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How to apply for a Tier 4 Visa

Students chatting in the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall
The following information will take you through the process of applying for a Tier 4 visa, either from your home country or from the UK, and outlines the evidence you need to provide in support of your application. Applying for a visa is a lengthy process so please ensure you leave yourself enough time.   

If you are applying for a brand new Tier 4 visa you must make your application in your home country. If you are extending an existing visa you have the option of doing so from the UK. Both methods require supporting evidence. It is vitally important that you take the time to prepare this evidence properly. If there are mistakes, omissions or incorrectly dated documents your application will almost certainly be refused. 

The Royal College of Music is classed as ‘Tier 4 Sponsor’ by the Home Office. As of 6 April 2015 this is the new term for ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor’. Verification can be found on the Register of Licenced Sponsors.

You can find the RCM’s Sponsor Licence number on your CAS statement.

Applying outside the UK

First make sure you have an unconditional offer from the RCM. You cannot apply for a Tier 4 visa if you still have offer conditions to fulfill.

Secondly, make sure you have applied for and received your CAS. You begin complete the visa application process without it.

Important

Please ensure you read all the relevant information on the UK Government website

UK Government information on Tier 4 visas

Preparing supporting documents

As part of the application process you must submit documents as supporting evidence of your eligibility for a visa. We strongly recommend you that prepare these documents before making your online application. Every part of the process is date sensitive. If you prepare your documentation after the date of your online application you may be refused a visa.

Your supporting documents will include:

If you have previously lived in the UK you will need to enclose your previous UK visa(s) and Police Registration Certificate (if you were previously required to register with the Police).

If you will not be 18 at the point of application, you must provide a letter from your parents confirming they give permission for you to apply.

Keep an extra copy of everything you prepare. You may need them for reference once your application has been sent.

Making your application

Applications for Tier 4 visas should be made online. Paper forms are now only used in North Korea. UKVI's service standard for processing Tier 4 applications outside the UK is 15 working days.

Make sure you save a draft of the form and check it thoroughly before you click submit and pay – you cannot amend it later.

Apply online

You will also need to:

  • Pay the correct application fee (online in most countries).
  • Pay the immigration healthcare charge.
  • Print out your completed form and application cover sheet.

Visiting a visa application centre

Once you have completed your online application you will need to book and attend an appointment at a Visa Application Centre, where your 'biometrics' (fingerprints and a photograph) will also be taken.

Find a visa application centre

Visa Interviews

You may be asked to participate in a short video interview with a member of UKVI staff based in the UK. 

This is sometimes called a 'credibility interview' and is for UKVI staff to check that you are a genuine student. Unfortunately there have been some fraudulent applications, so UKVI now makes random checks. If you are asked to take part in a credibility interview you should not feel worried – it doesn’t mean there is a problem with your application.

You can expect to be asked simple questions in English. If you don’t understand a question or the interviewer’s accent don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat or re-phrase their question. 

Typical questions will be about the RCM and why you chose to study there, where the RCM is located, where you will be living and basic details about your course. You should make sure you know this information.

Testing for tuberculosis

Applicants from some countries must have a tuberculosis test at a Home Office approved clinic before applying. 

This includes students from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa. The Home Office provides more information on who needs to be tested and how to get tested.

Do I need a tuberculosis test?

Applying inside the UK (extending your existing visa)

You can only apply for a Tier 4 Visa in the UK if you already have a valid Tier 4 visa that you are extending.

First make sure you have an unconditional offer from the RCM. You cannot apply for a Tier 4 visa if you still have offer conditions to fulfill.

Secondly, make sure you have applied for and received your CAS. You cannot begin the visa application process without it.

Important

Please ensure you read all the relevant information on the UK Government website

UK Government information on Tier 4 visas

If you are already studying in London, we strongly recommend that you contact the International team who can check your application form and documents before you submit. Please allow at least a week to arrange an appointment, as the summer visa application period is extremely busy.

International team

International student enquiries

international@rcm.ac.uk

When to apply to extend your visa

You must apply to extend your visa before your existing visa expires, otherwise you will become an 'overstayer', which is a breach of the conditions of your visa. If you are classed as an overstayer your new visa application is likely to be refused and, depending on how long you have overstayed, you could be made to leave the UK and barred from applying to return for several years.

If you think there is any risk of you not applying to extend your visa in time, please contact our International team for guidance.

Once you have submitted your application, you can stay in the UK until you receive a decision, even beyond your existing Tier 4 visa's expiry date, but you must have applied before it expired.

Students already studying in the UK who will be starting a new course

If you have an existing Tier 4 visa for studies that you are about to complete, please apply for a new visa before starting your new course. Tier 4 visas are linked with a sponsoring institution and a specific course. If your previous visa was linked to another institution there is no way of transferring that visa to the RCM.

If you have applied for your new visa in the UK and are still waiting for a decision from UKVI in September, the RCM is exceptionally permitted to enrol you if you meet both of the following conditions:

  • You have been issued with a CAS for your new course.

And

  • You submitted your new Tier 4 application before your existing visa expired.

