When it comes to things that must be done for the sake of studying in the UK, I was most intimidated by the visa. Sure, personal statements are hard, and sure, it will be a challenge to adjust to a different culture and system, but the visa is the thing it all hinges on. I can get through everything else and have the support of the school, but if I don’t get the visa, I won’t be going anyway.
But here’s the thing: as long as you’re not a criminal, have a good academic record, and have the ability to pay for the program and living expenses, getting a Tier 4 Student Visa isn’t actually that difficult. This is especially true for Americans, since we’re a low-risk country. That means we aren’t scrutinized in quite as much detail.
And if you’ve traveled to another country before, UK or otherwise, even better.
For me, the most difficult part of the visa was just figuring out what I needed. There’s a lot of information available on the UKVI website (https://www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk/home/welcome) and in their policy guidance (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/540421/T4_Migrant_Guidance_July_2016.pdf), and some of it doesn’t apply to low-risk countries.
As always, I suggest reading the information yourself and making your own conclusions, but here is what I did for mine.
The visa application is done online. So you’ll need an account on the UKVI website, and then you’ll need to start your application. You can save and come back, but once you’re ready to hit submit, you’ll need to go through the rest of the steps (payment, booking your biometrics appointment) right afterwards, so be prepared for that.
The actual application is mostly the things normally required in applications, most of it similar/the same as what is required for your application to your university. However, it also includes the passport information of your parents (if they have passports), information about the times your have traveled internationally in the past, and your uni’s CAS information (which they will provide you with after you’ve accepted their offer). You cannot submit the application without this number.
The best thing to do is simply fill out what you can, make notes of what you still need, then go back. Start at the beginning again the second time and double check the information already there. Add the information you need to. Then check it all again. You need to make sure it’s right before you actually submit.
One thing that the application says to include are bank statements and loan statements showing the funds to cover the cost of program tuition and living in the UK for the duration of the program. However, applicants from low-risk countries only need to be able to truthfully state that they have the money to support themselves and fund the program.
Know that you have the funds and know that you have access to the proof if they request it, but you don’t have to include it. This is part of their differentiation arrangements, details of which can be found in the policy guidance.
Once it’s submitted, you set up a biometrics (BRP) appointment at a nearby facility. They are all over the place, so you should be able to find one within an hour or two drive away. The appointments don’t take long, and you need to bring your passport and a confirmation of the appointment/a copy of your application.
I had forgotten my appointment confirmation but luckily had copies of my application, so they let me complete it, but they were also going to point me somewhere to print out the confirmation if need be. It’s easier to have it with you, though.
The biometrics is simply a picture and fingerprints. Super easy stuff, and it was neat to watch my fingerprints appear on the screen in very fine detail. Totally worth it.
After setting up your BRP appointment time, the payments are next, and that’s not cheap (as in about $850). However, if you’re serious about studying there for a full program, it’s necessary.
Disclaimer: the payment is for the processing of the application, not necessarily the visa, so they can deny you. You can request a review of that decision for free, though, if it comes to it.
Once you’ve done the BRP, you need to mail your application in. This includes the application, the BRP information from your appointment, a passport style photo of you (the actual printed photos. I got mine at a nearby CVS), your passport, and a return shipping slip that you need to order online so they’ll send you your stuff back (they have links for that in the emails they send confirming your details). If you’re worried and
Then you wait, but not for long. It only takes 10 business days for them to process 99% of the applications, so you’ll know within a couple weeks.
If you’ve been granted a visa, you’ll get your passport back with a fancy vignette inside that gives you temporary access to the country, a 30-day period spanning the expected date of arrival you indicated on your application.
Within 10 days of entering the country, you need to go to either your local post office or another pick-up location (mine is my university, and the location will be specified on your application) to get your BRP card, which is the last stage to having the full visa to stay in the country.
Then you can rejoice with a drink at a local pub. You’ve earned it.
Your Bonnie Celtophile,