We understand that keeping up with immigration policies can be challenging, and our advisers are dedicated to providing you with the most accurate and current information on our website. However, it's important to keep in mind that changes in policies can happen unexpectedly, and our advisers have no control over them. We want to remind you that it's ultimately your responsibility to ensure that you comply with immigration requirements and verify that any previous advice or information is still valid before taking any action. Please know that we are here to support you through this process.
Do I need a visa to study at the RCA?
Most international students, including EU students who do not currently live in the UK, will need a Student Visa to study at the RCA.
You will not need to apply for a visa if you:
- are an Irish national
- have indefinite leave to remain in the UK
- are an EU national who moved to the UK before 30 December 2020 and have received settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
- have indefinite leave to enter the UK, for example, if you have a Returning Resident Visa.
How to apply for a Student Visa from outside the UK
You can only apply for a Student Visa after the following conditions are met:
- You hold an unconditional offer to study at the RCA
- You have paid all deposits due for your programme, and you must have firmly accepted your offer
- You have been issued a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) number for your visa application
Please note that you may only apply for a Student Visa within six months of your programme’s start date shown in your CAS. This means if you are starting in September your CAS will not be issued to you until June/July at the earliest.
Visit CAS number: frequently asked questions for more information on how and when you will receive your CAS number.
Step 1: Prepare your documents
What documents do I need?
- CAS: Your CAS number will be provided to you by the College. It confirms that we have made you an offer of a place to study with us, and that you have accepted this. See more about CAS numbers below.
- Passport: This must be valid on the date you submit your online visa application form and the date on which you plan to arrive in the UK.
- Financial documents: You need to show that you have sufficient funds to pay for your tuition fees and living expenses for one academic year.
- Qualifications: All the documents listed in the ‘Evidence used to obtain offer’ section of your CAS statement which include certificates or transcripts of qualifications which were used to assess your suitability for the course, including any English language tests.
- English language ability: Your CAS will state how your English language ability has been assessed.
- Financial sponsor’s consent letter: If a government or an international scholarship agency is currently providing financial sponsorship or have provided financial sponsorship within the last 12 months for studies in the UK, they must provide a letter of consent. Financial sponsorship means that all of your tuition fees and living costs covered. The Student Advice Service can provide detailed requirements for the letter.
- A letter from your parent/legal guardian: if they are supporting you financially, and evidence of their relationship to you
- TB test result: if you have been residing in a country which requires this. See gov.uk/tb-test-visa for further details.
All documents provided should be in English. Officially certified translations are accepted where necessary.
English language requirements
You will need to provide evidence that you meet the English language requirement for your programme. These vary depending on the programme you are studying at the RCA.
Visit individual programme pages for specific language requirements, and visit English language requirements page to see what qualifications and tests accepted.
How much money do I need?
On the date that you pay for your visa application, you will need to demonstrate that you have living expenses of £1,334 per month for the duration of your studies in the UK, up to a maximum of £12,006, in addition to the tuition fees for your first year of study.
You can show that these funds are available to you in the following ways:
- Cash funds in your personal bank account e.g. savings or current account.
- Cash funds in your parent’s/legal guardian’s personal bank account. (Birth Certificate & consent letter from parents if you are using their bank statements.)
- Official financial sponsorship.
- Specific types of student loans
The funds must be in a bank account in your name for a minimum of 28 consecutive days. The bank statement needs to be no more than a month old from the date of your student visa application. If the evidence is in another currency other than GBP, please use the currency conversion website OANDA to make sure that the funds are at the correct level.
The funds must be readily accessible cash, for example in a current (chequing) account, savings account, or certificate of deposit. You can also supply a bank letter in place of a bank statement.
We have produced a sample bank letter and statements that you may find useful:
Low-Risk Nationals: If you are a national of a country on the Government's 'differential evidence requirement' list, including EU/EEA and Swiss nationals, you are not required to submit evidence to show that you meet the financial requirements or provide your academic qualifications used to obtain an offer of study. You must confirm in your application that you have these documents. The Home Office, will retain the right to request sight of these documents. For the full list visit gov.uk/student-visa/money
Step 2: Complete the online application form
Apply for your Student Visa at gov.uk/student-visa/apply
The visa costs
The cost of visa application varies annually and depends on the location where you apply from. This online tool helps calculate your visa application expenses.
