Visa Guide

about the UK visa application process

Important: The information contained below is for guidance purposes only. Although every effort is made to ensure its accuracy, we strongly recommend you visit the UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration, also known as UKBA) website for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Tier 4 Visa Route

Generally speaking, this is the best route for those intending to study in the UK for more than six months. Those already in the UK under a valid Tier 4 visa can apply to extend their UK visa without having to return home, whereas this option is unavailable under the ‘short term student' route.

Please note that all students applying for Tier 4 (for over 6 months) will be given entry clearance for one month only. Students will need to collect a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card within 10 days of arriving in the UK. Your institution will give you more details on how to collect the card and you will also receive a letter from UKVI with more information following a successful visa application.

A student cannot make an application more than three months before the start of their course.

There are two categories under Tier 4:

  • Tier 4 General Student: Also known as Adult Student for those aged 16 years or above.

Maximum length of stay under the Tier 4 General route is 3 years for courses below degree level and 5 years for courses at or above degree level. Please refer to the UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration, also known as UKBA) website for exceptions.

  • Tier 4 Child Student: For those aged 17 years and under coming to study at independent fee-paying schools or further education colleges. Note – children between 4 and 15 years old may only be educated at independent fee-paying schools and are unable to study English Language courses. Students aged 16 & 17 can only be assigned a Tier 4 Child CAS for a maximum of 3 years.

Students aged 16 or 17 years old can apply either as a ‘Tier 4 General Student' or a ‘Tier 4 Child Student' if they are studying a course at National Qualifications Framework (QCF/NQF) Level 3 or above.

We generally advise that 16 or 17 year olds apply under a Tier 4 Child Student visa rather than the Tier 4 General. For 16 or 17 year olds studying a course at QCF/NQF level 2, then they must apply under Tier 4 Child route.


Student Visitor Visa Route

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Visa Interview Guide

What is the Visa Interview (Credibility Test)?

A Visa Interview is a way for Visa Officers to check whether students are genuine. They will ask questions about why you have chosen your course to ensure that you are a serious student and check your English level. These interviews can take the form of video-linked interviews, face-to-face interviews and telephone interviews.

Students applying for a Tier 4 Child visa will not be called for a visa interview, but any student applying for a Tier 4 General visa can be asked to attend an interview.

  • Video-linked interviews are carried out at the Visa Application Centre (VAC) when students submit their application in their home country. The Interviewing Officer will be based in the UK and the communication will be done via the video-link facility and the Interviewing Officer will be asking a series of questions around student’s intention to study the course with the institution in the UK.
  • The Credibility Test can also be a face-to-face interview with an Entry Clearance Officer at the local embassy or consulate for which students would normally be invited to attend an appointment in advance. The questions will be around intention, but can also be around their financial background, previous education/work history and other immigration-related questions.
  • Telephone interviews can also be conducted at times with a Visa Officer so students must make sure their telephone contact details are up to date and be prepared that there is a chance they might be called upon by the Visa Office.
How do I prepare for the Visa Interview?

We do recommend our students to prepare for these visa interviews so they can answer the questions properly and accurately to assist the Visa Officers who will be assessing their applications. This also ensures there is minimum delay to the processing of their visa application. Here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Do attend - Failure to attend the interview may result in your application being automatically refused. In the event you cannot attend, contact the Visa Office to reschedule.
  • Do answer- You should always answer all questions fully and honestly.
  • Do think - You should think in advance about your course, the documents you provided in your visa application, and your intention to study. The UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration, also known as UKBA) want to know that you have given serious thought before choosing your course.
  • Do speak in English! - One of the most important things they will be checking is your level of English, so always answer in English, not via an interpreter.
  • Do ask - Ask for clarification if you do not understand a question to make sure you are providing the information they want.
General information
  • What is the name of the school? This may not be the same as the school's Tier 4 name – check your CAS statement for such details.
  • Did you use an educational agent at any stage (even if you stopped using them)? Who is/was your agent and why did you choose them?
  • Why did you choose this college? Why did you choose this course and how does it relate to your previous study? Why do you wish to study in the UK? Why not stay in your own country to study, if similar courses are available there?
  • What is your plan after completing the course? Do you intend to stay in the UK (for additional studies) or are you returning home?
  • If you are changing course or study pathway, why are you are making such a change of direction in your studies?
  • How do you explain any gaps in your previous education/employment history?
  • What is the course name and academic level? What qualification will you get after the course if you pass? This is all on your CAS and/or offer letter.
Intended Course(s)
  • When does the course start and finish? How many terms/semesters is it?
  • What are the modules/subjects of the course? What will you study during the course? How are you going to be assessed on the course? You can find all this information on the centre website.
  • Did you do any research before choosing the school/course? What other schools/courses did you consider, and why did you decide on this one?
  • How is this course going to benefit you for your future career and/or academic plans?
Financial Circumstances
  • Who is going to pay your tuition fees and living costs? Where did they get the money? What is their salary?
  • You might need to provide documents to prove your financial ability to study in the UK, such as additional bank statements and proof of income from your financial sponsors. Do you have all of these? Make sure you bring additional documentations required by the Visa Office.
  • Do you know how much it costs to live in the UK and also what you might spend on day- to- day items such as food, travel and accommodation?
  • Do you know the total cost of the course and have an idea on any future courses?
Living in UK



  • Where is the school? Which city is it in and which part of the UK does it belong to?
  • Have you arranged accommodation? If not, why not? How will you/did you find it?
  • How much does accommodation cost in the city/town where you will be studying?
  • How will you commute between your accommodation and the school (bus, train, underground etc.)?

