International @Campuslife provides visa and immigration advice
Information about how to apply for a visa in your home country
The information in this section is for applicants applying for their Student visa outside the UK. If you are applying for a Student visa in 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.
If you are planning to come and study in the UK, 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 (VAS) 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.
Important immigration updates:
On October 5th 2020 a new Student Route came in which has replaced the Tier 4 route.
On 27th October 2020 the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fees will be increased by £170 to £470 per year. Please ensure that you are taking this into consideration if you will be submitting your visa application after the 26th October 2020. You will find help in working out exactly how much money you will need for your visa application (including the IHS) in our Finances for Student Visa Applications
When should I make my application?
You can submit an application for Entry Clearance under the new Student Route 6 months before the start of your course. 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. Dependant 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.
Additional information for September 2020 and January 2021 starters
If you are worried that you will not be able to get to the UK in time, you should be reassured that the UKVI have extended the time you have to travel to the UK to 90 days (rather than 30 days).
You should also know that your visa will not automatically start from the date the caseworker makes a decision. The visa start date is linked to the UK arrival date that you put in your Tier 4 application form. We have prepared this Arrival Dates and 90 day Entry Vignette for September starters which will help you see what visa arrival window you will have depending on the date you put in your Tier 4 form. We shall be providing a similar leaflet for January starters shortly.
If your local Visa Application Centre (VAC) is closed, you can still submit your visa application. This is because the Student Route application is made online. Your application will wait in a queue and once the VAC opens, you will be invited to book an appointment to submit your biometrics. It is likely the cases will be looked at in order of date of submission and so getting your application in the queue early is a good idea.
Similarly, UKVI have advised that if you need a TB test and your local centre is closed, you can submit your application but then must wait to give your biometrics until after the Centre reopens and you can upload the Certificate to your application. It is advisable to put the application is, as if there were any alternative provision put in place, you would be proactively contacted about that as the UKVI would have your details.
How do make my application?
The visa application itself can be broken down into 2 stages which are further detailed in the tabs below:
- Preparing and gathering documentation, completing the Student visa application form and paying relevant fees (all online)
- Going to a Visa Application Centre (VAC), submitting your biometrics and undertaking a Credibility Interview
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 also using the leaflet ICL Guide to documents for a Student Visa application to check all your documents meet UKVI requirements. Printouts and scans are all fine- except for your passport, which has to 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
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.
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 Finances for Student Visa Applications leaflet to work out the exact amount. In essence you will need:
Fees + living costs (£9,135) + visa application fee + Immigration Health Surcharge
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 information. You may need additional documents if you are using your parents (or official legal guardian's bank ststements). 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 offer 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
All applicants will need to be able to provide documents in support of their Student visa application. Some applicants will be asked to provide these upfront as part of their initial application and some will just need to have them in case requested by the UKVI. This is called differentiation for applicants (sometime referred to as 'low risk' applications).
Students who are on the list in this UKVI Appendix (ST 22.1) will not need to submit their financial documents or qualifications as standard but should always make sure they have them in hand in case requested. Being under differentation does not mean you are exempt from the requirements and you could still be asked for them during the visa application process.
Completing the Student form
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 the overseas Student Visa Form . Although originally produced for Tier 4 route, many of the questions are the same, so please continue to use until we can produce one specifically for the new Student Route. Make sure that you are reading each question carefully and double check that your answers are correct.
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 Finances for Student Visa Applications.
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 Collection Location code (ACL). 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
The ACL code for the University is: 2HE544.
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 applications. You may have significant difficulties accessing your BRP in the UK if you try using it for any other visa routes. This is because the University is not approved (allowed) to issue BRPs under categories outside of the Student Visa route
Once you have completed your application and paid the IHS fee, you will be asked to make a further payment online. This is 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 you have made this payment, you will have a Checklist of documents you will need to upload. Make sure you are including everything asked for. You will be able to upload additional documents to your application until you give you 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 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) 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 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 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 our Credibility Interviews for Tier 4 Applicants information.
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.
How long will my application take?
A standard application outside the UK is supposed to take around 3 weeks to process (from the date you submit your biometrics and not the date you submit the application)- although this is sometimes longer at peak times (September/October).We are currently seeing some delays due to the COVID situation around the globe and so you will need to be more patient than usual! You can check the usual visa processing time for your country on the Gov.UK website but do not worry if your visa takes longer than this at the moment.
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. Some VACs are not offering priority services at this time due to the situation resulting from COVID.
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 a 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.
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 & Student Visa Responsibilities
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: Student; Work Permits, Tiers 1 or 2; Short Term Study or Dependants. If your chosen course requires ATAS, you will not be able to be granted a visa or enrol on your course unless you have applied for and received the ATAS Certificate.
If you are applying under a relevant immigration route student, your offer letter/CAS statement from the University should say whether you require an ATAS certificate or not. Please check this. If it is not stated on your offer letter/CAS statement then you will not need one.
If you are a Doctoral or Masters by Research student and you have received a Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) code (the code will be a mix of letters and 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 and/or CAS statement to hand and these should have the CAH 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 CAH 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.
We are being notified of current delays from students, so please be aware of this and apply for your ATAS early in your visa preparations.
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.
Please note that we are aware that (as of October 2020) there are some delays with ATAS and the FCO team apprecaite your patience as they work through their caseload.
- 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 CAH 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?
An 'ATAS certificate is issued for a specific course with a named Student sponsor (i.e. Swansea University) and remains valid as long as the Student 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:
- change your course;
- change your institution; or
- 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.
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 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 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.
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 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:
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 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. Please note that for Applications made in the UK (Leave to Remain) you must apply for your Admin Review within 14 days of receiving the decision letter.
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.