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Making a Tier 4 (General) Application from Outside the UK

This information is intended for students coming from overseas to study. If you are already in the UK and need to extend your student visa, see our Extending Your Student Visa section.

If you are coming to the RCA to study You will need to apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa if you are an international student from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and you want to study a full-time course of more than six months.

To apply for a Tier 4 (General) visa you will need to meet specific criteria. Tier 4 is part of the points based system of immigration in the UK, meaning that you have to obtain a certain number of points to be eligible for the visa. Tier 4 requires 40 points made up from:

  • A CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) from the RCA (30 points)
  • Documents demonstrating the required finances (living costs and tuition fees) (10 points)

You should not apply for your visa until three months prior to your course starting and until you have received your Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) from the Registry. 

Please note the information below is for guidance purposes only. Students are advised to consult the Gov.UK website and Tier 4 policy guidance prior to making any application.

What is a CAS?

A CAS is a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies. It is an electronic document that is used in your Tier 4 (General) visa application. The document will have a number on it which you will write in your online visa application. This will allow the Home Office to match up the information in your visa application, to the information on your CAS which the RCA has created for you.

Your CAS will list key details about you and your place at the RCA such as:

  • Your name
  • Your date of birth
  • Your passport number
  • Your programme name
  • Your start and end dates
  • The RCA's sponsor licence number
  • Your tuition fees due
  • Your tuition fees paid
  • The documents the College has seen to make an academic assessment (usually academic certificates)
  • Your English Language proficiency
 It is very important that all of the details on the CAS are correct and up-to-date, and that you complete your visa application online with the exact details from your CAS. If you have any questions about your CAS, please contact the Admissions team.

Applying for a Tier 4 (General) visa

To be ready to apply for your Tier 4 (General) visa, follow the steps below:

  1. You need to hold an unconditional offer to study at the RCA
  2. You must have paid all deposits due for your programme, and you must have firmly accepted your offer
  3. You will be issued a CAS for your visa application. Please note that you may only apply for a Tier 4 visa within three 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)
  4. Applications can be made online through either one of two links: Visa4UK or Access UK. The Home Office is currently phasing out Visa4UK, however, in the meantime, both systems remain available to use.
Download the RCA guide for applications made outside the UK using the Visa4UK website (PDF). 

Required Documents 

There are certain documents that are required for your visa application to be successful. These documents will be needed at the point of making your visa application.

  • Passport(s)/travel document(s)
  • A CAS from the RCA (30 points) 
  • Two recent passport photographs (no older than 1 month old)
  • Evidence  to show you have the correct finances (tuition fees + living costs), (10 points) 
  • Evidence of qualifications (as stated in your CAS)
  • Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) (you will be required to pay this once you submit your online application).
  • Payment – £348 for an application outside of the UK
  • Evidence of English language ability (as stated in your CAS)
  • Sponsor letter (if applicable – if you are sponsored for living costs and/or tuition fees then you will need a document proving this)
  • A letter from your parent/legal guardian if they are supporting you financially, and evidence of their relationship to you
  • A Tuberculosis test if you are resident in any of the countries on the Home Office list

All documents provided should be in English. Officially certified translations are accepted where necessary.

Differentiation Agreement (Low Risk Nationals)

If you are a national of one of the countries listed on Appendix H of the Immigration Rules , you are considered as a Low Risk National subject this means your visa application is simplified in that you require less documentary evidence to be submitted with your visa application. 

You can only qualify as a Low Risk National if you are being sponsored by a sponsor with Tier 4 Sponsor status (the RCA has Tier 4 Sponsor status); and if you are applying for entry clearance in your country of nationality, country of residence, or for leave to remain in the UK

However, the Home Office may request to see these documents at a later point, so you must ensure that you have original copies available.

From 6 July 2018, there are 11 new ‘low risk’ countries to be added to Appendix H of the Immigration Rules. These new countries/territories are:

  • China
  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia
  • Thailand
  • Bahrain
  • Kuwait
  • Maldives
  • Dominican Republic
  • Mexico
  • Serbia
  • Macau

Oman, which is currently on the list of Appendix H, is to be removed from 6 July 2018. 

