Tier 4 Visa Advice: Applying overseas

Tier 4 visa

New students applying for a Tier 4 visa overseas

This page is aimed at new students who do not have a current visa to study in the UK and need to apply for their Tier 4 visa from overseas.

You may also find this page useful if you have been advised to apply for your visa from overseas and you are a student currently studying at Aston, or you have finished a course at another university in the UK.

There is a lot of information to go through on this page so if you do not understand anything, please do contact us for further advice.

Please see our International Student News and Updates page for the latest Tier 4 updates

Important update 14/01/2019: The Immigration Health Surcharge increase has come into affect from the 8th January 2019. All visa applications made after this date will be subject to a higher charge.

* Important update 30/11/2018: The Immigration Health Surcharge increase will come into effect on or after the 19th December 2018. Read our news site above for further information. 

Important update 05/11/2018: Passport sized photographs are no longer required for a visa application

We advise that you use our guidance and complete the visa application yourself.

But if you enlist the help of an agent to assist you in the visa application, then we strongly advise that you still make sure all of your documents and application form is correct and meet the visa requirements.

The UKVI cannot reconsider a visa refusal due to mistakes made by yourself or a third party. 

All advice given through the International Student Advisers at Aston is free and confidential. 

If you are planning to do any of these full time courses at Aston University and are not a UK or EEA/EU national then you will require a Tier 4 visa.

  • Bachelors course including integrated masters (e.g. BSc, BA, BEng, MPharm, MOptom, MEng)
  • Taught postgraduate masters course (e.g. MA, MBA, LLM. MSc)
  • PhD and research (e.g. MPhil, PhD, MRes)
  • Pre-sessional English course
  • Exchange programme (more than 6 months)
  • International Foundation Programme

The kind of visa you will need will usually be confirmed to you during the admissions stage. If you have been advised to get a Short Term Study visa, please refer to this page

If it is confirmed that you need a Tier 4 visa, in the online visa application form, we advise that you apply for the Tier 4 (General) Student visa. Even if you are receiving official financial scholarship. 

The "Tier 4 Student visa (for Chevening, Marshal and Commonwealth scholars)" is only relevant if you are receiving these specific scholarships.

You are allowed to apply for your visa up to 3 months before your course start date.

The aim is to apply as early as possible but keep in mind that you cannot apply for your visa until you meet all of the requirements 

But first, think of the visa application in two stages: 

1) First get all the right documents to show you meet the Tier 4 requirements. You can do this while you are waiting for your CAS

2) Apply for the visa online and complete the application process. 

You will need to apply from the country where you are a resident and usually through a UKVI partner. This will either be TLScontact or VFS global depending on your country.

"Resident" usually means the country which you are living. This is likely the country you are a national of but could also mean the country where you work or study.

You can't apply in a country where you are just a visitor.  

Everyone will apply for a Tier 4 visa using the UKVI online application portal (except North Korean nationals who must apply using a paper form) but before you proceed with the online form, you must first get all the right documents to show you meet the requirements.

The documents you provide will decide whether your visa application will be successful or refused. 

If you are unsure where to apply then please contact us.

A Tier 4 visa is the right visa to do a full time course in the UK and a majority of overseas students will require this visa.

Unless you have another visa which allows full time study in the UK (e.g. Spouse visa, dependant visa, Indefinite leave to remain) then a Tier 4 visa is the correct route. 


 Documents all applicants will need:  Documents you might need: 

CAS number - This is an electronic document and does not need to be printed unless advised

Tuberculosis (TB) clearance certificate (if you are applying from a country that requires this)

All passports/travel document

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) clearance certificate (if you are due to study a course at Aston which requires this)

Biometric Residence Permit  (BRP - if you have one)

Letter of consent from parents allowing you to use their funds  (only if you are using their financial evidence) 

Official documents showing you meet the financial requirements (e.g. Bank statement, Bank letter, official financial sponsorship letter) 

Original birth certificate  (only if using parent's financial evidence)

Official qualification  (degree/transcript) showing you have successfully completed the course your offer was based on

Letter of consent from parents allowing you to travel and live independently  (only if you are under 18 at the time of application)


Official translations (if any of these documents are not in English/Welsh)


Proof that you can apply from the country you are in (Only if you are applying in a country where you are not a citizen) 

This is just a general checklist. The documents you provide to support your visa application are very important and must meet certain requirements so please see the section below for more information about each document.     

Please ensure your documents meet the criteria as listed in the Tier 4 application guidance before applying. You are aiming to obtain all necessary documents in the right format before you move on to applying for your visa online. If you have any worries please  contact us for advice.

Getting a CAS number is a compulsory part of your visa application and it will show the UKVI that we will sponsor you for study at Aston University.

The CAS number is a unique sponsorship number which Aston will create for you if you are eligible for one and once you obtain and accept an unconditional offer. You may also have to pay a deposit for certain courses.

It is an electronic document so it will be sent to you via email and contain information about your course as well as your personal information 

You will need to do is check all information on the CAS is correct (e.g. personal details, course information and tuition fees paid) and then copy and paste the CAS number into your online application form when asked.

Getting an unconditional offer is not a guarantee you will get a CAS. Aston is legally obligated to assess your eligibility for a CAS number regardless of an unconditional offer. We must assess a variety of factors like an applicant's previous immigration history in the UK, visa refusals and how long someone has already spent studying in the UK

During the admissions stage, you will be sent a  Pre-CAS questionnaire to complete. It is crucial you complete this quickly and accurately so we can make a proper assessment.

Please inform the visa compliance team of any previous visa refusals or pending visa applications .

Pre-CAS example

You will need to provide your current passport for this visa application and it is advised you have at least 6 months left on it.

