The most common reason for a visa refusal is not meeting the financial requirements. You are required to hold tuition fees and maintenance for a period of 28 days and the University will ask to see your documentation prior to issuing a CAS letter. Please take time to read the information contained in the ‘Financial documentation' section below.
If you are a non EEA or Swiss National, and are coming to the UK to study a full time programme for six months or more, then you must apply to the Home Office for entry clearance (visa) before leaving your home country. In most cases you will need to obtain a Tier 4 (General) visa.
Students coming to study for less than six months will also need a Tier 4 (General) visa if they want the right to work, or if they intend to undertake a secondary course in the UK straight after. It is also advisable to apply for Tier 4 if you still have part of your programme to complete and that programme was longer than six months. If you are returning for a Viva only, you may wish to consider the Short Term Study visa.
A thorough guide on making a Tier 4 (General) visa application can be found on the United Kingdom Council for International Students Association (UKCISA) website: We recommend the following pages: 'Eligibility and Requirements and 'Making a Tier 4 (General) application outside the UK'. We advise that you take time to read this information carefully before making your application. It is also recommended that you read the Tier 4 Policy Guidance which is published on the Home Office website: Home Office Tier 4 Policy Guidance.
For students applying for a new programme a Tier 4 Visa application can only be made within the three months before your programme start date as noted on your CAS. Any application made before this point will automatically be refused.
You should apply for a Tier 4 (General) Visa in the country of which you are a national or where you legally live. In most cases, the application form should be completed online. If you are applying from North Korea then you will need to complete the paper VAF9 form and the VAF9 Appendix 8 form and follow the process outlined on the Home Office website.
Guide to Application Form
The International Student Advice Office have created a guidance document on how to answer some of the key questions in the form. This is not an exhastive list, however if anything remains unclear please do not hesitate to contact us.
Guide to Tier 4 Application Form
Once you have completed the application form on-line you will be asked to book an appointment at a Visa Application Centre, and in most cases make the fee payment online. The date you pay your application fee is your application date and your finances should tie in with this. The process varies depending on which country you are making your application from.
Video Guides to the Application Process
The University of Sheffield, in collaboration with the Home Office, has produced the following videos to offer an insight into the visa application process. Please click on the link to view the video on Vimeo:
The current fee for a Tier 4 (General) visa is £348 (or local currency equivalent).
In addition to the visa application fee you will need to pay an immigration health surcharge at point of application. The surcharge was introduced by the UK Government in April 2015 for students and their dependants to contribute towards the cost of providing a National Health Service (NHS) in the UK.
The charge has been set at £300 for students and for their dependants, and will be applied to all applications for a visa for longer than six months if applying from outside the UK. The £300 is a pro rata annual fee based on the length of time that the Student or Student Dependant visa is granted for. Part years will be charged at £150 if less than six months, and £300 if between six months and 12 months duration.
Further information can be found on the UKVI website: Immigration health surcharge: information for migrants.
When you go to your visa appointment, you should take your visa application and payment receipt (if you paid online). You should also take the following documents and a photocopy of everything.
You will need one or two passport sized photos that have been taken within the last month. You should not use the same photo as you have used in your previous visa or passport. Read the guidelines for acceptable photos.
Passports(s) and previous visas
In addition to your current passport, you should provide all previous passports and visas that you have used to travel to, and remain in the UK.
Tuberculosis test certificate
Residents of some countries that intend to come to the UK for longer than six months are required to obtain a certificate confirming that they are free from tuberculosis. If you are required to do this, you should do so before you apply for your visa. For full information please refer to the Home Office website. Test certificates must be valid on the date of your appointment.
Consent letter (for applicants under 18)
If you are under the age of 18, you must provide a consent letter from your parent or guardian confirming that they support your application. The letter should confirm that they consent to your Tier 4 Visa application, and that they approve of your UK living arrangements and your independent travel to the UK. It must also confirm their relationship to you.
If one parent or guardian has legal custody or sole responsibility of you, the letter must confirm this and be signed by that parent or legal guardian. If not, then both parents/legal guardians must give their consent and the letter must be signed by both parents/legal guardians.
You will need to provide evidence of the relationship via your birth certificate.
Evidence of Name Change
If you have changed your name you are required to provide official evidence of this with your application. The evidence must state your previous name, your new name and the date of change. Typical examples of documents used include deed poll certificates, passports containing both names, and government issued house hold registers.
