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Applying for a visa

Your Tier 4 (General) application

The University of Essex is a licensed Tier 4 Sponsor for Tier 4 (General).

You must make sure that you are eligible to apply, complete the correct application form, send the correct fee and read and understand the Tier 4 Immigration Rules and Policy Guidance.

If you are from a 'low risk' country specified by the Home Office you may not have to supply all the documents at the time of the application but will have to provide them if the Home Office request them.

If you are starting a new course, the earliest you can make your Tier 4 application is 3 (three) months before the course start date stated on your CAS. For example, if your course start date is 1 October on your CAS, you must not apply before 1 July or your application will be refused.

The Home Office will be changing the way they collect the Immigration Health Surcharge. As a result, we recommend that you make your application on or after 5 July 2015. However, if you have already paid the ISH and started your application it must be submitted by:

  • 6.59am (BST) on 4 July if you are applying in the UK
  • 5.59pm (BST) on 4 July if you are applying from overseas

Remember, you can't apply before 1 July if your course start date is 1 October on your CAS. Read the Home Office guidance on the IHS changes (.pdf) for further information.

  • Essential reading

  • CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies)

    You will need a CAS from the University. When you receive your CAS, check that all the details are correct. A CAS can only be used for one application.

  • Evidence of your qualifications

    If there are qualifications mentioned in your CAS under "evidence used to obtain offer" then you must provide these with your application. Documents must be original and meet the Home Office requirements.

  • Your finances

    You must provide the required original evidence that you have sufficient funds for your tuition fees and to meet the maintenance costs specified in the Home Office Tier 4 Policy Guidance. All University of Essex campuses are considered to be "outside London" for the purposes of Tier 4.

    If you are self-funding and relying on bank statements as evidence, they must show the full amount required for tuition fees and maintenance costs, less tuition fees paid as stated on CAS, plus up to £1020 of accommodation paid as stated on the CAS. The bank statements must meet ALL the requirements and you must hold the whole amount for a continuous 28 days. The balance must not fall below the minimum amount on any day.

    Available funds for maintenance while studying at Essex

    If this is your first time studying in the UK you must show you have £820 per calendar month for each month of your course up to a maximum of nine months, maximum is £7380. If the course duration includes a part of a month this will be rounded up, for example if your course is 7 months and 2 weeks long you must show you have enough money for 8 months. If you have been studying in the UK and hold a valid Tier 4 (General) visa you may have an "established presence", if so you can show less; a maximum of £1640. It is important that you check the Tier 4 Policy Guidance to ensure you meet all the criteria. If you have recently had a Tier 4 application rejected or refused in the UK and have become an overstayer you will not have established presence.

    University accommodation fees: The Home Office will allow you to count a maximum of £1020 of fees you have paid to the University for accommodation towards your total maintenance requirements. If you have already paid the University some or all of your accommodation fees this can be shown on your CAS. If you pay after your CAS is produced or if you believe the amount shown is incorrect, please ask for it to be amended. For example, if you have paid £3,000 to the University for your accommodation, only £1020 will be taken from the total maintenance amount by the Home Office and you must show that you have the remaining £6360 or, £620 if you have established presence.

    Available funds for tuition fees

    You must be able to show you have a year's tuition fees.

    If you have paid part or all of your tuition fees the amount you have paid should show on your CAS. If you pay tuition fees after your CAS is produced or if you believe the amount shown is incorrect, please ask for it to be amended.

    Further guidance

    Read the UKCISA guidance on applying for a Tier 4 (General) visa from overseas or applying from within the UK.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge

    This charge gives you access to NHS hospital care while you are studying in the UK.

    Who has to pay

    From 6 April 2015, most Tier 4 (General) applicants will have to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, unless exempt.

    • If you are applying for Entry Clearance overseas you will have to pay the charge if your course is for more than six months.
    • If you are applying in the UK you will have to pay the charge regardless of the length of the course.

    Cost

    The amount you will be charged will be based on the length of your visa and is currently £150 per year for each year of your visa. For incomplete years the charge will be halved if less than six months, otherwise the full yearly fee will be charged.

    For example, if your CAS states that your course starts on 1 October 2015 and finishes on 22 July 2018 your visa will be from 1 September 2015 to 22 November 2018 and you should expect to pay £525.

    If you are bringing dependants with you to the UK, each dependant will have to pay the surcharge for the length of their visa.

    What you need to do

    All students making Tier 4 (General) applications on or after 6 April 2015 will need to first create an account on the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) portal* to obtain a reference number that should be written into your Tier 4 application form. If you are required to pay a fee you must do so. If you do not pay the correct fee you should be contacted by the Home Office requesting payment. If you fail to pay the fee by the deadline given your application will be rejected as invalid if you are applying in the UK or, refused if you are applying overseas.

    *From 5 July the Home Office is changing the way it collects the fee. If you have already paid the ISH you must submit your application before a certain time on 4 July. Read the Home Office guidance (.pdf) for more information.

    Local NHS services

    This surcharge will give you access to NHS hospital care while you are studying in the UK.

    Students studying for less than six months

    Students studying courses of less than six months duration are not entitled to free NHS hospital care in the UK so must ensure they have adequate private health insurance.

  • Biometric Residence Permits (BRP) Collection

    If you are applying for a visa to come to the UK for more than six months you should be issued with an Entry Clearance vignette (sticker) in your passport that is valid for 30 days. You must arrive in the UK within the 30 day period of the vignette. Within ten days of your arrival in the UK you must go to the collection point you designate on your visa application to collect your Biometric Residence Permit, this is your full visa.

    When you complete your visa application you will be asked to enter a collection location, see below for the nearest collection points to your University of Essex campus. If you are planning to arrive in the UK early and will not be coming to campus within ten days of your arrival in the UK you should select a convenient collection location.

