UK immigration process for student Visas

May 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Study Abroad

These notes are provided for information only

The new rules will apply to any application for a student visa or student visa extension which is received on or after 31 March 2009.

New rules for Adult Student visas (for applications on/after 31 March 2009)
Accreditation [=checking that the quality of the education and facilities provided by a school is above a minimum standard]
You can only study at a school, college or university whose quality has been accredited by one of these approved agencies:
British Council (through Accreditation UK): accredits English language schools. See: http://www.britishcouncil.org/it/accreditation-az-list.htm
BAC (the British Accreditation Council): accredits private schools which do not mainly teach English language courses. See: http://www.the-bac.org/colleges/directory/ukdirectc.pl
ASIC (the Accreditation Service for International Colleges): accredits private schools. See: http://www.asic.org.uk
Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills): accredits mainly schools which are paid for using UK government money (where many British students will also be studying). See: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk

The school also needs to have a UK Border Agency Sponsors’ Licence. If the Home Office takes away this licence from a school it will not be able to recruit any new international students from outside the EU (so it may close).
A list of licensed schools will be published on the website of the Home Office’s UK Border Agency: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/employers/points/sponsoringmigrants/registerofsponsors

[previously it was possible to obtain a visa for a school which was not accredited but which appeared on The Register of Education and Training Providers, a list maintained by the DIUS]

Course level and type
Your course must be at a certain level (for lower level courses you can only apply for a Student Visitor visa):

– For English courses it must be at least at “pre-intermediate” level (the easiest of the 5 Cambridge ESOL exams, the Key English Test (KET), is at this level)
[The formal requirement is that it is at Level A2 or above in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: http://www.coe.int/T/DG4/Portfolio/?L=E&M=/main_pages/levels.html]

– For non-English courses it must be at least at the level studied at British schools after the age of 16 (for example: A Levels, AS Levels, Scottish Highers, NVQs, university level).
[The formal requirement is that it is at Level 3 or above in the National Qualifications Framework: http://www.qca.org.uk/14-19/qualifications/116_brief-guides-level-3.htm]

– If a course includes job placements, at least 50% of the course must be study, and a maximum 50% can be work

[previously it was possible to get a student visa even for low level courses, or for courses that were mainly work-based]

Money
You will need to show that you have enough money available to cover either the full length of the course (for courses which last under 9 months) or which cover the first 9 months of a course which is for more than 9 months. The minimum amount of money you need is enough for:
– any unpaid tuition/course fees for the first year of study, plus the following maintenance funds (this is the money you need for your living expenses):
– if you are studying in London: maintenance funds of £800 per month [£7,200 for a course of 9 months or more], plus maintenance funds of £535 per month [£4,815 for a course of 9 months or more] for each dependent (usually a husband, wife or child) you bring with you to the UK. You are studying in “London” if at least half of your study time is in one of these boroughs (the white area in the map below): Camden, City of London, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Westminster.
– if you are studying outside London: maintenance funds of £600 per month [£5,400 for a course of 9 months or more], plus maintenance funds of about £400 per month [£3,600 for a course of 9 months or more] for each dependent (usually a husband, wife or child) you bring with you to the UK
You will need to show that you have the necessary amount of money in your account during the 28 days before you make your application. Your account balance must have been above the necessary level on every single day during that period
[previously minimum amount of money was not fixed, although it needed to be enough to support yourself without any help from the UK government]
Visa application process
You will be able to check for yourself if you have enough “points” to be able to get a student visa (to avoid wasting your time and money making an unsuccessful application).
You will need to obtain your student visa before arriving in the UK.
You will need to give your fingerprints and to obtain a biometric identity card.
You need to obtain a visa letter from your place of study
[ in future you will need to obtain a document called a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your school, for which you will pay £10 – this has not yet been introduced ]
You will need to pay a student visa application fee
Attendance reporting
Your school will check if you are attending classes, and may report you to the Home Office’s UK Border Agency if you are not going to school (normally you will be reported after an unauthorised absence of two weeks, or 10 missed “contact points”)
[ after the “Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies” scheme has been introduced, your school must report your absence to the Home Office ]
[previously a school did not have to have a formal process to check and report attendance]
Changing schools
If you wish to change your school within the UK, you will need to inform the Home Office’s UK Border Agency before you change. If the new course finishes after your current visa expires, you will need to apply for an extension.
[ in future you will need to obtain a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your new school – this has not yet been introduced ]
[previously it was possible to change school without informing the Home Office, although students were supposed to inform the Home Office about such changes]
Extending a student visa while in the UK
The period for a student visa will depend on the course length. The new course must start no more than 1 month after the expiry date of your previous visa. You will need to show you have money for tuition fees for the first year of your course, and also that you have maintenance funds for at least 2 months (based on the minimum amounts shown above – ie at least £1,600 if you are studying in London, or £1,200 if you are studying outside London, plus extra if you have dependents).
You will need to obtain a biometric identity card if you don’t already have one.

Broadband Phones

May 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Study Abroad

Broadband Phones – stay in touch when you study abroad.

