International @Campuslife provides visa and immigration advice
Information about how to apply for a visa in your home country
In June 2023 the UK Government announced that it intended to make some changes to the UK immigration system on 1st January 2024.
These changes include:
"Removing the right for international students to bring dependants unless they are on postgraduate courses currently designated as research programmes.”
"Removing the ability for international students to switch out of the student route into work routes before their studies have been completed.”
"Reviewing the maintenance requirements for students and dependants.”
On 17th July 2023, the UK Government released a formal Statement of Changes to the Immigration Law, which added further clarification to some of the intentions above.
This Statement confirms that international students, who start their course on or after 1st January 2024, will not be eligible to apply for dependants to join them in the UK unless the Student is either government sponsored and on a course lasting more than 6 months, OR are studying a Postgraduate Research degree such as a PhD or other doctoral qualification or a Masters made up mainly of Research.
Conversely, those whose courses start before 1st Jan 2024 (so September/Autumn 2023) will still be able to apply to bring their dependants to the UK. They do not have to make their dependant applications at the same time as their own visa application but can make this application at any point during their course.
Regarding switching from Student to Work routes in the UK, clarification has been made that students will not be able to switch into a work route until they have completed their course. The only exception to this is for PhD students who have already completed 24 months of their course at the time of switching or students who had already made a visa application to switch before 17th JUly 2023.
You may also find the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) a useful resource, so please also check there.
The information in this section is for applicants applying for a standard Student Route visa from outside the UK.
However, if you are EU/EEA/SWISS then please see the information about Applying for a Student Route Visa outside the UK for EU/EEA/SWISS students.
If you are applying for a Student Route visa from within the UK, you will need to make this application via the University’s International @Campuslife team. Please see our information about Extending your visa in the UK.
Important note about currencies:
You should remember that currency conversion rates can fluctuate both up and down (for example, as of summer 2023 we are seeing significant downward movement around the Nigerian Naira). It is your responsibility to ensure that you are monitoring how your own currency rates may be changing and making sure that you build a financial buffer into your plans. This would mean that you can cover any additional funds needed for fees or visa costs due to negative currency conversion changes. The UKVI will use the O and A currency conversion tool to work out how many GB pounds your own currency converts to and they will use the currency conversion rate as of the date you submitted your visa application to do so.
If you are applying for a Student Route visa you need to wait until your visa has been granted before travelling to the UK. If you travel before your visa is granted, you will not be able to enrol and you will have to leave the UK to regulate your immigration permission. Do not travel without your visa in hand.
You should familiarise yourself with, and start preparing for, your Student visa application as soon as possible. You do not need to wait until you have a CAS statement to start preparing and you do not need to wait until a Visa Application Centre (VAC) is open to make your application- this is because it is made and paid for online. You might find that you need several weeks to gather all the documents needed, and to wait for a VAC to open, so the earlier you start and submit the better.
When should I make my application?
You can submit an application for Entry Clearance under the new Student Route up to 6 months before the start of your course and you should allow a minimum of 6-8 weeks before your planned date of travel (10-12 weeks for those with families).
However, you can start preparing for your application at any time You do not need to wait for a CAS statement before you start preparing and this is especially important if you are making your application close to the course start date. Dependent on your individual situation it may take you 28 days or more to get the financial documents you need to make a valid application, so the earlier you work out what you need and start gathering these the better. Full information about visa application requirements can be found below.
How do make my application?
The visa application itself can be broken down into stages which are further detailed in the tabs below:
- Preparing and gathering documentation, completing the Student visa application form, and paying relevant fees (online)
- Booking a Visa Application Centre (VAC) appointment and then uploading the documents (online)
- Going to a Visa Application Centre (VAC), submitting biometrics and undertaking a Credibility Interview
- Receiving a travel vignette (sticker) in your passport
Make sure you are also downloading and reading the extra visa information leaflets on these pages. They will help you to work out exactly how much money you need for your visa application, what documents you need and how you can reduce the risk of being refused because of your financial documents.
- Make sure that you are using the leaflet ICL Guide to documents for Student Visa to check all your documents meet UKVI requirements.
- Printouts and scans are all fine - except for your passport, which must be uploaded to your application from the original (you should take this to your VAC appointment as well).
- Documents not in English should be translated and you will find further details about that in the Guide linked to above.
You should be prepared to provide:
1) Passport (current and any previous) or other valid travel documentation
2) Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number
For visa applications for new courses, your CAS will be issued by the International Admissions team. There is University guidance on Obtaining a CAS from the Admissions team to help you through that process, so please make sure that you are reading/following that carefully to avoid any delays.
For students making an application to extend their visa for a course they are already studying, you will need to contact MyUniHub and complete a CAS request form. You will need the unique CAS number on the CAS to include in your online application form.
