The importance of planning
You should now start planning your trip to the UK. First and foremost amongst your considerations should be the necessity for you to ensure that you obtain the correct immigration permission from the UK authorities.
If you are not a settled resident of the UK or a national of the European Union, it will be necessary for you to obtain permission to enter the UK as a student. For some (known as “non-visa nationals”, e.g. US citizens) it is possible to apply at the airport when you arrive in the UK if the course you intend to follow is of less than 6 months duration. However, if the course if longer than 6 months, and for all others (known as “visa nationals”) it will be necessary to obtain a visa from the nearest British Embassy prior to travelling to the UK.
To ensure that your studies get off to the right start, you should take special care when applying for your student visa. Receiving professional legal advice to ensure that your application is in order can save increase your chances of success and avoid months of distress if your application is refused.
What you will need to demonstrate
The same criteria for qualifications applies to both visa and non-visa nationals. An applicant must show that he:
(i) has been accepted for a course of study, or a period of research, which is to be provided by or undertaken at an organisation which is included on the Register of Education and Training Providers, and is at either;
(a) a publicly funded institution of further or higher education which maintains satisfactory records of enrolment and attendance of students and supplies these to the Border and Immigration Agency when requested; or
(b) a bona fide private education institution; or
(c) an independent fee paying school outside the maintained sector which maintains satisfactory records of enrolment and attendance of students and supplies these to the Border and Immigration Agency when requested; and
(ii) is able and intends to follow either:
(a) a recognised full-time degree course or postgraduate studies at a publicly funded institution of further or higher education; or
(b) a period of study and/or research in excess of 6 months at a publicly funded institution of higher education where this forms part of an overseas degree course; or
(c) a weekday full-time course involving attendance at a single institution for a minimum of 15 hours organised daytime study per week of a single subject, or directly related subjects; or
(d) a full-time course of study at an independent fee paying school; and
(iii) if under the age of 16 years is enrolled at an independent fee paying school on a full time course of studies which meets the requirements of the Education Act 1944; and
(iv) if he has been accepted to study externally for a degree at a private education institution, he is also registered as an external student with the UK degree awarding body; and
(v) he holds a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) clearance certificate from the Counter-Proliferation Department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which relates to the course, or area of research, he intends to undertake and the institution at which he wishes to undertake it; if he intends to undertake either,
(i) postgraduate studies leading to a Doctorate or Masters degree by research in one of the disciplines listed in paragraph 1 of Appendix 6 to these Rules; or
(ii) postgraduate studies leading to a taught Masters degree in one of the disciplines listed in paragraph 2 of Appendix 6 to these Rules; or
(iii) a period of study or research, as described in paragraph 57(ii)(b), in one of the disciplines listed in paragraph 1 or 2 of Appendix 6 to these Rules, that forms part of an overseas postgraduate qualification; and
(vi) intends to leave the United Kingdom at the end of his studies; and
(vii) does not intend to engage in business or to take employment, except part-time or vacation work undertaken with the consent of the Secretary of State; and
(viii) is able to meet the costs of his course and accommodation and the maintenance of himself and any dependants without taking employment or engaging in business or having recourse to public funds; and
(ix) holds a valid United Kingdom entry clearance for entry in this capacity. If you are taking a degree level or above course, you no longer have to demonstrate that you have an intention to leave the UK at the end of your studies. This is a concession that is operated by the UK authorities that may change as it has yet has to be incorporated into the immigration rules.
If you are applying to a British post, you will need to submit your application on form VAF3. You will be required to pay a fee for this application.
You should contact your local British Embassy to enquire how long it will take to process your application. Time scales vary dramatically between posts and can be dependent upon current staffing levels and the volume of applications. You should bear this in mind when planning the timing of your application.
If your application is successful you will be issued with a visa which is valid for a specified period. If you know the date on which you are going to travel to the UK you should ask for the visa to be valid from that day. If you do not, your visa will be valid from the date that it is issued, (this could mean that your visa might run out before the end of your course).
If your application is refused, you will have a right of appeal against the Entry Clearance Officer/Immigration Officer’s decision which is processed in the UK.
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DISCLAIMER: The information on this brief guide is correct to the best of our knowledge and belief. However, it is written as a general guide only and it is strongly recommended that specific advice is sought before action is taken.