One of the main issues faced when students move to the UK it culture shock – the anxiety felt by students when having to study within a different cultural or social environment. To help you survive it is important to stay in touch with family and friends at home. Email is an obvious choice but can be very impersonal. Calling from the UK on a land line or mobile can be expensive. An option often overlooked by students is that of broadband phones – using the internet to make calls, cheaply and effectively. Broadband ensures that the quality is good and the voice of Internet protocol (VoIP) system keeps the cost down.

There are two types of phones that you can use

* software broadband phones that require the other person to have a similar system on their PC. You use a microphone and speakers connected to you PC or notebook.

*hardware broadband phones that act like you usual fixed line phone.

There are many suppliers in the UK offering broadband services, usually as part of an Internet package. Some examples of providers include O2, BT, Virgin, Talk Talk and so on. Prices and bandwidth do vary so be sure to shop around before choosing a package – you are typically required to sign up for a fixed time so make sure it fits with you study dates and may not be the cheapest. Prices range from about GBP6.00 per month for an 8MB connection to GBP20 per month for 24MB.

Leading suppliers of VoIP services include Skype, Vonage, Plusnet and so on. Each has different deals and you need to carry out your own research to make sure that you select the correct package to suit your needs. Perhaps one of the best sources of information is to ask your fellow students for their advice. Be sure to ask about quality since this can still be an issue – make sure they are getting good reception to your home country.

Keep in mind that mobile broadband is becoming more widely available and this may be an attractive alternative to fixed broadband if you intend to move around. Prices start at about GBP10 per month but prices will rise depending on speed. Currently speeds can reach 7.2MB so the system can be used for a broadband phone set-up.

Finally, look for special offers. Some providers are offering a “free” notebook PC when you sign up – it may not be a top spec computer but it will get you on-line cheaply and easily.

Student Banking

May 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Study Abroad

UK Student Banking and Student Credit Cards

Studying in the UK presents students with many potential problems, perhaps the most significant relating to money and finance. Indeed many students find themselves having to manage their own finances for the first time in their lives.

Do not worry – help is at hand. Usually your student union will be able to help you with general advice, and you will be please to hear that UK banks actively encourage student applicants – they see you as an excellent business opportunity. Most banks provide similar services but try to identify the bank that suits your needs by doing your homework. Students generally choose one of the big five banks: Abbey National, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and Natwest. however they all provide different options and different facilities. Often they choose the one with a branc on campus because it is the most convenient.

But be careful, do not be dazzled by all the hype – banks will often offer you free gadgets and cash back which seem very attractive, but you may well be better off finding a bank that offers a good deposit interest rate or low interest loans. Do you sums carefully before deciding.

Students are usually eligible to receive a number of ‘cards’ by the bank they select. These come in two main forms, credit cards and debit cards, and either may act as a cheque guarantee cards that can be used in conjunction with your cheque book. Debit cards take money instantly from your account and rely on you having sufficient funds in your account when you make a payment. Credit cards have a set limit and require that you pay a minimum amount usually within 2-3 weeks of receiving your credit card statement. Be careful not to run up large credit card bill – the interest payments can be expensive and the balance can ‘get out of hand.’

In summary there are many options available to students in the UK. Shop around and choose carefully – look for long term value over short term gifts or promotions. Use credit cards with caution!

Student Flights

May 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Study Abroad

Once you have been accepted by a UK university and gone through the visa procedures, your next concern is to book a flight – how do you get a good deal?

Probably one of the first considerations is whether you should book a single or return flight. There is a myth that single flights are half the price of a return – this is not true. Indeed you may find that the cost of a single ticket is not that much different from the cost of a return. If budget is not a consideration then you will probably chose to fly direct on the national airline. However, if you are more ‘money conscious’ you may consider flying an indirect route via a cheaper carrier. If you choose this option make sure you have enough time to transfer to your next flight (even if you first flight is slightly delayed), but not too much time that you have to sleep in a crowded airport in the middle of nowhere.

If you are booking a return flight make sure that you leave a few extra days after you final exam- timetables often ‘slip’ and you may find that you are scheduled to take an exam the day after you fly home! Also, especially at year end, there are many parties and activities that you may not know about when you book so relax and give yourself a few extra days.

The Internet is a Great Helper

There are many sites on the Internet where you can search for and compare flight prices and details. But be careful not to confuse flight brokers with flight-comparison sites. A flight broker represents a limited number of airlines and so will not necessarily show you the best deal available. A genuine flight comparison site will allow you to broaden your search. Examples of flight comparison sites relevant to the UK would be:

www.kelkoo.co.uk

www.travelsupermarket.com

www.skyscanner.net

www.traveljungle.co.uk

www.cheapflights.co.uk

In addition to flight comparison site be sure to check companies such as STA Travel that specialise in  ‘cheap flights for students’- see www.statravel.com – for more details.

Do your homework and make sure you are getting the best deal. Always check that there are no hidden surcharges and that you inform your university of your flight arrival since most will arrange a pick-up service for you from the airport.

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