    Colchester – select the box for Alternative Collection Location and input code: 2HE557 (available to select from 25 June 2015). It will show the Colchester Campus address for the BRP to be sent to.

    Loughton - select the box for Alternative Collection Location and input code: 2HE557 (available to select from 25 June 2015). It will show the Colchester Campus address for the BRP to be sent to. You will be informed later about when your BRP will be available to be collected at our Loughton campus.

    Southend – select the Southend-On-Sea Post Office, 199/201 High Street, Southend On Sea, Essex SS1 1 LL.

    To collect your BRP you will need the Home Office decision letter that tells you when and where your BRP will be available and your passport. Under 18s will need to include additional information in their visa application and may need to collect their BRP with a responsible adult. If you are issued with Entry Clearance for the duration of your course you will not need to collect a BRP in the UK. We will be publishing more information soon about the local collection arrangements as soon as they are finalised.

    If you have any questions about this, please complete our online enquiry form and one of our advisers will respond.

    Remember, you can’t make your visa application more than three months before your course start date so for 1 October 2015 starters this will be on or after 1 July 2015.

  • Credibility Interviews

    When you apply for your visa you may be invited to a short credibility interview, which is intended to help satisfy the Home Office that you are a genuine student and that your English language ability is as stated on your CAS.

    If you are invited to participate in a credibility interview, you will be asked a number of questions which might include; your reasons for choosing to study in the UK, where you will live, your knowledge of the area you plan to live in, your reasons for choosing your course and the University of Essex, your future career plans and how you plan to fund your studies. Most interviews will take approximately five to ten minutes and may take place via videoconferencing facilities. In a small number of cases, applicants may be invited to take part in a longer face-to-face interview.

    Failure to satisfy the Home Office that you are a genuine student would lead to your application being refused and you are unlikely to be able to commence your studies as planned.

How to apply

Applying from overseas

If you need to come to the UK as a Tier 4 student to pursue your course, you must make your entry clearance (visa) application before you travel to the UK. If you are in the UK please read our information on applying for Tier 4 (General) from within the UK.

  • Before making an application overseas

    • Make sure you are eligible and meet ALL the requirements - read the essential information and guidance from UKCISA and the Home Office.
    • Make sure you have the correct finances in place to meet the Tier 4 requirements as well as additional funds to pay your visa application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge.
    • Make sure you can receive your visa in time, check the Home Office visa processing times.
    • If you are aged 16 to 18 when you make your visa application, you must meet additional requirements and supply additional evidence. We are not licensed as a Tier 4 (Child) sponsor. You should not submit your Tier 4 (General) application before your 16th birthday otherwise it will be refused.
    • Your dependants - if you have family that you would like to bring with you to the UK check they are eligible to apply.

  • Where and when can I apply?

    • You can apply in the country where you normally live, up to three months before your course start date. It can take some time to obtain your visa so apply as soon as you are able.
    • You can only apply if you have a valid CAS.
    • It is recommended that you book your flight after you have received your passport and visa.
    • Check your entry clearance sticker to make sure all the information and conditions are correct, if there is an error contact the Entry Clearance Post and ask for it to be amended. See UKCISA guidance for details of what conditions you should expect to receive.

  • How do I apply?

    • You must submit your completed immigration application to your nearest Visa Application Centre.
    • For details of your nearest application centre and how to apply, see the Home Office's information about where to apply and select your country.
    • Read the guidance, including the guidance on supporting documents published by the Home Office.
    • If required, apply for and pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS), you will need the reference number for your Tier 4 application.
    • Complete application form online, attend your biometric appointment.
    • Read the UKCISA guidance Making a Tier 4 (General) Application.

  • Further guidance

Applying from inside the UK

When you apply from within the UK you are applying for further leave to remain. You must make a valid application to the Home Office before your current visa expires.

If you are outside the UK please read our information on applying for Tier 4 (General) from overseas.

  • Before making an application in the UK



  • My visa runs out before my course finishes

    Check when your visa should end. Read the UKCISA guidance to find out more. If you think your visa is incorrect, contact our International Services Team for further advice by completing our online enquiry form.

    If your current visa is correct and you haven't finished your course, you will need to apply to extend your visa before it expires. If you don't you may not be able to continue your studies as planned.

  • How and when do I apply?


    • If you are eligible to apply, you must do so before your current Tier 4 (General) visa expires
    • Pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). You will need the reference number for your Tier 4 application.
    • Complete a Tier 4 (General) application online, you will choose whether to make a premium application and attend an in person appointment or a postal application
    • Send the cover sheet and all relevant documents to the Home Office within 15 days for a postal application
    • You will need a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS)) from the University

    Please note:

    If you are starting a new course, you can apply in the UK up to three months before the course start date stated on the CAS provided there is not a gap of more than 28 days between the expiry date of your current visa and the start date of your new course.

    If you are currently studying at another institution in the UK and are starting a new course at Essex, before you can register and start your studies you will have to make a valid Tier 4 application using our CAS.

    If you are an Essex student who is starting a new course with us, before you can register and commence the new course you may need to make a new Tier 4 application. This will depend on your current visa expiry date, the new course end date and the level of the course you will be studying. More information is available to read in the Tier 4 Policy Guidance, section entitled ‘What do I do if I want to do a different course of study with my Tier 4 sponsor?’. If you unsure what this means for you please contact us.

  • Who can assist me with my application?

    The Students' Union Advice Centre (SUAC) provide immigration advice to our students about extending a Tier 4 visa in the UK. You can read the guidance on their website and follow the links to UKCISA and Home Office information and guidance.

    We highly recommend you use the SUAC's check and send service. Students who do not use this service are more likely to receive a refusal and their application will take longer for the Home Office to process.