Step 3: Pay your immigration health surcharge
Anyone applying for a Student visa which will last for six months or more must get an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) number. This will give you access to the National Health Service in the UK.
At the end of the online application form, you will be directed to the IHS website which will link your visa application form with your IHS number. The current IHS charge for students is £470 per year. As of March 2023 an additional £235 is included to cover the additional two months from your course end date. It is likely your IHS will add up to £705.
You can calculate how much you will need to pay on the Home Office website. The IHS is an integrated part of the Student Visa application and does not need to be applied for separately.
EU, EEA and Swiss citizens
As agreed with the EU and Switzerland, the UK Government is launching a new scheme whereby certain eligible EU and Swiss students in full-time higher education may be entitled to a full or partial reimbursement of their Immigration Health Surcharge.
It is important to note, that claiming an IHS Reimbursement will limit your access to healthcare in the UK to only medically necessary treatment covered by your EHIC.
To be eligible for this scheme
- a UK visa with a start date on or after 1 January 2021
- be in full-time higher education (level 4+ in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and level 7+ in Scotland)
- hold a valid EU or Swiss-issued European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
- and must not be working or intend to work in the UK
The UKVI encourage all students to consider their circumstances carefully, including their healthcare needs and whether they wish to work in the UK, before deciding whether to apply for a reimbursement.
This is particularly important if you intend to undertake any kind of work during the duration of your Student Visa.
Please ensure you read the guidance below:
Step 4: Attend your biometric appointment
All applicants are required to book an appointment to attend a Visa Application Centre(VAC) to obtain their biometric information and complete the final steps of their visa application. You will book an appointment at your nearest location as part of the online visa application process.
At your appointment, you will provide your fingerprints and a digital photograph. Some applicants will also be required to attend an interview called a credibility interview during their biometric appointment.
Find your local Visa Application Centre here: gov.uk/find-a-visa-application-centre
Step 5: Submit your documents
After you submit your biometrics and complete your interview (if required), you will:
- Submit your application summary sheet and supporting documents at the VAC during your appointment. You may also have the ability to scan and upload your supporting documents.
- You will post your application summary sheet, biometric enrolment receipt and supporting documents to the British Embassy. You may have the option to scan your supporting documents instead. Your application form will guide you on the process to follow in your country of application.
Step 6: After your visa has been granted
When you apply from outside the UK, you will be issued a 90-day entry vignette and a letter from the Home Office. The vignette will start from the date that you intend to travel to the UK, as stated on your application form (please note, you can enter the UK up to one month prior to your course of study beginning). When you enter the UK you will need to show the Immigration Official your 90-day entry vignette and the Home Office letter.
Upon entering the UK, you must collect your Biometric Resident Permit (BRP) from the Post Office selected on your student application within 10 days.
- A BRP is a plastic card similar in size to a credit card. It will show your visa expiry date as well as any restrictions on work and will allow you to enter and leave the UK with restrictions.
Failure to collect the BRP within the required time may result in a fine or your visa being cancelled.
EU/EEA/Swiss Nationals Student Visa
From 01 January 2021 EU, EEA and Swiss citizens coming to the UK from 1 January 2021 to study a course will need to apply for a student visa to study at the RCA.
To enable you to transition to a smoother journey with your visa application most EU, EEA and Swiss citizens nationals will be able to apply and submit and visa application using a smartphone, through the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app, as part of the online application. To do this, you will need a biometric passport and a compatible smartphone. The app is free and is compatible with Android phones and iPhone 7 or newer models. If you do not own a compatible phone, you can use the app from a family or friend’s mobile phone. No information is stored on the phone or app after you close it.
EEA/EU/Swiss Nationals who have passports with a Biometric Chip:
If your passport doesn't have a biometric chip, or you have already applied for your student visa and were told to visit a Visa Application Centre in person, your visa will be granted in a similar way to nationals of countries outside of the EEA/EU
- Have your CAS
- Apply Online using the UK Immigration ID Check App to scan your face and biometric chip in your passport. You will be asked to create a UKVI account.
- Check you meet the Student Visa Requirements including Finance Requirements
- Once you Paid for your application and Immigration Health Surcharge it will take approximately three weeks to get a decision.