English Language Entry Requirements

Tier 4 General Student

Students applying for Tier 4 general must complete and pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT).

All students requiring a SELT will need to take an IELTS for UKVI test at an approved SELT centre if their test was taken after 6 April, 2015. If you took a valid SELT test before 5 April, 2015 you can use your SELT certificate for visa applications made until 5 November, 2015.

View the current list of approved tests.

Please note that students progressing from a Tier 4 Child visa to a Tier 4 General visa are exempt from the SELT requirement.

They must complete and pass a Secure English Language Test (SELT) for English language and academic courses as follows:

  • QCF/NQF Level 3-5: CEFR Level B1 (IELTS 4.0 minimum in all 4 components)
  • QCF/NQF Level 6+: CEFR Level B2 (IELTS 5.5 minimum in all 4 components)

The Points Based System

In order to qualify for Tier 4, students must pass a points-based assessment and score 40 points by satisfying the following:
Number of Points Criteria
30 Presentation of a Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from a licensed Tier 4 sponsor.

Evidence to show they have the finances to study in the UK (known as maintenance) by demonstrating they can cover:

  • Course fees for up to 9 months.
  • Monthly living costs for up to 9 months.

See table below for specific amounts depending on length of course.
A bank statement must be provided to confirm the student (or parent/legal guardian) has held the money for a minimum of 28 days.

40 Total points required to be granted a visa

Certification of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)

The Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) will include information about the student, their sponsor (education provider), their course and their finances.

Cambridge Education Group's admissions team will send out CAS statements to those who need to apply under the Tier 4 route. This is conditional upon the student fulfilling the terms set out in their offer letter and having confirmed their place(s) by returning the required deposit or sponsorship letter. The CAS statement should then be included with their visa application.

The CAS statement from our admissions team will include:

  • The student's name, nationality and passport/travel document number.
  • The sponsor's licence number, address and contact details; any details of partner institutions or overseas institution (if the course is jointly taught).
  • Course details such as title, level, qualifications to be awarded, start and expected end date, hours per week, address of student's main place of study.
  • Course fees for the first year and any payments already made. If relevant, any accommodation fees for the first year and any payments already made.
  • Documents used to obtain the offer: this will give a brief description of our assessment of the student's academic level and English proficiency, including details such as student's previous courses/qualifications and Secure English Language Test results. If a student has previously studied in the UK under Tier 4 route, an Academic Progression statement on how the new course of studies represents academic progression is also included here.

For a list of UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration, also known as UKBA) approved Secure English Language Tests, visit this webpage.


Most student visa refusals under Tier 4 are due to errors in financial documentations. Please read this section carefully and use the link provided for up to date advice.

Depending on the length of the course, the amount of finance required to satisfy the points-based assessment will vary as follows:

Tier 4 General
Length of Course Where you will study Maintenance (finance) needed
9 months or less Outside London Full course fees + £1,015 for each calendar month of the course
More than 9 months Outside London First year of fees + £7,380 to cover the first 9 months

For more information on Tier 4 General maintenance requirements, visit this website.

Evidence of Funds

For bank statements, they must:

  • Be dated no more than one month before the visa application submission date;
  • Show that the entire amount required (as per above) has been in the account for 28 consecutive days (and has not fallen below the required amount throughout the 28 days)
  • Be for a cash account
Fees Paid to Institutions

Fees already paid to institutions towards student's tuition fees can be deducted when calculating how much money a student needs to meet the maintenance funds requirements for a Tier 4 visa application. Please note for fees paid towards accommodation, a maximum of £1,000 can be offset against the required funds for Tier 4 General students and Tier 4 Child students who live independently. If in any doubt, please contact our admissions team for advice before making a payment towards the balance of your fees.

Applying using your parent's documents

If parent's bank statements are used in the visa application, submission of the following to prove the relationship between parents and the applicant is also required:

  • Original legal documentations (or notarised copy) from parent/guardian who are financially supporting the applicant. The documentation should confirm the relationship between the parent/guardian and the applicant. This could include the following:
    • Birth certificate showing the applicant and the parents' names;
    • Certificate of adoption showing applicant and the parents' names;
    • Court document showing the applicant and the legal guardian's names;
    • A letter from parent/guardian confirming the relationship between the applicant and the parent/guardian and that parent/guardian's consent to using their funds to pay for the tuition and maintenance during the applicant's studies in the UK.

Download and read our quick reference guide to evidencing your finances to ensure you satisfy the UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration, also known as UKBA) requirements.