You will only be able to enrol if you bring all of the following to new student check-in:

  • A photocopy of your passport.
  • A photocopy of your existing visa showing you still had valid leave when you applied for the new visa.
  • The Tier 4 application cover sheet showing the date you paid for and submitted the application online.

If you have just finished a course at the RCM, UKVI has agreed to an exceptional temporary arrangement that allows you to register using your old visa if it is unavoidable, provided you submit your new application within six weeks of the date of enrolment (17 September 2018). This should normally only be necessary for students with late assessments in September.

Please note that, in both scenarios, you register at your own risk should the application be refused.

Late September and early October are peak period for visa applications. Applications submitted during this period take longer to process and there is a very high risk that your new visa will not be issued before the Christmas vacation. If this happens you might not be able to travel home. RCM staff are also very busy in September and October dealing with the start of the new academic year. We have limited time available to process your CAS and assist you with your application during this period.

Important

We strongly advise against registering using an old visa. If you do, please remember:

  • We can only register you using your old visa if the situation is unavoidable.
  • You register at your own risk should the application be refused.
  • You may not be able to travel home over the Christmas vacation.

You should make every effort to apply for your visa extension before September unless it is absolutely unavoidable.

Preparing supporting documents

As part of the application process you must submit documents as supporting evidence of your eligibility for a visa. We strongly recommend you that prepare these documents before making your online application. Every part of the process is date sensitive. If you prepare your documentation after the date of your online application you may be refused a visa.

Your supporting documents will include:

If you will not be 18 at the point of application, you must provide a letter from your parents confirming they give permission for you to apply.

Keep an extra copy of everything you prepare. You may need them for reference once your application has been sent.

Making your application

Applications for Tier 4 visas should be made online. Paper forms are now only used in North Korea. UKVI's service standard for processing Tier 4 applications outside the UK is 15 working days.

Make sure you save a draft of the form and check it thoroughly before you click submit and pay – you cannot amend it later.

Apply online

You will also need to:

  • Pay the correct application fee (online in most countries).
  • Pay the immigration healthcare charge.
  • Print out your completed form and application cover sheet.

Once UKVI receives your application, they will write to you to ask you to give your 'biometrics' (fingerprints and a photo) at a branch of the Post Office. You should do this as soon as you are asked, otherwise the processing of your application will be delayed.

Which service to choose

Whichever service you choose, you can expect to receive your BRP in the post around seven working days after UKVI makes a decision about your application. Please note, this is not seven days after the date of submission. The time between submitting you application and receiving a decision varies between service types and is detailed below. 

Standard Service

With Standard Service you complete and submit your application and pay the fee online. The date of submission is considered to be the application date. You then have 15 working days to post the printed cover sheet and documents to UKVI. You will also be invited to attend an appointment at a Post Office to give your biometrics before your application is decided, which you should do as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary delays. 

You will receive a decision from UKVI within 8 weeks of the date of application.

The fee for Standard Service is currently £457.

Priority Postal Service

With Priority Postal Service you complete and check your application, but do not submit it straight away. Before submitting, you must complete a request form for the Priority Postal Service and e-mail it to UKVI at the address on the form.

Only the first 60 priority requests submitted each day after 8.30am Monday–Friday will be accepted, so be sure to submit your request early. You will receive an email notification from UKVI to tell you if your request has been successful.

You must now submit your application online and pay the fee within 24 hours of receiving the notification. The date you submit is considered to be your application date. Post the printed cover sheet and documents to UKVI within two days (you will probably need to use a courier or special delivery). You will also be invited to attend an appointment at a Post Office to give your biometrics before your application is decided, which you must do within two working days.

You will receive a decision from UKVI within ten working days of the date of application.

The fee for Priority Postal Service is currently £900.

Premium Service

With Premium Service you complete your visa application and submit and pay for it online. Your application date is considered to be the date you submit the application and not the date of your appointment. This is important to remember when preparing your financial documents.

When paying, you must make sure you select and pay the Premium Service fee. You will then be taken through to the booking system to make an appointment at a Premium Service Centre, which you must attend within 45 days of application. Please note that July–September is a peak period and availability of appointments may be limited. Your biometrics will be taken at the appointment.

This route is not recommended if you have a complicated immigration history such as a previous curtailment, as this may require further investigation by UKVI and you may not get a decision on the day. 

You will receive a decision from UKVI on the day of the appointment in most cases.

The fee for Premium Service is currently: £1,047

Visa interviews

You may be asked to participate in a short video interview with a member of UKVI staff based in the UK.

This is sometimes called a 'credibility interview' and is for UKVI staff to check that you are a genuine student. Unfortunately there have been some fraudulent applications, so UKVI now makes random checks. If you are asked to take part in a credibility interview you should not feel worried – it doesn’t mean there is a problem with your application.

You can expect to be asked simple questions in English. If you don’t understand a question or the interviewer’s accent don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat or re-phrase their question.

Typical questions will be about the RCM and why you chose to study there, where the RCM is located, where you will be living and basic details about your course. You should make sure you know this information.