3) Evidence of finances (and related documents) *
You must be able to prove that you have enough money to support your UK studies. This varies from student to student so do not assume you know how much you need but use our simple Finance IHS Visa fees information sheet to work out the exact amount.
Finance issues are the number one reason we see for visa refusals and are normally completely avoidable! Please check your finance documents against the examples in the Documents for a Student application and carefully read our Minimising risk of Student Visa refusal guide. You may need additional documents if you are using your parents (or official legal guardian's bank statements). These are outlined in our Guide to documents for Student Visa.
4) Proof of progress/academic qualifications as stated on your CAS *
You will need to include the transcripts and certificates of any qualifications (or English Language assessments) that are listed on your CAS statement and/or the Checklist that will be generated once you submit your online visa application.
5) 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. You will need this Certificate for your visa to be granted and to enable you to enrol. Your offer letter/CAS from the University will state if you need to do this. If it is not listed on your CAS you should not need one. Further information on ATAS and how to apply if necessary, can be found via the ATAS tab below.
6) TB test (if applicable)
Applicants from some countries, who are coming to the UK for more than 6 months, 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.
7) Credit or debit card to pay the Visa application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) payment as part of the online application process.
Some students can apply without submitting their financial and other documents up front. This is known as differentiation (sometimes referred to as 'low risk' applications). Please see our Differentiation Leaflet for further guidance and to check whether you fall into this category.
Please note, being under differentiation does not mean you are exempt from the requirements. We would always recommend you have all documents available as the UKVI may request them from you to support your application (although it is rare).
You will need to complete an online Student visa 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. We have also provided a complete question by question screenshot Guide to completing Student Route Form Overseas Autumn 21.
Once you have completed your personal information on the form, you will be directed to pay for the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). This is compulsory and payable immediately by debit or credit card. You cannot progress and submit your application until it is paid. You can work out how much you can expect to pay in the Finance IHS Visa fees information sheet.
Please note: On 15th September 23 the UK Government announced that it would be increasing the Immigration Health Surcharge fees for students and their dependants to £776 per year. This will come into force either 16th January 2024 or the 21st day after the law is changed. We shall update when we have confirmation of the exact date.
Once you have made your IHS fee payment, you will be asked where you wish to collect your Biometric Resident Permit from. It is very important that you enter the University’s ACL code at this point- as this means your visa card will be sent directly to the University for collection on your arrival in the UK.
You must use the correct ACL code for the campus at which you will be based (this will be written on your CAS statement for reference).
The ACL code for Swansea University Singleton Park Campus is: 2HE544.
The ACL code for Swansea University Bay Campus is: 2HE987
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. Please note that the ACL code is ONLY applicable for Student Route applications.
Once you have completed your application and paid the IHS fee, you will be asked to pay the visa application fee. Once you pay this fee your application is considered as having been submitted and you cannot go back to make any changes. Make sure you only make this payment when you are ready. The date you make this payment will be considered your date of application by the UKVI.
After submission, you will be provided with a Document Checklist. This is a list of required documents that you will need to upload. Make sure you include everything asked for. You will be able to upload documents to your application up until the date you go to give your biometrics at the Visa Application Centre. Once you have given your biometrics your application will be 'locked' and you cannot add anything else.
N.B. In the unlikely situation that you are 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.
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), your documents will be checked to make sure they have been uploaded (take these with you) and you will usually have a short interview - referred to as a Credibility Interview.
Make sure that you have electronically attached all your documents listed on your visa application checklist to your online visa application before you attend your biometric appointment. Once you attend your appointment, the UKVI considers your application as complete, and you cannot subsequently go into the application to include any more documents for the caseworker. If you have submitted your online visa application but are waiting for a document to attach (e.g. ATAS or an updated bank statement) do not attend a Biometrics appointment until they’ve been uploaded. If you need to move your biometric appointment to a later date, then do so. Once you give the biometrics you cannot change or update your application- so make sure everything is perfect before you undertake that final stage.
As you may already be aware, the UKVI undertake credibility interviews which will be carried out as part of the Student 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 your 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 our Credibility Interview Guide.
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, in some cases, you may be asked to forward any additional documents needed via email.
If your course requires ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) clearance you will need to apply and be granted a clearance certificate before you can apply for a Student visa and enrol on your course.
Please see our comprehensive ATAS webpages for more details.
How long will my application take?
Autumn 2023 intake
Visa applications are, in the majority of cases, currently taking significantly longer than usual UKVI target decision times. You can check the usual visa processing time on the Gov.UK website but do not worry if your visa takes longer than this at the moment as this is the current norm.
Remember: Processing times are taken from date of biometrics given and not date of visa application submission. Please also be aware of any local covid restrictions that could limit the availability of biometric appointments.