Your Confirmation of Acceptance for Study (CAS) letter will be provided by Heriot-Watt University provided you have completed a CAS Request Form, and will contain a unique CAS number and relevant programme details. You can use a print out of this letter and do not require the original. Please check that all of the information detailed on your CAS is correct, as this cannot be changed after the visa is issued.
Students studying certain postgraduate qualifications need to be granted approval by the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO). If you require an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Certificate, this will be shown on your offer letter and CAS letter. You should apply for ATAS Clearance by visiting the FCO website. FCO aim to provide an ATAS certificate within 20 working days; however the wait can be significantly longer so you are advised to apply as soon as possible.
For the purpose of your visa application, certificates are valid for six months and must still be valid at the point when a decision is made on your visa application.
All qualifications listed in your CAS letter need to be included with your application, such as degree certificates, transcripts and English test results. If they are not in English they need to be submitted along with official translations.
English language documents
Not all students will be required to include English language documents with their visa application, this will depend how your English language was assessed by the University. This should be detailed on your CAS letter. Please check with ISAO if you are not sure what the wording on your CAS means.
Students relying on evidence of an award which is equivalent to a Bachelors, Masters of PhD from a majority English speaking country as evidence of their language ability, will also need to include a ‘Statement of Comparability' from UK NARIC confirmation the assessment. This will be required if your CAS states ‘is SELT required – No' and ‘Reason not required – ‘holds degree from majority English speaking country'. Please allow 10-15 working days for your statement to be issued. You do not require NARIC confirmation if your degree was studied in the UK.
You are required to show that you have sufficient funds to support yourself in the UK. The amount needed includes your full tuition fee as stated on your CAS letter (minus any amount already paid), plus maintenance of up to £9135. Maintenance is calculated as £1015 for each month of your course, up to a maximum of nine months (any part-month should be rounded up). This means that if you will be studying for a course that lasts three months only, the amount that you will need is £3045. If you will be studying for a course lasting nine months or more, the amount that you will need is £9135. The total maintenance and outstanding fees amount must be held as a minimum balance in the account for at least 28 days without dipping below the required amount. Required funds must remain in your bank account until the date of application.
If you are unsure about what level of maintenance you should show, please contact ISA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What documents can you use?
More than one bank statement can be used, however they must be personal bank accounts, and show the same date range.
Personal Certificates of Deposit
These documents do not show the transaction details of the account and it is therefore important to check the date of the certificate and the deposit date. There must be a duration of 28 days or more between the deposit date and the date the certificate is issued. You also need to make sure the account is not frozen, usually there is a disclaimer on the back noting this but often a further disclaimer stating that the account can be unfrozen at any time at the request of the account holder.
Personal UK bank account
If you are using a UK bank account that is in your own name, the statement must contain the following information:
- Your name
- Your account number
- The date of the statement (must be produced less than one month before your application)
- The bank's name and logo
- The amount of money available in your account
- Stamp on every page unless the statement was posted to you or you have a letter from the bank confirming the information within the statement is accurate.
Personal foreign bank account
This bank statement should show the same information as detailed above, however, in addition, the balance of your account should be shown in British Pounds (GBP). Your currency must be converted into pounds using the exchange rate found on the OANDA website. This conversion should be handwritten on the bottom of your bank statement along with the date you converted it.
You could also use a template bank letter which is approved by the UK Home Office in place or as well as a bank statement.
Not all banks are accepted by the Home Office and it is therefore important you check their website before submitting your application. This affects the following countries: Cameroon, India, Pakistan, Philippines, Ghana, Bangladesh, Iran and Sri Lanka.
Please refer to Appendix P of the Immigration Rules for further information.
Parent/guardian bank account
The Home Office have agreed to also accept parental bank statements, provided these are accompanied by your birth certificate, and a signed letter from your parent(s) detailing (i) their relationship to you, (ii) the amount shown on their bank statement, and (iii) giving their permission for their funds to be used to pay for your UK tuition fees/living costs during your studies.
Official financial sponsorship
An official financial sponsor is: Her Majesty's Government; your home government (or embassy); the British Council; or any international organisation, university or company.
If you are being financially sponsored (either full, or in part) you will need to provide a letter from your sponsor. This must be written on their official letter-headed stationery. If your sponsorship is coming from the University then information should be included on the CAS letter. A sponsorship letter must be dated (we would recommend your letter be no more than three months old) and include:
- Your name
- The name and contact details of your official financial sponsor
- The length of time your sponsorship covers (as well as permission to remain in the UK until the end of your programme if the full period is not being funded)
- The amount of money they will pay towards your fees and monthly living costs. Alternatively, your sponsor should state on the letter that they will cover all tuition fees and living costs.
