In a previous Scotland Bound entry, I talked a little about the visa process for students. That process was based on what I remembered about applying for the Tier 4 Student Visa in 2012. Obviously, several years have passed, and things have changed. And because I’m returning to school this year myself, I’ve had the opportunity to go through the visa process recently. This feels like a good time to provide an update for those going through it themselves or who will soon.
This entry will be relevant if you are an American going to school as a Tier 4 student in Scotland.
The CAS Form
As stated in my Scotland Bound: Visas entry, the CAS Form is still essential to this process. You cannot apply for the visa without this form; it declares your university is sponsoring your visa.
As I noticed this year, it can take a while for a university to process and send the CAS form. I don’t know whether this was due primarily to conflicts with the COVID-19 stuff, or if it was due to my unique situation (transferring online student to face-to-face student). But many students seemed to experience delays in getting what they needed from universities this year, so be prepared for that.
But once you receive this, you can begin the process of applying for your visa online.
The Online Application
Honestly, this process is relatively simple, but there is a lot of information you need to provide. While you can save your application and come back to it, be prepared to answer a lot of questions, such as:
- Where are you living now? Do you own your residence? If not, who does? Explain your current living situation.
- How will you fund your stay in the UK? Do you have financial evidence to prove you have enough to reside in the UK?
- Where will you be living in the UK? Do you have an address yet? If not, explain where you will be residing until you have an official UK address.
- What date do you plan to arrive in the UK?
- Are you traveling with anyone? Do you have any dependents?
The above are some examples. You’ll be asked for standard things like: current address; email address and phone number; passport information; your parents’ and/or guardians’ information; whether you’ve traveled to the UK in the past 10 years and to describe your travels there; etc.
A lot of it is information you’d expect to be asked if you’re applying to live in another country. Answer truthfully.
Amendment to Previous Entries on Studying Abroad
In my original entries on Applying to University, Choosing A University and Major, and Visas, I incorrectly stated that tuition is more expensive for American students because you’re equally paying for NHS fees. That was how I remembered it working in 2012.
BUT this time, I paid for NHS fees during the online visa application. If this is how it was in 2012, then I misremembered, and I apologize for that.
Currently, the NHS feed for students is £300 per year, though it is £400 per year for non-students. There is an additional charge if your visa is meant to last longer than a year. My university permits a year and six months added to the visa permit, so my cost was approximately £450, about $612 at the time of payment.
After you’ve paid for your NHS fees, you will also need to pay for your biometrics appointment. This is an appointment you’ll set up with your local visa assistance center, or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In 2020, this cost me $473. Honestly, guys, I did not remember the visa application process being this expensive in 2012!
But you pay for the appointment and add on additional services, like expedited processing and delivery if you want. After this, you are then able to submit your application. You will receive what is called a “GWF” number, which will be associated to your individual application. This number unites all the pieces of the application: the online submission with all the details you supplied above; your NHS payment; your biometrics appointment; and then your mail-in to UKVI Visa Processing Centre to get the visa sticker.
When you submit the application, you’ll be directed to the VFS Global website. Here, you will upload your supporting documentation: passport information; proof of education; proof of housing/temporary housing; financial evidence; or anything else that is required for your specific visa. You can also opt for having copies of the documentation made that you mail along with your application for a fee.
After this, you’ll make the appointment itself. You’ll have the opportunity to purchase mailing labels and text updates here as well. You do not have to buy them with VFS Global, but you do need to supply a return label along with your paperwork and application.
The Biometrics Appointment
You’ll choose the best appointment for you and your availability.
The appointment itself should not take long, and it’s very simple, so no need to panic. You’re essentially going there to have your picture and your fingerprints taken. As that’s being done, they’re filling out the receipt you received from the purchase of the appointment—so make sure you bring that paperwork! After you’ve made the appointment, you’ll be prompted to email it to yourself or download it, but make sure you have a physical copy when you go to your appointment.
Also make sure to bring your passport to the appointment as well, so they can verify you are who you say you are.
After the Biometrics Appointment
After this is completed, you will then be able to mail in your application. Your mail-in should include: your current passport; the signed and stamped receipt from your biometrics appointment; and any other additional paperwork your application says is required.
If you’ve uploaded your documentation to the VFS Global website, you should not need to provide your evidence in paper format with your passport; I did for safety precautions, but you shouldn’t have to. If you opted to have copies of the documentation made, you will need to send in the paper copies along with your application.
Now, you just need to wait!
Applying for the student visa seems like a challenging and daunting job, but it’s pretty straightforward. There’s just a lot to do! And because it’s such a vital piece of your move, of course it’ll seem scary.
But be honest with your application; get the appointments set up; understand you will spend money on the application; and don’t panic.
Good luck and enjoy studying abroad!