How to apply for a Tier 4 student visa outside the UK

Find out everything you need to know about applying for a Tier 4 visa from outside of the UK.

You can apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa to study in the UK if you’re 16 or over and you:

Check if you need to apply for a Tier 4 visa

Download our guide to completing the Tier 4 online visa application from overseas [PDF 1.39MB].

Points-based immigration system

To apply for a Tier 4 visa, you need a total of 40 points:

  • 30 points will be awarded for a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
  • 10 points for showing you have enough money to cover your tuition fees and living costs as specified by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI)

If you are an undergraduate student, you can only bring family members to the UK if you are a government-sponsored student studying a course of six months or longer.

You must make a final choice of university before you apply for your visa. When you are issued the visa, it will allow you to study only at that particular institution.

As part of the Points-based immigration system requirements, universities must notify UKVI if a student doesn't register as expected, withdraws from their course, or does not maintain good attendance.

How to apply

  • Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number

    We send you your CAS number when you accept an unconditional offer from us.

    If you are a self-funded international student starting a Masters course in September 2019, your CAS will only be issued after you have paid a tuition fee deposit – find out more.

    The statement we will send you will include:

    • your CAS number
    • the information we sent to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).

    Check the information in your CAS statement is correct and contact the office that issued your CAS statement if anything is incorrect.

    You must apply for your visa with a CAS from your chosen university. After your CAS is issued if you want to change your course you must contact the relevant Admissions office.

    The CAS number can only be used for one Tier 4 application and is valid for six months from the date of issue.

  • When and where to apply

    The earliest you can apply for your visa is three months before your course start date. If your course is:

    • 12 months or longer, you receive a visa that is the length of your course plus four months
    • between six and 12 months long, you receive a visa that is the length of your course plus two months
    • less than six months long, you receive a visa that is the length of your course plus seven days.

    If you are going to study a pre-sessional course which is less than six months, you receive a visa that is the length of your course plus one month.

    You can apply in the country where you are living. In this context, "living" somewhere means you are there lawfully for a reason other than a short visit such as working or studying. You can't apply if you are in the country on a tourist visa.

  • Visa application documents

    You must include:

    You may also have to provide other documents.

    If a document is not in English, it must come with a fully certified translation. See paragraph 16 for more guidance (Home Office policy guidance on Tier 4 PDF). Your documents are normally returned within 14 days.

    Tuberculosis test certificate

    You might not need to submit a tuberculosis test certificate if you can show evidence when you apply that you:

    • lived for at least six months in a country where tuberculosis screening is not required by the UK
    • have been away from that country for six months or less.

    UKVI don’t state which documents to use as evidence, but we recommend you use immigration stamps in your passport which show when you entered the UK and returned to your home country.

    If you don't have immigration stamps, you might be able to use a boarding card for your flight which shows when you left the UK.

  • Proof of funds

    You must show to UKVI you can pay:

    • course fees as stated on your CAS.
    • £1,015 for each month of your course, up to nine months (a maximum of £9,135). This includes part months.

    You can show you have these funds through:

    Money in your or your parents' bank account

    You need to show this money has been in your or your parents' account for a consecutive 28-day period. This 28-day period should end no more than 31 days before you submit your application.

    You can't use a business account to show funds (even if the business is owned by you or your parents/legal guardian).

    You must sign a declaration which states that the funds are genuinely available for funding your study and living costs. UKVI reserve the right to check that these funds continue to be available to you.

    If you use an overseas bank account, you need to convert the currency using oanda, and make sure it remains above the required amount on the date you submit your application online.

    Official financial or government sponsorship

    Financial sponsorship is where you’re given money to pay for:

    • some or all of your course fees
    • living costs.

    If Sussex is your financial sponsor, this information is on your CAS statement.

    If you’re applying to extend your visa on the same course and you’re sponsored by a government or international scholarship agency, you must get your sponsor's consent. 

    See paragraphs 209-213 for more information if you receive official financial sponsorship.

    Money paid to Sussex

    You can pay some or all of your fees and accommodation costs in advance.

    Up to £1,265 of University-managed accommodation costs can be deducted from the amount of maintenance required. This reduces the total amount you need to show as part of your visa application.

    If you have made these payments to Sussex, they appear on your CAS statement. If they're not included, contact the office that issued your CAS.

  • Acceptable proof of funds evidence

    You must submit the correct documents and financial evidence when you apply.

    You can download our sample letters and example statements to help you with your application. Your visa may be refused if you don't submit the correct documents.