Please refrain from entering the UK until your student visa has been granted.
- Once your student visa has been granted, You will be given an electronic visa
- You will be sent an email from the UKVI with details of:
- Your immigration permission
- Stating the start and end date of your student visa
- The conditions of your visa and that your Sponsor is the Royal College of Art.
Your student visa will be linked to your passport.
- Print a copy of your decision email to show the Border Officers if required
IMPORTANT: When travelling to the UK for the first time using your visa, it is vital that you enter the UK AFTER your Visa Start Date (check your decision email).
If you enter the UK on a date outside of this, you may be denied entry to the UK, or be unable to start your course until you leave the UK and re-enter in the correct period to "activate" your student visa.
- It is very important that you retain evidence of your entry to the UK. We would recommend that you visit an immigration desk so that you receive an entry stamp on your passport. However, if you use an "e-gate" to enter the UK, you must instead keep your boarding pass to use for your enrolment.
- You will receive an invitation to complete your enrolment
To prove your Immigration Status You will be required to:
- provide a scanned copy of your passport
- a scanned copy of your boarding pass
- a copy of your UKVI decision letter you received when your visa was granted
- A PDF copy of a "share code" which allows the college to digitally verify your immigration status to this
- Go to the View and Provide Immigration Status on the government website and complete your details
Part-time Student Visa
Universities are permitted to issue a CAS to sponsor students to study on a part-time postgraduate (RQF Level 7 and above) degree course.
The UK Government imposes a number of visa restrictions on part-time studies:
Restrictions for Part-time Students
- No work is permitted at any capacity (including placements or work experience paid or unpaid)
- You cannot work remotely for an overseas company while in the UK
- You cannot bring/have any dependants in the UK (such as a visa-dependant partner or children)
- You cannot switch from full-time study to part-time study without leaving the UK to apply for a new student visa
- You must meet all visa requirements, including financial and English language
- Online/remote synchronous participation is not possible for student visa holders
The College’s Sponsor licence responsibilities still apply, including attendance monitoring and reporting duties.
Duration of a part-time Student Visa
You would be granted a visa for the length of your course plus two months if your course is less than a year in duration, or your course length plus 4 months if your course is longer than a year.
Applications can be made online
- The CAS you have received from the RCA,
- Original copies of the academic qualifications you have used to obtain an unconditional offer from the RCA. You can submit either your original certificate or original transcript of results. If these are not in English, you must provide 'a fully certified translation' by a professional translator. English language certificate if applicable.
- The cost of visa application varies annually and depends on the location where you apply from. This online tool helps calculate your visa application expenses.
- Financial Evidence (see details below).
- NHS Health Charge £470 for each year for the duration of your stay plus 4 months which could include an additional. To find out how much your NHS surcharge will be please click here.
- A TB Medical Certificate (if applicable): students from some countries are required to have a TB test as part of their visa application process. To find out if this applies to you, check the Home Office website.
All documents must be original and any documents which are not in English or Welsh must be accompanied by a full translation that can be checked by the UKVI.
You will need evidence that you can pay for your tuition fees and living expenses of £1334 per month for nine months £12.006 depending on your circumstances. The required funds have to be in your account for a 28 consecutive day period.
- The bank statements must be addressed to you for past 1 month.
- Electronic bank statements printed from an internet banking account can be accepted but they will need to be stamped by the bank on every single page.
- The statement should also have the bank name and logo, account name & number and the amount available.
We have produced a sample bank letter and statements that you may find useful.
Your Student Visa responsibilities and conditions
Students and universities are required to comply with Home Office requirements under the Student Route of the Points-Based System.
As a student, if you fail to comply with these conditions it may result in you being reported to the Home Office, which could result in your immigration permission being cancelled.
The College also has to comply with these conditions. Failure to do so could result in the loss of the HEI Sponsor License, without which the College would not be able to retain current or register new international students.
The following is a summary of the responsibilities of the student and the college. Students are also strongly advised to read Appendix ST: Student immigration rules and the Student Route Guidance for further information.
Remote learning and the Student / Tier 4 Visa
Leave of absence conditions
If you hold a Student Visa, you are not permitted by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to pursue your studies remotely. This is because the Student Visa is granted specifically for studying in the UK, and it is mandatory to attend classes, lectures, and supervision meetings on the College campus to comply with UK immigration regulations.
