Applying for a Student Visa

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 and you are not an EEA or Swiss national, you will need to apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa before travelling to the UK. It is not possible for students of any nationality to apply for leave to remain in this category upon arrival in the UK. Click here for the RCA guide for applications made outside the UK. 

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.

How to Apply for a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa

You will need to complete the online application form on the Visa4UK website.

Before making the application please make sure that you have read and understand the information provided on the Home Office website.

Application for a Tier 4 visa cannot be made until three months prior to your official start date.


You will need to include the following documents with your application:

  • Passport(s)/travel document(s)
  • Two recent passport photographs
  • Payment – £335 for an application outside of the UK
  • Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) reference number
  • Evidence of qualifications (as stated in your Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS)
  • Evidence of English language ability (as stated in your CAS)
  • Evidence that you meet the tuition and maintenance costs
  • 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

If you are a national of one of the countries listed here, you are subject to different documentary requirements.

This means you are required to provide fewer evidential documents when submitting your application. However, the Home Office may request to see these documents at a later point, so you must ensure that you have original copies available.

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 then 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. 

Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS)

In order to apply for your visa the College will need to issue you with a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS). This is a unique reference number which proves that you have been offered a place at the College, and includes information about the course and you the applicant.

Once you have accepted an offer of a place at the College, you will be asked to send a copy of your passport and to pay a deposit. Upon doing this you will be issued with a CAS. For most students this will be in June.

You will be sent an email confirming your CAS number and details of the information included on the CAS. You will need to enter the number in your application form, but do not need to submit the actual email.

Evidence of Finances

You will need to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to cover the first-year tuition fee and maintenance costs for up to nine months for you and any dependents. 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. 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. 

One month's maintenance for students studying in London – £1,265 or £11,385 in total 

One month's maintenance for each dependent – £845 or £7,605 in total 

Information on how you can demonstrate these funds can be found in the Tier 4 Policy Guidance on the Gov.UK website.

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

As of the 6 April 2015 the Home Office made changes to the acceptable English language qualifications.

If you are applying from outside the UK, the Home Office will only accept an IELTS UKVI Academic test result.

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.

Obtaining your Tier 4 visa

Under new regulations introduced in July 2015 the Tier 4 visa will no longer be stamped in your passport. Instead 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 (N.B. 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 are required to collect your Biometric Resident Permit (BRP) from the Post Office selected on your Tier 4 application within 10 days. The BRP holds your Tier 4 visa for the duration of your studies at the RCA and you will need to carry this with your passport whenever you travel outside of the UK.

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 of 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.

Registering with the Police

If you are a national of one of the following countries you will be required to register with the police within seven days of arriving in the UK: 

Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Palestine, Peru, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yemen. 

For more information and details of the current registration process please visit the Overseas Visitors Records Office website.

If you are staying in London within the Metropolitan Police area you should register in person at the Overseas Visitors Records Office on Borough High Street. Opening hours are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9am – 4pm.

In order to register you will need to take:

  • Your passport, as well as a copy of the identity page from your passport and a copy of your visa from your passport.
  • Registration fee (£34).
  • Two passport photographs (photographs must be cut to passport photograph size and stapled to the completed proforma).
  • A copy of your Biometric card (both sides) if applicable.

Please note: You will not be registered unless you have ALL of these documents.

Once registered, you will be given a Certificate of Registration.

For more information please visit the Overseas Visitors Records Office website.

You must inform the police of any changes to your address within seven days and of any changes to the other details on your certificate within eight days.

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