We’re excited that you have decided to join us at the Castle! Now that you have accepted your offer, there are a few steps that you will need to take in order to make sure that you have a seamless start to your studies here in the UK.
This blog post is all about applying for your UK student visa. Receiving you visa is an exciting step toward the beginning of your Castle adventures.
Do you need a visa?
Not all students will need a visa, but most will. It depends on things like your citizenship and length of study. There is a handy online tool for checking to see if you need a visa to study in the UK. It can be found at www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa.
A quick point to remember if you plan to use the online visa tool; first year students will be studying for a period of 8 months in the UK even though you do have a break in December.
If you don’t need a visa then you can check this off your list and start packing.
If you do need a visa then please read on and we will provide you with some helpful guidance. We will give as much help as we can, but it’s ultimately your responsibility to apply for the visa and ensure that you meet all of the relevant immigration laws throughout your time at the Castle.
So many names and acronyms
As you are navigating the visa instructions and immigration rules, you may come across the names and acronyms of several ministries, departments, and organizations. Here’s a quick guide to a few of the most common:
- The Home Office: A UK ministerial department that leads on immigration and in other areas that may impact the safety and security of the United Kingdom. Learn more at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/home-office.
- UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI): Organization responsible for making decisions and issuing visas. Learn more at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-visas-and-immigration.
- UK Border Force: Law enforcement agency tasked with carrying out immigration and customs controls at the border. The border officials that you meet at the airport will be members of the Border Force. They will likely ask you a few simple questions, which you should answer honestly and openly. Learn more at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/border-force.
- UK Border Agency (UKBA): This agency was closed in 2013 and was replaced by UKVI. Learn more at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-border-agency.
Up-to-date information is the key
Visa and immigration regulations can be changed by the UK Government without warning and may also be interpreted differently depending on your circumstances or the effects of other policies. You must ensure that you are following the most up-to-date rules and guidelines at the time of application.
The Tier 4 (General) Student Visa
Most students will be required to apply for a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa. The Bader International Study Centre is considered to be a qualified education provider and is a Highly Trusted Sponsor. You can apply for a Tier 4 visa up to 3 months before the start of your studies. This year, Orientation begins on September 4, so you can apply for your visa beginning on June 4.
Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
The Certificate of Acceptance for Studies, or CAS, will be provided to you by the BISC once you have been confirmed as a student.
This certificate outlines all of the details of your studies here at the BISC and will indicate that your tuition, room, board, and other fees have been paid in full prior to the start of your studies. Don’t worry if you have received permission from Queen’s to pay your tuition in instalments. Queen’s will transfer the whole amount to the BISC in the UK on your behalf at the appropriate time. This means that you owe nothing to the BISC during your time in the UK and can indicate on your application that all fees are paid. As a result, you won’t need to have backup funds in your account.
The BISC is considered a Highly Trusted Sponsor for Tier 4 visas and can prepare your CAS because of this status and because of the stamp of approval that we have received from the UK Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), which certifies the quality of all UK higher education institutions.
If you’re curious about the details of our Highly Trusted Sponsor status, you can check out www.gov.uk/government/publications/register-of-licensed-sponsors-students where we are listed under the title “International Study Centre T/A Bader International Study Centre.”
The QAA’s most recent report on the BISC can be found at www.qaa.ac.uk/InstitutionReports/Pages/Bader-International-Study-Centre.aspx.
English Language Requirements
Some students may need to prove that they are proficient in the English language. The requirements depend on your citizenship. The full list of countries whose citizens are not required to prove their English language proficiency is available at www.gov.uk/tier-4-general-visa/knowledge-of-english.
There have been recent changes made to the list of English language tests that are accepted by the UK Government. Some popular tests, such as the TOEFL exam, are no longer accepted. A complete list of accepted tests can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-applying-for-uk-visa-approved-english-language-tests.
Along with the above documents, you may be required to submit the following items. These can vary from person to person, so check all of the requirements carefully to ensure that you’re submitting all of the necessary documentation.
- a current passport or other valid travel documentation with at least one blank page
- 2 passport sized-colour photographs with your name written on the reverse side
- proof of parental or other legal guardian consent if you’re under 18
- original bursary or award letters
- original education diplomas and high school transcript
Start the application process early so that you can take your time. Make sure that you answer all questions fully and include all necessary documentation. It’s not worth the risk to rush.
Some students may need also to apply for a visa to travel in the Schengen zone, which includes some countries in continental Europe. (Not the UK.) If you do require a visa for the Schengen zone, you are advised to apply well before your expected date of travel.
We look forward to welcoming you to the Castle with your shiny new visa in hand. Enjoy the summer sun and we will see you in September!
BISC Assistant Project Manager