Visa Application Process
To go to study in the UK, you will need a student visa. While getting a visa is usually a straightforward process, it can take a lot of time! Universities and the British embassy in Bangkok are busy places – especially in May and June when most students are applying for visas.
There are a few things you must have in place before you apply for your visa. For this reason, we highly recommend that you leave plenty of time between accepting your offer and the start date of your study in the UK.
Which visa should I apply for?
There are two different types of visas for students going to study in the UK: the Student Visitor Visa (SVV) and the Tier 4 visa. The student visitor visa is used primarily by students going to study English language programs, while the Tier 4 visa is intended primarily for University students including English Pre-sessional courses. This article will focus on the Tier 4 visa for university students.
What is the visa application process?
To study at University in the UK, you will need to have a General Student Visa under Tier 4 of the Points Based System for UK immigration. There have been many changes to this policy since it was first introduced in 2009. You can read about the latest requirements at the UK Border Agency website. A visa will only be granted for a course when you are holding an ‘unconditional offer’ which you will have either for the main degree that you plan to study or for your pre-sessional course that will give you access to your main degree.
To apply for your General Student visa you will need to complete an online application form as well as the Appendix 8 General Student Self Assessment Form which is a paper form. You can download this form from the Tier 4 website. You must book an appointment at the visa application centre which is located in Regent House on Ratchadamri Road. It is not possible to walk in and wait for an appointment. You will have to print out the online application form and take a signed copy of this and the Appendix 8 with you when you apply. We recommend you complete these at our office so we can help check everything with you.
You will also have to submit several supporting documents, all of which you should have the original and a copy. A paper visa letter from the University or Language School is no longer used, but has been replaced by a electronic Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) which will be sent to you by the University and contain all the same information as the visa letter used to. Universities will have to pay to produce this CAS and they may charge you for changes to it once it has been confirmed. This CAS is linked to your visa and it will only be valid to study this specific course at the university providing the CAS. A CAS will be valid for 6 months but you will only be able to apply for a visa 3 months before your course starts.
The visa application centre staff will assist you in checking your documents at the counter. When they accept your the documents, you will then have your biometric data taken. This involves having all fingerprints and a digital photo of your face taken.
From early May, Tier 4 visa applicants have been interviewed via video conference from the UK. These interviews take place immediately after students submit their visa application at the visa application centre. The interviews usually last between four and five minutes and students speak with a UKBA staff member in the UK. The interviewer does not make a decision on your visa application but makes notes for the Entry Clearance Officer who will assess your application at the Embassy in Bangkok.
The questions asked are usually about your reasons for wanting to go to study in the UK, about the course they will be studying and why they want to study this course, about the city and about finances. They are likely to ask who is paying for your study in the UK and your job and your parents jobs. The most difficult question to answer is about the course itself. You should have a very close look at the course modules you will be studying before you go to submit your visa. Should you have any questions about the interview, please contact your counsellor at Hands On.
When the process is complete, the staff will give you a receipt which will have an important reference number on it starting with ‘APET’. You can pay a small fee
to receive SMS alerts when your passport is returned to the visa processing centre by the Embassy.
What will I need to submit my visa application?
A copy of the CAS statement from the University
All the academic qualifications used by the University in assessing your application and making your offer. This will usually be your transcript and degree certificate and your IELTS or TOEFL certificate.
Bank documents to prove you have sufficient funds to support yourself which means your full tuition fees for the first year and living costs for the first 9 months of your course. After the beginning of April 2012, these will be £800 per month (or £7,200 for 9 months) outside of London and £1000 per month (or £9,000 for 9 months) in inner London. This should be in the form of a letter from your bank. This letter must state the full amount has been in your account for at least 28 days before you apply for your visa and your application will be refused if it does not show this. The letter should be issued a few days before you submit your visa application.
You are permitted to use your parents’ money to prove your financial ability. If you choose to do so, you must have written permission from your parents stating that they will cover the full fees and living expenses for your degree study. You must also provide your translated birth certificate (and photocopy of the original) with your parent’s name matching the bank account name.