The UKVI has revoked the concessions that permitted remote studying during the Covid-19 pandemic. This means that Student Visa holders are not allowed to study their course from outside the UK unless they have obtained permission for a 'change of study location'.
Note such a change would only be possible in some very limited exceptions for research study leave or formal exchange agreements, which must always be formally agreed by the College in advance.
Absences from study
If you need to leave the UK during your studies (with the exception of holiday periods) you must request a period of authorised absence from your Head of Programme and the Registry Office. This usually cannot exceed 3 weeks of term time. If the absence is authorised, there will be no ramifications on your Student Visa.
Leave of Absence
If you are granted a Leave of Absence from your course, the College is required to withdraw sponsorship of your Student Visa. This will lead to UKVI cancelling your visa and you are expected to leave the UK.
Once you are ready to return to your studies, you can request a CAS and submit a new Student Visa application from overseas. Please note that you cannot use your previous CAS to apply for a new Student Visa.
Other Student Visa responsibilities and conditions
As a student, you are responsible for:
- Collecting your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card within 10 days of arriving in the UK
- Checking the information on the BRP card is correct
- Providing the College with a copy of your passport and visa/biometric ID Card
- Informing the College of any changes to your immigration status or personal details (i.e. address and telephone number)
- Re-enrolling on your programme on time at the start of each academic year
- Attending lectures, seminars, tutorials and crits as required for your programme of study. You must inform your Programme Administrator of any temporary absence due to illness etc
- Informing the College of any intentions to defer, suspend or withdraw from your programme of study
- Leaving the UK should you defer, suspend or withdraw from your programme of study
- Keeping up to date with immigration rules, regulations and application requirements
- Keeping your immigration permission up to date and applying for an extension in good time before your existing visa runs out
- Complying with your existing immigration conditions (i.e. not working more hours per week than you are allowed)
The College has the following responsibilities:
- Issue Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) where it is satisfied that students intend to and are able to follow the programme of study and meet the requirements for obtaining a student visa
- Taking and keeping copies of students' passports, immigration status documents, visas or biometric ID Cards
- Keeping up-to-date copies of students' contact details
- Checking that students have registered on their programme of study and report any student who fails to do so to the Home Office
- Monitoring each student's attendance and report any unauthorised absence to the Home Office
- Reporting leaves of absence, suspension or withdrawals of study to the Home Office
- Reporting any information relating to a student failing to comply with their immigration conditions (i.e. working too many hours or overstaying their visa).
Withdrawal of visa sponsorship
The RCA will normally withdraw the Visa Sponsorship of a student:
- Whose studies are terminated due to failure to make academic progress
- Who do not attend and participate in their studies as required for their programme of study
- Who has taken a leave of absence for medical, academic or personal reasons
- Those who fail to keep the College up to date and informed as to their immigration status as required
- Who is found to have failed to comply with the terms of their visa (ie. overstaying or working too many hours)
- Who are without current leave to remain and have not made an 'in time' application to extend
- Who has had an application refused by the Home Office and no longer has leave to remain or the right of appeal
If visa sponsorship is withdrawn the student will be de-registered from their course and will not be able to attend College until visa sponsorship has been re-instated.
The RCA is legally required to report all withdrawals of visa sponsorship to the Home Office immediately.
Students then have 60 days in which to leave the UK.
After you arrive
Biometric Residence Permit Cards and Passports:
- Keep your BRP and passport card in a safe, secure location. Do not carry your BRP card unless you are travelling
- Make copies of your passport and BRP card, hardcopy or digital is fine
- If you feel you must carry your BRP card, keep the BRP card separate from the rest of your wallet
- The RCA is required by the Home Office to keep up-to-date records as your visa sponsor. Please help us by reporting your new address if you move to the RCA intranet web pages
Police Registration is no longer required Some students were previously required to register with the Police within seven days of arriving in the UK. However, in early August 2022, it was announced that this requirement has been abolished. This change applies to those who have already registered with the Police and who have a condition to register with the Police listed as a requirement of their visa. You can read the Public Notice announcing this change.
Online Q&A sessions
If you're unsure of your situation or would like to speak to our student support team directly, please join one of our free online Q&A sessions. Dates will be announced soon.