Back to top      

How to apply for a Student visa

Students chatting in the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall
The following information will take you through the process of applying for a Student 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 can take some time, so please ensure you plan for this before the start of your course.

Please note that the Student visa route replaced the former Tier 4 (General) Student visa route from 5 October 2020.

If you are applying for a brand new Student visa you must make your application in your home country, or a country where you are resident (not just visiting). If you are extending an existing UK visa you have the option of doing so from the UK (known as applying for "permission to stay"). It is very important that you understand what supporting documentation you need to submit with your application. If there are mistakes, omissions or incorrectly dated documents there is a high risk your application will be refused. However, don't worry! Our friendly International team will be here to support you through the process.

The information below describes the standard visa application process. Please note that due to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak there may be disruption to the availability of services at Visa Application Centres in some locations, and processes and timelines may be subject to change. You are advised to check availability at your local Visa Application Centre and the latest Home Office guidance before applying.   

The Royal College of Music is licenced to sponsor migrants under the Student route of the UK's points-based immigration system. 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 Student visa if you still have offer conditions to fulfill.

Secondly, make sure you have applied for and received your CAS. You cannot 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 Student 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, to avoid unnecessary delays. Documents are assessed based on the date you submit your online application: if they are dated after that date, your application will be at risk of refusal.

Your supporting documents will include:

  • A valid passport
  • Evidence of meeting the finance requirements (unless you are subject to specific exemptions)
  • Certified translations of any documents that are not in English
  • tuberculosis test certificate (only applicable to residents of certain countries)
  • Anything else you are told is required as part of the application process

As the RCM is a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance, you should not normally be required to submit copies of your academic qualifications or English language qualifications.  However, the RCM must confirm that it has verified these qualifications on your CAS.

If you have previously lived in the UK you will need to enclose your previous UK visa/BRP and up to date 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 extra copies of everything you prepare. You may need them for reference once your application has been sent.

Making your application

Applications for Student visas should be made online. Paper forms are now only used in North Korea. UKVI's service standard for processing Student applications outside the UK is 15 working days. Faster priority services may be available in some locations, however please note that these are currently disrupted due to coronavirus.

Apply online

You will also need to:

Proving your identity

As part of your application you will need to prove your identity.  How you do this depends on where you are from and what type of passport you have. You will either:

  • attend an appointment at a Visa Application Centre (VAC) to give your biometric information (fingerprints and a photograph)
  • use the UK Immigration:ID Check app to scan your identity document

You will receive details of what you need to do after you submit your application. 

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 Student Visa in the UK if you already have a previous valid Student visa or Tier 4 (General) Student visa. It is also possible to switch to a Student visa from some other visa categories inside the UK (if you hold a different type of visa, make sure you check before applying). It is not possible to switch from a Visitor visa to a Student visa inside the UK.

First make sure you have an unconditional offer from the RCM. You cannot apply for a Student 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 Student visas

If you are already studying in London, our International team can provide an application checking service to check your form and supporting documents before you submit. Appointments may be via Teams or in person. 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 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 Student visa / Tier 4 (General) Student visa for studies that you have just completed, you should apply for a new visa before starting your new course. Student visas / 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 Student visa 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:

  • Your passport.
  • Your existing visa showing you still had valid leave when you applied for the new visa.
  • The Student Visa application cover sheet showing the date you paid for and submitted the application online.

If you have just finished a course at the RCM, there is a concession in the Immigration Rules 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. 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 can take longer to process and there is a risk that your new visa will not be issued before the Christmas vacation. If this happens you might not be able to travel home, so it is recommended to apply as soon as possible.

Important

We advise against registering using an old visa if possible. 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 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, to avoid unnecessary delays. Documents are assessed based on the date you submit your online application: if they are dated after that date, your application will be at risk of refusal.

Your supporting documents will include:

  • Your passport
  • Your existing UK visa or Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
  • Police Registration Certificate (PRC) if you were required to register with the police as part of your visa conditions (ensure your address is up to date)
  • Certified translations of any documents that are not in English
  • tuberculosis test certificate (only applicable to residents of certain countries)
  • Anything else you are told is required as part of the application process


As the RCM is a Higher Education Provider with a track record of compliance, you should not normally be required to submit copies of your academic qualifications or English language qualifications. However, the RCM must confirm that it has verified these qualifications on your CAS.

Students applying to extend their permission to stay in the UK, who have been resident in the UK for the last 12 months, are exempt from the requirement to provide evidence of their finances.

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

Making your application

Applications for Student visas in the UK should be made online. 

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:

Proving your identity

As part of your application you will need to prove your identity. How you do this depends on where you are from and type of passport you have.  You will either:

  • Give your biometric information (fingerprints and a photograph) at a UK Visa and Citizenship Applications Service (UKVCAS) service point
  • Use the UK Immigration: ID Check app to scan your identity document

You will receive a notification when you apply with instructions of what you need to do.  Please note that it is currently taking a week or more for notifications to be received after submitting an application, so don't worry if you do not receive something immediately.

Important

During the application process you will be able to retain your original documents, including your passport. However, you must not travel outside the UK whilst your application is being considered. If you do, you will be considered to have withdrawn your application and you may be refused re-entry to the UK.

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. 

For all services, you complete and submit your application, upload copies of your documents and pay the application fee and Immigration Health Surcharge online. The date of online submission is considered to be the application date. Instructions will then be provided on how to prove your identity.

If you are required to attend a UKVCAS centre, you can choose between different types of centre. There are six core service centre offering free appointments. The nearest centre to the RCM is located in Croydon. You may choose to pay a supplement to attend an enhanced service centre (available at a number of locations across London), for example if you need a greater choice of appointment times. Some UKVCAS centres will also offer additional optional user pay services. We recommend that you only pay for these additional services if you really need them. Please note that during the peak application period (July - October) you may have to wait some time (sometimes up to several weeks) for an appointment.

Standard Service

You should receive a decision from UKVI within 8 weeks of submitted your identify/biometric information.

The fee for Standard Service is currently £475. You may need to pay a further £19.20 to have your biometric information taken.

Priority Service

You should receive a decision from UKVI within 10 working days of the appointment, in most cases.

Please note that this service may not be available due to coronavirus, so we recommend that you do not rely on the availability of priority services when planning your application. You are advised to check before applying.

Super Priority Service

You should receive a decision from UKVI on the the next working day after the appointment, in most cases.

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 next day decision.

Please note that this service may not be available due to coronavirus, so we recommend that you do not rely on the availability of priority services when planning your application. You are advised to check before applying. 

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.