UK Visa Update

June 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Study Abroad

Message from the BC – 4 June 2009

The PBS Tier 4 visa application system was launched at the end of March. We have worked closely with the visa section in providing the new information and guidelines to agents and students, but we are unfortunately faced with a disproportionately high rejection rate for visa applications.

We have dealt with this case as promptly as possible with the visa section at the British Embassy. Here are the immediate first steps we are taking to try and solve this problem:

1. Checklist for a visa letter

As the main reason given for visa rejection is the visa letter itself, the visa section has prepared for us a checklist for the provision of a visa letter with information on specific errors which have occurred. Please see the two files attached for further information. The key message from the visa section is that documents all need to be in order and meet the clear criteria. The Embassy is no longer allowed to use discretion in making decisions. If the documents do not provide the exact information needed then the application will be rejected.

2. Pre-sessional courses

For Thai students going to study for a pre-sessional course and who have had their visas rejected due to the wrong visa letter being submitted by UK institutions, we understand that it will be too late for them to re-apply and wait for another two weeks for the visa.

On discussion with the visa section, it is recommended that the students re-apply immediately. The visa section has agreed with the British Council in Thailand to process these applications quickly if the students mention to the VFS the dates for the beginning of the course, and ask VFS to attach a note to their second application stating the immediacy of the course date.

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.