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:
- have the required level of English. Check English language requirements by course
- are from a country that’s not in the European Economic Area (EEA) (including Switzerland)
- have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course and submit the correct documents and financial evidence when you apply. If you don't, your visa may be refused and we may not be able to issue you another Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) to apply again
- meet other eligibility requirements as set out by the UK Government.
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.
- 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 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.
- Visa application documents
You must include:
- a current passport or other valid travel documents (you need a page in your passport that's blank on both sides for your visa)
- one passport-sized colour photo with your name written on the reverse side – check UKVI guidance on photographs
- documents to show that you have adequate funds (see Proof of Funds and Acceptable proof of funds sections below)
- valid CAS (include your CAS number in the online Tier 4 form)
- proof of parental/legal guardian consent and your birth certificate (if you’re under 18)
Check paragraphs 231-233 for more information (Home Office policy guidance on Tier 4 PDF)
- original qualification certificates/other education documents used by Sussex when we made our offer to you. This information is on your CAS statement
Check paragraphs 151-154 for acceptable documents (Home Office policy guidance on Tier 4 PDF)
- Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate. If you want to study some science or technology-based subjects, you must apply online for a clearance certificate through ATAS before you apply for a visa. We include ATAS information in your offer letter if this applies to you
- your tuberculosis test results – check if you need to take a tuberculosis test.
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.
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.
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:
- personal bank or building society statements. Download an example UK bank statement [PDF 3.14 MB]
If you're using money held by your parents, you must also provide your original birth certificate and a parental consent letter. Download a sample parental consent letter [PDF 176.31 KB]
- a Certificate of Deposit (documents issued by a bank which confirm you've deposited or invested some money). Download an example certificate of deposit [PDF 1.03 MB]
- a building society passbook
- a bank letter. Download a sample bank letter [PDF 260.41 KB]
- a letter from a regulated financial institution which confirms funds or a loan will be released to you when you get your visa. See paragraph 230 (v) (Home Office policy guidance on Tier 4 PDF) for more information.
- an official financial or government sponsorship letter. Download a sample official sponsorship letter [PDF 141.56 KB].
You can find more requirements information in paragraph 177-233 (Home Office policy guidance on Tier 4 PDF).
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
- personal bank or building society statements. Download an example UK bank statement [PDF 3.14 MB]
- 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.
- Apply online for your visa
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.
- 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.