    Acceptable proof of funds evidence include:

    You can find more requirements information in paragraph 177-233 (Home Office policy guidance on Tier 4 PDF).

    If you are a national of one of the countries listed in Appendix P of the immigration rules, you can only use funds held in certain banks.

    Email if you have any questions.

  • Different document requirements for some nationals

    You don't need to submit education and financial documents if you:

    • are from one of the countries listed in the Immigration Rules Appendix H
    • apply from your country of nationality. From 6 July 2018, if you want to apply under these arrangements (and are outside the UK) you will no longer need to apply for entry clearance in the country of your nationality. You can apply from the country where you’re living.

    If you’re from Bahrain, Cambodia, China, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kuwait, the Maldives, Mexico, Serbia, Thailand or Macau SAR you will also now (from 6 July 2018) benefit from having different documentary requirements when making an application. This is because these countries have been added to the Immigration Rules Appendix H.

    You will also be able to apply under differentiation arrangements for low-risk applicants.

    However, from 6 July 2018, nationals of Oman who make Tier 4 applications must submit all documentation.

    You don't need to send evidence of your qualifications and your finances, but you still need this evidence as UKVI may ask to see it.

    They will refuse your application if you can't provide this evidence in a certain time period.

  • Costs

    It costs £348 to apply outside the UK. You must also pay £348 per person for any dependants.

    You also have to pay a healthcare surcharge. Check how much you’ll have to pay before you apply.

  • Apply online for your visa

    You must apply online on the UKVI website. Check how long your visa will take to process.

    Download our guide to completing the Tier 4 application online outside the UK [PDF 1.02MB]

    Attending a visa application centre

    You must go to a visa application centre to have your fingerprints and photo taken for your biometric residence permit (BRP).

    You normally submit your application documents at the centre.

    Many centres have extra ‘user pay services’ (such as priority visa processing and document checks) which you pay for online or when you go to the centre.

    Check your visa application centre website to find out which services they have.

  • Credibility interviews

    You may need to do a credibility interview (done via a video link) with UKVI as part of your visa application.

    During the interview, a UKVI staff member will assess if you:

    • meet the English language requirements
    • are a ‘genuine student’
    • can speak English well. Tell the interviewer if you can't hear them clearly so they know that it is a technical problem, and not because you don't understand them.

    You should ask for a copy of your interview transcript.

    If you don't attend your interview, your visa application may be refused.

    Find out how to prepare for your credibility interview.

  • Receiving your visa

    If your visa is for fewer than six months, you receive a vignette (sticker) in your passport. Check the end date is correct.

    If your visa is for longer than six months, you receive a 30-day vignette (sticker) in your passport, so that you can enter the UK. You must travel to the UK during this 30-day period.

    When you arrive in the UK, you collect a biometric residence permit (BRP). This is your visa.

    The 30 days either starts 30 days before the course start date on your CAS or seven days before your intended date of travel to the UK (as stated on your application), whichever is later.

    If you don’t travel to the UK during this 30-day period, you must apply and pay for another vignette if you still want to travel to the UK.

    You need to give your biometric information again, but you don’t have to submit a new Tier 4 application.

    Please note: If you travel to the UK before this 30 day period, then you will need to leave the UK and re-enter during the 30 day period.

    You will not be able to register for your course at Sussex if you have entered the UK outside the 30 day period.

  • Arriving in the UK

    You can arrive in the UK up to one month before your course start date if your course is six months or longer, or a pre-sessional course that is less than six months.

    You can arrive seven days before your course start date if your course is fewer than six months long.

    When you arrive in the UK, you must show the Border Force Officer (BFO):

    • your 30-day vignette
    • the letter that came with your vignette
    • copies of your financial documents.

    The UK has expanded who can use e-Gates (automated self-service barriers) to enter the UK to include nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States of America.

    If you enter the UK via an e-Gate you will not receive a date stamp on your 30-day vignette. As we need to verify that you have entered the UK within the validity of your 30 day visa, you must bring your flight ticket or boarding pass to registration, so we can take a copy. We will not be able to register you without this.

  • Collecting your biometric residence permit (BRP)

    Depending on which is the later date, you must either collect your biometric residence permit (BRP):

    • within 10 days of arriving in the UK from the Sussex campus or a post office
    • before your vignette expires.

    To collect your BRP, enter the Alternative Collection Location code from your CAS statement on your visa application form, and any dependants' forms.

    We send you information on where to collect your BRP before you arrive.