As this is a UK Government process, the University is unable to make your application go quicker and so you unfortunately will just need to be patient. We appreciate your understanding that Home Office process is outside of University control and that we cannot chase applications for you. If the UKVI need further information they will usually email you, so check your email regularly (including your 'junk' folder).
Do not attempt to travel before your visa decision. The University cannot legally enrol you if you enter the UK as a Visitor and you will need to leave the UK, in order to regulate your immigration position.
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 only cover you to travel to the UK. You will then be expected to collect your Biometric Resident Permit (BRP - visa card) on arrival in the UK. Make sure you check your visa vignette to make sure your name, date of birth and other details are correct. If not, you should contact the Visa Application Centre immediately so that they can correct this for you.
You must travel to the UK between the start and end dates detailed on your vignette. If you try to enter the UK before the visa becomes valid, you could:
- be refused entry at the UK border;
- be stamped in as temporary Visitor (if your Nationality permits) or;
- be let into the country but will have no formal immigration status.
If you enter the UK under any of those circumstances, the University will not legally be able to enrol you (or keep you enrolled). You will have to leave the UK and re-enter once your Student visa permission becomes valid. The UKVI are very strict about this and will not let you 'switch' status inside the UK. This situation may be especially difficult if there are travel restrictions in place.
If your vignette runs out before you can travel, you must apply for a Single-Entry Permit to allow you to enter the UK and collect your BRP. Details around that process can be found on our Incorrect, Lost or Stolen documents page.
If you used the Swansea University Alternative Collection Location in your application form (the code you need is: 2HE544), you will collect your BRP directly from the University. If you did not use the code, you will collect from a local Post Office. We recommend that you always use the University ACL code for collection to avoid any issues.
If you are bringing dependants to the UK, it is your responsibility to ensure the following:
1. You have enough money to support your family in the UK
2. You source and finance suitable family accommodation in the UK (it may be necessary for your family members to travel to the UK after you)
3. Your accommodation is a maximum of 50 miles from the University campus
4. You apply for school places on time and adhere to UK school admissions and attendance processes
5. You have read all the University support resources provided for you in relation to the above. The University can offer you advice and guidance but you must make your own arrangements:
UK Living Costs and Finances: International Students
International Students' Information Guide
Families- International Students
Immigration for Dependants
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 Administrative 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 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. To get additional time, you would need to ask for a new Financial Sponsorship 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 permissible 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. Please see the Incorrect, lost or stolen documents page for the process you will need to follow to get help.
If you have a visa refusal the first thing to do is try not to panic!
You should 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 Student visa 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 you believe your visa was incorrectly refused (based on the evidence you submitted at the time of original application only.
If you believe that you have grounds for an administrative review, 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, which will allow the team to prioritise this.
You must apply for the Review for an application made overseas (Entry Clearance) within 28 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 apply for the review online, this does not require any additional documents - although there may be a follow-up request if further information is needed. Please ensure you have a credit or debit card available to pay the £80 fee.
NB: The UKVI has informed us that Student Route Admin Review decisions are currently taking around 4-6 weeks. It may say 6 months on the UKVI website, but this relates to all Admin Review cases, and some routes are taking much longer.
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.
If, during your visa application process, you used the IDV App to scan your passport to prove your identity (and did not have to go to a Visa Application Centre), you will not receive physical evidence (a vignette or visa card) to prove that you have been granted your visa.
You will receive an email to state the Home Office decision on your application and you should read this carefully and then save it somewhere secure.
Post decision, you will continue to be able to get into your personal account on the Home Office system (detailed in your decision email) by inputting your personal details (including your passport number). Once in your account you can generate a verification code. This code can be shared with employers, the University or anyone else who needs to check your right to work/study or reside in the UK. The code only lasts 30 days but you can generate as many as necessary. This code can then be entered into the Home Office system by a 3rd party in order to verify your immigration status.
When might I need to provide my status code?
You may be asked to prove your status in the UK in the following situations:
• Enrolling on a course of study
• Applying for a job
• Renting accommodation
• Applying for a bank account or mortgage
• For overseas Police, or other checks, as part of a new immigration application
If you are applying for a job, it might be worth mentioning that you have been granted permission to live/work/study in the UK under the Student route, and can provide an evidence code, within your application. This may help to reassure employers that you have the ongoing right to work.
Please note: it is very important that you keep your details, such as your current passport number, up to date on the Home Office system. Failure to do so may mean that you have difficulty getting back into your account to generate verification codes.
How can I prove my identity in the UK?
A UK-Wide ID Card is available, which is called a CitizenCard. We recommend that students access one of these cards for day to day use rather than a visa or passport. Replacing a visa or passport can be costly and time consuming, as well as stressful.
More information is available on the MyUni CitizenCard: UK ID Card page.