Failure to provide original copies of documents when requested may result in your application being refused.

Note: You are only eligible for the differentiation agreement if you are a national of one of the listed countries applying from your home country or the UK. Exemption is not applicable if you apply from another country. 

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

As part of the Tier 4 visa application, you will be required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) which will entitle you to receive free health care under the National Health Service (NHS). The Charge is £150 for each year of the visa and £75 for any additional months totalling less than six. If the additional months are over six months the full £150 applies. You can calculate how much you will need to pay on the Home Office website. The IHS is an integrated part of the Tier 4 visa application and does not need to be applied for separately. 

Evidence of Finances

You will need to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to cover the first-year tuition fee and living costs for up to nine months for you and any dependents for a Tier 4 (General) visa in one of the accepted formats listed in the Tier 4 policy guidance

You must demonstrate:

  • Living costs of £11,385 (£1,265 per month up to 9 months ) 
  • Living costs of £7,605 for each dependant (£845 per month up to 9 months)

The funds must be in a bank account in your name for a minimum of 28 consecutive days. The bank statement cannot be 31 days old from the date of your Tier 4 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.

Evidence of Qualifications

You will need to provide evidence of the qualifications used to assess your application. These will be listed on your CAS. You will also need to submit certified translated copies alongside the originals if they are not in English.

Evidence of English Language Ability

You must show that you meet the requirements in order to be issued a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) from the RCA. The CAS will confirm that you have met the English language requirements, and you will not be required to submit further evidence.

After Submitting Your Visa Application

It is possible that the Home Office will require you to have an interview before granting you a visa to come and study in the UK. Therefore you might be sent an email asking you to attend an interview as part of the application process. This is referred to as a 'credibility interview'.

Credibility Interview Tips

  • Check your emails ( including your 'junk' folder) regularly, as your application is likely to be refused if you miss this interview.
  • Interviews take place when you attend a visa application centre to give your biometric information and are normally conducted by video link with a caseworker in the UK. The caseworker will ask you about your degree, where you want to study, why you chose the RCA, and your wider reasons for studying in the UK. You may also be asked wider questions about your visa and education history, and/or financial circumstances. 
  • The Entry Clearance Officer must be satisfied that you are a genuine student, and that your English language ability is at the correct level, otherwise you might be called for a further interview and/or your entry clearance application may be refused.

What if my visa is refused?

If you have received a refusal after a Tier 4 visa application, you must inform the Student Support Team and the Admissions team as soon as possible. Please send a scan of your entire refusal notice paperwork to Admissions and Student Support Office, and individuals in the teams will help you through the next steps. If you think the refusal was incorrect, based on the evidence you submitted with your application, you may be able to request an 'administrative review' of the decision to refuse it. There is no fee for this if you are submitting an administrative review overseas, but you must request the administrative review within 28 days of the date you receive your refusal notice. Please note that you cannot produce new or different documents for an administrative review. You can read Home Office guidance to administrative reviews online. We would advise you to consult the Student Support Office before lodging an administrative review where possible so that they can help advise you on the procedure and process

After your visa has been granted

How do I get my new visa and what is a BRP card? 

When you apply from outside the UK, you will be issued a 30-day entry stamp and a letter from the Home Office. The stamp 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 30-day entry stamp and the Home Office letter.

Upon entering the UK, you must collect your Biometric Resident Permit (BRP) from the Post Office selected on your Tier 4 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 10 days may result in a fine or your visa being cancelled.

When can I enter the UK?

You can arrive in the UK prior to your course starting. If you are on a course lasting 12 months or more, you will be allowed to enter one month prior to the official start date of the course. 

If you are studying for less than six months you will be allowed to enter one week prior to the official start date of the course.


If you have any queries about the visa application process, you should contact the Student Support Office.