Consequent to the recent changes in the U.K. student visa system, Thomas Greig, Regional Director South Asia, UK Border Agency, sets out here some FAQs and the answers.

The recent changes to the U.K. student visa system are intended to ensure that the U.K. remains a destination for high quality Indian and other international students, whilst ensuring that every student who comes to the U.K. is genuine and suitably qualified. We continue to welcome all Indian students who wish to study in U.K. higher education institutions and meet the new criteria. The new visa rules have been introduced to support them.

Last year, the U.K. Border Agency (UKBA) issued in the region of 30,000 student visas in India. We are keen to ensure that prospective students understand the U.K.’s immigration rules and how they affect them, follow the published guidance and complete their visa application forms fully and correctly, and in good time to begin their studies in the U.K. It is important not to listen to rumours. We are therefore setting out a number of questions that students frequently ask us, and the right answers.

What type of visa do I apply for?

If you are intending to undertake long-term study such as a degree course you will need to apply for a student visa under Tier 4 of the points-based system.

When do I apply for my U.K. student visa?

You should apply for your Tier 4 student visa when you have your unconditional offer to study and all your documents. You need to apply for your Tier 4 student visa in good time. You can apply up to 3 months in advance of your intended travel to the U.K. , and you should allow at least 15 working days — three weeks — for your visa to be processed.

How do I apply for my visa?

It is very important that you read and follow precisely the current Tier 4 published guidance as you complete the visa application form. The evidence you submit with your visa application must be stipulated in the guidance and must be in the format specified. You will need to include a valid Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), evidence to show that you have sufficient funds and all the documents referred to in the CAS. The guidance is available on the U.K. Border Agency’s website www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk.

You will need to make your application and appointment at the visa application centre online at: https//apply.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/iapply.portal. There is no charge to complete your application and to make a standard appointment to attend a visa application centre online. You can find out the location of your nearest visa application centre by logging on to the VFS website www.vfs-uk-in.com. You need to attend the visa application centre in person because we take finger scans and digital photograph as part of the visa application process.

Do I need to use an agent to make a visa application?

All the information you need to make your visa application is available on the U.K. Border Agency’s website free of charge. You do not need to submit your application through an agent. If you choose to do so, please select an agent carefully. Often agents are paid a fee by the U.K. education institution with whom they work, so they will not charge you a fee. If they do charge you a fee, this should be reasonable.

What happens if my documents are not genuine?

You must complete your application form fully and honestly. If you make false statements or submit forged documents your visa application will be refused and you will be banned from travel to the U.K. for up to 10 years.

What checks do I need to make of the education institution?

You need to do some research and find an education provider that is offering the course that meets your needs and is right for you. In addition, you need to ensure that your chosen U.K. education institution is on the Tier 4 sponsors’ register when you apply and again when you leave for the U.K. If an institution is listed on the sponsors’ register it means that the U.K. Border Agency permits them to recruit international students. You can find the sponsors’ register on the U.K. Border Agency’s website.

Can I submit a provisional degree certificate with my visa application if I have not received my final certificate?

In India the UK Border Agency exceptionally accepts provisional degree certificates with Tier 4 applications, but only if your education sponsor has recorded on your CAS that the course offer was made on the basis of your provisional certificate.

Do I need to undergo a tuberculosis test?

The U.K. government recently announced that it will extend the requirement to undergo TB screening before arriving in the U.K., to more countries, including India. This requirement will affect those people who are travelling to the U.K. for more than six months. There will be a further announcement about arrangements, including the start date, screening facilities and cost. Until that time, existing arrangements apply. Tier 4 students in India will be required to undergo TB screening in due course. However, students who apply for their visas before October 2012 will not be affected.

Do I need to complete an English language test?

If you are studying at degree level or above at a High Education Institution (HEI) you need to be proficient in English language to B2 CEFR.

The HEI can decide how to test your proficiency. If you are not studying at an HEI you need to have a secure English language test certificate to show that you are proficient to B2 standard.

To study below degree level you need to be competent in English to a minimum of B1 and evidence this with an English language test. You need to provide the test certificates with your visa application.

The list of UK Border Agency-approved test-providers and further guidance are on the UK Border Agency website.

Will I be interviewed as part of my visa application?

The UK Border Agency is conducting more interviews in connection with visa applications. It is possible that you will be interviewed, in which case you will be informed. Otherwise your application will be considered on the basis of your application form and supporting documentation you provide.

What are some the common reasons why student visa application are refused?

Reasons for refusing student visa applications are mainly connected to not preparing the application and supporting documents carefully. These include not meeting the maintenance requirements, not providing all the necessary supporting documents, not providing originals or documents in the correct format or translated; submitting an already used confirmation of acceptance of studies; the content of the CAS is incorrect particularly in relation to the course description and not submitting the correct evidence of relationship to parents when relying on their funding.

A further reason for refusal is providing false documents.

Can I work while I study?

If you have a Tier 4 General visa and you are studying at degree level or above at a Higher Education Institution (HEI) you may work 20 hours per week in the term time and full time in the holidays.

If you are studying at a publicly-funded Further Education College or below degree level at an HEI you may work 10 hours per week during term time and full time in the holidays.

Can I work in the U.K. after my studies?

Although the Tier 1 post study work visa was closed in April 2012, there continue to be opportunities under Tier 2 of the points-based system for graduates to work in the U.K. Graduates are able to take up graduate-level jobs earning a minimum of £20,000 with registered companies. They will be issued a visa of three years’ duration with the possibility of being able to extend for a further three years. In addition we have introduced a new visa route for graduate entrepreneurs. This allows students who have developed world class innovative ideas to stay in the U.K. and develop their business.

What happens if my visa application is refused?

Under the points-based system you may ask for an administrative review (AR) if you think that the wrong decision was made on the basis of the information you provided. If your visa application is refused you will receive the full reasons why, together with an AR request notice. You may not submit any new information with the AR request — so it is very important that you submit all the necessary information when you first apply. You may also make a fresh visa application, addressing the earlier reasons for refusal.

So, to recap, apply for your visa in good time, read and follow the published Tier 4 guidance, fill out the application forms fully and honestly, and submit the correct documents. If you do this, the visa process should be straightforward. And then enjoy your time in the U.K.!