visa) before leaving home to travel to the UK. If you are issued with entry clearance (a visa) that does not comply with this guidance, you should really make an Adminstrative Review application to have it changed before travelling to the UK. Information about this can be found on the Visa refusals and Admin Review tab on this page.

Please note that if you have financial sponsorship, and your financial sponsor limits the time you may study in the UK then your visa will only be issued for the time period stated on your sponsorship letter. You may find that this does not include the additional time listed above. There is nothing that can be done to change this. In order to get additional time you would have to ask for a new Financial letter covering the whole period and then make a fresh Tier 4 visa application. Therefore, make sure that the Financial Sponsor letter you use in your original visa application covers your whole course plus any permissable additional time.

If you realise that you have not been issued with the correct length of visa after arrival in the UK, the International @Campuslife team may be able to help you get it changed for free. You must do this as quickly as possible. To see if the team can help, bring your passport, CAS statement and Biometric Residence Permit (visa) to an ICL drop-in session on either Bay or Singleton campus.

If you have any questions about the length of time for which your visa has been issued please email international @Campuslife including copies of all relevant documents so they can check for you.

Visa refusals & Admin Review

If you have a visa refusal the first thing to do is try not to panic!

You should then notify the University of the refusal by emailing the team who provided you with your CAS or Visa Letter.

You should read the letter accompanying the refusal carefully to see whether you think a mistake has been made. Although, it is not possible to appeal a decision on a Tier 4 or Short Term Study visa it is possible, in certain cases, to ask for an Administrative Review to check the application has been processed properly and your documentation assessed correctly.

You can ask for an administrative review if:

1. You made an application in the UK and you believe your visa was incorrectly refused (based on the evidence you submitted at the time of original application only- you cannot usually add more evidence as part of the review) or

2. You made an application in the UK and your visa was granted, but you believe something is wrong with it (for example, the amount of time or how many hours you are allowed to work) on your visa may be incorrect

If you believe that you have grounds for an administrative review under one of the categories above, you should email the International @Campuslife team immediately so that they can support you through the process. Please make sure you are including (legible) scans of the refusal notice, your correct contact details, a copy of your CAS statement and any further information which will help them to assess your case. Put ‘Refusal- Urgent’ in the email subject line so the team can pick it up quickly. As you must apply for the Review within 14 days of receiving the decision letter it is very important that you act quickly and you respond promptly to any queries and pay careful attention to advice given.

The administrative review for refusal decisions costs £80 but you will get this back if the review is found in your favour. You can make the application online and you should not need to provide any additional documents unless requested but should ensure that you are able to pay the £80 fee via credit or debit card as part of that online application.

You should receive a response from the UK Visas & Immigration Department within 28 days of submitting your administrative review. If the original visa application was made in the UK, then you will be legally allowed to remain in the UK until your administrative review has been decided.

If you are unsure whether you are eligible for an Administrative review, or what you can do differently to make sure you don’t get refused again, please email the International @Campuslife team with all the details outlined above.

You should always make an administrative review application if you believe a mistake has been made with your visa application. A visa refusal will be noted on your immigration record forever and you will have to declare it in every application you make subsequently- failure to do so will be counted as deception. It is far better to get it removed if at all possible.

 

Tier 4 Responsibilities

What are my and the University's responsibilities under the Tier 4 General (Student) visa?

To find out more about the University's and student's responsibilities under Tier 4 click on Tier 4 Duties & Responsibilities