- Official stamp of the organisation
If your scholarship only provides some of the finances required, or only covers some of the study period you will be required to provide additional evidence of having the required funds available, such as your own bank statement. Please discuss with ISA if you are unsure about this.
Previous financial sponsorship
If you are no longer receiving funding in the UK, but have done so in the last 12 months, your official financial sponsor must still include a statement giving their consent to you remaining in the UK. If they do not give this permission then your application will be refused. This requirement also applied to holders of a a University scholarship.
Other acceptable finance documents
There are a number of other documents that the Home Office will accept as proof of funds. For a full list, or for further information on any of the methods mentioned above, please visit the Home Office website.
All documents that are not in English should be officially translated and contain the following:
- Details of the translator/translation company's credentials
- Confirmation that it is an accurate translation of the original document
- The translator/translation company's contact details.
- The date of translation
- The original signature of the translator or an authorised official of the translation company.
Nationalities with different document requirements
Students who are applying for a Tier 4 visa using a passport from one of the countries listed in Appendix H of the immigration rules, are not required to provide evidence of their academic or financial documents with their visa application. However, these must be available should the UKVI request them. Failure to provide the requested documents would mean that the visa application would be refused. The documents must have met the requirements by the date you submitted the application, and not the date when the documents are requested.
If you are applying under these rules, you must confirm this in your Tier 4 application form when prompted.
All applicants may be required to attend a Credibility Interview when making a Tier 4 visa application. There is no need to feel nervous about this, however it is vital that you are prepared. The questions you will be asked are likely to be about why you have chosen to study at Heriot-Watt University and why you have chosen that particular course. You may also be asked what your future plans are once you get your degree and how you plan to fund your studies. It is important that you are fully prepared for the interview and are strongly encouraged to view our Guide to Credibility Interviews before attending.
How your visa will be issued
The Home Office have now introduced Biometric Residence Permits (BRP) for all applicants applying to study on a Tier 4 visa for a course that is six months or longer. In this case, your visa will be issued in two stages;
1. 30 day entry clearance vignette in your passport to allow you to travel to the UK
2. Full visa collected from Heriot Watt University Edinburgh Campus or a designated Post Office within the UK issued on a long term visa card (BRP)
- When you apply for your visa you will be asked to enter a 'BRP Collection Location' code in order to determine where you will collect your BRP card from. If you will be studying in Scotland, you can enter the Heriot Watt University ACL code 2HE332 which will allow your BRP card to be collected directly from the University. If you are not studying in Scotland, or would prefer your card to be sent to a Post Office branch, you can enter the University postcode or your residential address postcode.
- If your visa application is successful you will be given a short-term entry clearance vignette (sticker) in your passport. This will be begin either 30 days before the course start date on your CAS letter, or seven days before the intended travel date that you stated on your online visa application form, whichever is later. You must travel to the UK within the validity of this vignette.
- Along with your entry clearance vignette, you will receive a ‘grant letter' explaining how and where to collect your BRP card after you arrive, and what leave (visa type and length) it will show.
- Your BRP will normally be ready for collection 7 days from when your 30 days travel visa begins.
- You must collect your BRP card from the University or designated Post Office within 10 days of arriving in the UK.
- You will be required to present your travel document [i.e. passport] and the grant letter when collecting your BRP card.
- The main applicant (over 18) can collect BRP cards on behalf of their dependants provided that you all travelled to the UK together. To do so, you must present the passports and grant letters of everyone whose BRP you wish to collect.
- If you are the main applicant and are under 18 you will need an authorised responsible adult to accompany you to collect your BID. If this will apply to you please contact ISAO@hw.ac.uk as soon as possible for further instruction.
If you notice any errors on your 30 day vingette or your BRP please contact ISA as soon as possible at ISAO@hw.ac.uk.
Refusals and things to avoid
If your visa is refused you may not have enough time to make a new application before your course starts. Please avoid a refusal by contacting us prior to application with any questions. It is important you also avoid the top reasons for refusals:
- Insufficient funds held (tuition fees plus maintenance)
- Funds not held for 28 days
- Academic documents listed on CAS not provided (check with us if you are unsure what documents you need)
- Company accounts used instead of personal accounts (only personal accounts can be used, this does not include credit)
If your visa is refused and you plan to make a new application, please contact your academic school and send them a copy of your Refusal Notice. You may be asked to provide evidence to show that you now meet the visa requirements before a new CAS will be issued.