There are many advantages in accepting your offer early in the year as many of the steps you will have to complete will take some time and the later you leave it, the more chance you will run up against deadlines creating additional stress and complications.
The acceptance process is different at each university but as a general rule you should allow yourselves at least 4 weeks between accepting the offer and being ready to apply for the visa, especially if you have to apply for and be accepted onto a pre-sessional course.
Below are some of the things you should be thinking about when considering when you should accept a course. This will help you make sure that you have enough time to get everything done to be in the UK when the course starts.
1) Will I need a pre-sessional course and how long will it last?
If you have not quite met the entry requirements with your IELTS score then you may choose to study a pre-sessional course instead. These are available at most universities and are designed to help international students improve their English to the required level and better prepare them for academic study in the UK.
Different universities have different policies but a general rule is around 6-8weeks intensive study for a .5 point increase in IELTS. You will need to talk to your counsellor or check the University website to see which course you need since at some universities, it can take longer to improve your IELTS result. Once you have decided, you have to apply for the pre-sessional course, make any required payments and get the CAS (the electronic document you need for a visa) for this course. Some universities have 20 week courses starting in April/May, and others 15 week courses starting in June. Remember to plan ahead .
Pre-sessional courses are popular so they can fill up and several UK universities closed pre-sessional courses last year suddenly without advance notice when they were full. The earlier you apply, the better.
2) How long will it take to apply for the pre-sessional
This varies between universities but it can take a few weeks to get everything done so the university is able to issue the CAS. Of course they will try to make sure urgent cases are made a priority but remember that they are processing thousands of applications from all around the world so it is better to make everything as easy as possible for them and to allow as much time as possible. You will often have to apply, accept and pay a deposit before they will issue the CAS you need.
3) Do I need to pay a deposit before I can get a visa?
To get your visa you will need an unconditional offer either for the Degree course or the pre-sessional course. Many universities now require deposits to be paid before they will issue the CAS. Please remember that how you pay the deposit will affect how long it takes to reach the University’s account and how long they will need to process your CAS. Paying with a credit card is the quickest, a bank transfer can take several days and sending a bank draft can take over a week. This time can be important when you need your visa quickly.
Remember the money you pay the university in advance can be deducted from the amount you need in a bank account for 28 days before you can apply for a visa but you will still need to have the remaining balance in the bank for 28 days – so make sure you prepare this in advance if you are likely to need a longer pre-sessional course.
4) Do I need to have a health check?
The University will not require you to have a health check but you will need to have a certificate from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to confirm that you do not have Tuberculosis (TB) before you apply for your visa. You will need to book an appointment but this certificate can usually be obtained in a few days if the x-rays are clear. However, in our experience, each year there are a number of people that need further testing. Additional testing requires an intiail 3 days of further tests but in some cases can take up to 2 months before getting the certificate. The certificate is valid for 6 months so again it is a good idea to get this in good time in case you need some further tests – even if you have not yet chosen what universities you will accept.
5) How long does it take to get my visa?
This depends on how busy the embassy is when you apply but over the last few years we have seen processing times of up to 15 working days during the peak periods, May – mid-July and mid-August to mid-September, for student Tier 4 visas in Thailand. It is hard to predict how long visa applications will take this year but you can apply up to three months in advance of your course start date – assuming the University you will attend has already issued your CAS e-statement.
Remember to be able to apply you must have had the required money in the bank for 28 days, have your IOM certificate, have the CAS for the course you are holding an unconditional offer for – either the Degree course or the pre-sessional course.
Deciding which university is best for you is a very important decision. However, each year, we see many students rushing at the last minute to get everything completed in time. Sometimes, the students who have to rush miss their course and have to wait a year.
Contact your counsellor for advice on the latest you should accept based on the universities you have applied to and received offers for. You can reach our office by calling 026355230, emailing email@example.com or visiting our website www.hands-on.co.th. We are happy to help.