Tuberculosis test certificate from IOM – this is valid for 6 months. Usually, this test takes one day but if there is a problem with your chest X-ray then your results will be delayed by further tests for up to 8 weeks. Last year, 5% of Hands On students needed further testing. We highly recommend you take this test as soon as possible to avoid this delay if you need to be retested.
Proof of your citizenship. This should be a photocopy of your passport, your housing registry and your ID card. There is no need to submit original documents.
Your photograph which meets the photo requirements. The photo must be a colour picture taken against a white, light grey or cream background and 45mm high by 35mm wide. There are examples on the official guidance sheet.
The visa fee – currently 13,708 Baht (Latest update, April 2013). The visa fee must be paid by a bank draft or cashier’s cheque made out to ‘The British Embassy Bangkok’. For full payment details including the up-to-date visa fee, visit the VFS fees website. There is a bank inside the same building as the visa application centre where you can purchase the bank draft. The visa application centre will not accept cash.
Please note that visa once you submit these documents, you will not be able to submit any additional documents after this point in the process unless they are requested by the embassy. This would cause delays.
When should I apply?
As soon as possible!
You should leave at least four weeks between when you submit your visa application and when your course starts and you should allow up to one month prior to submitting your visa application to have your Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) forwarded from the University and to prepare your financial statements and IOM certificate. In other words, if you plan to start a pre-sessional course in early July, you should accept your offer to study at that university and pay any deposit by early May.
You can apply for your visa up to three months prior to your course start date.
As of April 2013, a fast track service is available for an additional charge. This should only be used in last minute, emergency cases and is available for students who have travelled to the UK (and a limited set of other countries) before.
Where do I apply?
VFS Global, a private company, is the officially authorised visa application centre for all UK visas. They are responsible for collecting applications, relevant documents, visa application fees and also for returning passports and documents to applicants.
The visa application centre is open Monday to Friday (except national holidays) and is located on the ground floor of Regent House, 2nd Floor, 183, Rajdamri Road, Kwaeng Lumpini, Khet Pathumwan, Bangkok (View a Map). Applications can be submitted from 08.30 to 15.00 and passports can be collected from 15.00 to 16.30.
Due to the requirement for biometric data, you must apply in person. Visa applications cannot be submitted at the British Embassy and must be sent through VFS’s service.
How long will my visa be granted for?
The length of the visa you will be given will depend on a few factors:
If you are studying a pre-sessional course, some Universities will only provide a visa for the duration of that course and you will need to apply to extend your visa while in the UK.
Some Universities will now provide a CAS that allows for a visa to cover the length of both the pre-sessional course and your degree course. The UK Border Agency only permits this for students studying a pre-sessional shorter than three months, and not all universities will provide a CAS that combines both pre-sessional and masters.
Extra time is given following the completion of the course you are studying. If your CAS covers a degree course longer than six months, you will usually be given an extra four months after the completion date. If you are applying for a visa covering only the pre-sessional course, the visa will usually give one month extra from the course completion date which will give you enough time to extend your visa in the UK.
If you are applying for a visa for a degree course lasting more than 6 months or a pre-sessional course leading onto a degree course longer than 6 months, you will usually be allowed to enter the UK up to one month prior to the start of your course.
- If you are applying for a PhD, you will be able to extend your visa one extra year on completion of your PhD and work. For all other applicants (Bachelors degrees, Masters degrees, etc…), you will only be able to work part time during your study and if you wish to stay once you’ve completed your degree, you will need to find a job first.
The information provided in this article is based on our experience with helping students apply for visas to go to study in the UK. However, visa rules and regulations change regularly and Hands On Education Consultants are not qualified immigration advisors. Individuals applying for visas have the ultimate responsibility for their applications. We are happy to assist you with your visa application as a free service but please keep in mind that we are not qualified immigration experts and have no influence with the Embassy.
We recommend that you complete the online application in our office so our staff can share their experience and check your documents to the best of our ability. We are happy to assist you with this service for free if you have applied through Hands On to study with one of our partner universities.
Currently the Embassy will not talk about individual applications or discuss visa regulations by telephone, so we are not able to contact them any better than you. We will not be held responsible for Embassy’s decision over your visa application.
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