In addition to this, you will also need to provide any previous passports which you have used to travel to the UK.

The online visa application form will ask if you have a second nationality. It is up to you which nationality will be your primary nationality for this visa application, the visa requirements will be the same except for some special arrangements for low risk nationals



You should only have a BRP card if you had a previous visa in the UK. If you do have a BRP card with you overseas, then you should submit it with your visa application. If you have never had a BRP card before then ignore this section. 

The UKVI will issue you a new one when you arrive in the UK. Please see section "What do I need to do after I submit the visa application form?" for more information about this. 

Financial evidence is a key part of the visa application and the most common reason for visa refusals. It is very specific and we encourage all students to check their financial evidence with us before they apply for their visa.

This section will be quite long but it is very important that you understand it. Please click the image below for our separate financial evidence page

Financial requirements page

As part of your Tier 4 visa application, you must provide the original academic qualifications which Aston university assessed to give you an unconditional offer.

The Home Office need to see this  as proof you have successfully obtained that qualification, and if you are unsure what that qualification was, then it will be written on your CAS.

*Waiting to confirm that you have completed a course can be one of the biggest reasons for delays in CAS production.

The original academic qualification will usually be an official certificate or transcript but this will include any English Language Tests also e.g. IELTS

The qualification must show:

  • your name; and 
  • the title of the award;
  • the date of the award; and
  • the name of the awarding institution
  • Confirmation of award if using a Transcript


CAS qual

TB example

Students who will be applying for their Tier 4 visa from any of the countries listed herewill usually require a Tuberculosis clearance certificate as part of their Tier 4 visa application.

If you will be applying from any of these countries then you will definitely require a Tuberculosis clearance certificate if:

  • You will be coming to the UK for over 6 months
  • You have been in that country for more than 6 months (e.g. living there since birth)

 You can only get the Tuberculosis certificate from approved UKVI clinics and the certificate must be included as part of your supporting documents. 

Please refer to the UKVI website for more information about where you can get your Tuberculosis certificate if you need one. 

ATAS means Academic Technology Approval scheme and it is a mandatory security clearance certificate for certain postgraduate courses.

You will be told if you need an ATAS certificate during the admission stage if you are unsure. If it is confirmed that you do not need an ATAS certificate then please ignore this section.

If you do require an ATAS certificate then you will apply for it using a free online service. There are some important things to know about ATAS:

  1. You will require some information from Aston University to complete and this will usually be given to you once you get a conditional offer
  2. Once you finish the ATAS application, it can take around 1 month hear back from the Home Office. This means that you need to apply as early as possible.
  3. A CAS cannot be issued without ATAS clearance first
  4. Once you get ATAS clearance and if there are any major changes to your course (e.g. significant research proposal change or course start date is delayed by 3 months), then you will require a new ATAS certificate.
  5. You are allowed to apply for multiple ATAS (if you hold offers for different universities)
  6. You can submit an ATAS application up to 6 months before the programme start date, even if the offer is still conditional

Once you get your ATAS certificate, you will have to print it out and include with your application. An ATAS certificate must be used in a visa application within 6 months of getting it. 

  1. You can find more information about ATAS on the official website here.
  2. You will apply for your ATAS certificate using the online form here
  3. Click the picture belowt for our guide about how to complete the ATAS application.    

ATAS guidance

If you will be using financial evidence that is in the name of your parents/legal guardians then you will need some extra documents. Please remember, this is not the same as your parents giving you the money to hold in your own account.

The evidence from your parents must contain all of the same information and meet the same rules as explained in the "financial evidence section" but you need to also include:

  • An original birth certificate to prove the relationship with your parents/legal guardian. If you are relying on a legal guardian's financial evidence then an official court document can be used but please get this checked with us.
  • An original letter of consent from your parents/ legal guardian explaining their relationship with you and that they give you permission to use their funds for your study in the UK. Have a look at the example here.

If you are relying on your parents financial evidence and do not include these documents then the financial evidence will be invalid.  

Under 18 years old

If you are under 18 years old then you will need to include a letter of consent from your parents which explicitly states that they give you permission to travel and live in the UK independently. If the Home Office cannot see that this permission has been given then they will refuse the application.

Letter of parental consent

Every one of these documents must be in English (or Welsh)

This means all the original documents must be readable in English and if they are not, then you must provide an official English translation to accompany the document. 

If the document is not in English or no official translation is provided, then the document will not be accepted and this can lead to a visa refusal.

*You cannot translate the document yourself.

An official translation must include the following information so the Home Office can independently verify it: 

  • it must contain confirmation from the translator/translation company that it is an accurate translation of the original document 
  • the date of the translation,  
  • the translator/an authorised official of the translation company’s full name and signature, and  
  • the translator/translation company’s contact details

Most reputable translators will include the above information but please check that the translator you choose will definitely include the above information

Translation Example

This is only relevant if you are applying from a country where you are not a citizen. 

The UKVI rule is that you can only apply for your Tier 4 visa from the country you are resident or "living in". This can mean your country of nationality, or it can also mean the country where you work, live or study and have a valid permit/visa to do so. 

If this applies to you then you will likely have to submit proof of this permit/visa that allows you to be in that country.

You should not apply from a country where you are just a visitor/tourist


Nationals of some countries do not need to provide evidence of their qualifications or their money when they apply for Tier 4 (General). The Home Office calls this the 'differentiation arrangement' for 'low-risk applicants'. 

You are a 'low-risk' applicant if you are applying for Tier 4 (General) to study at an institution that has Tier 4 Sponsor status, and:

  • you are a national of Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Botswana, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, The Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, The Maldives, Mexico, New Zealand , Qatar, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, and you are applying for entry clearance in your country of nationality, the country you are living or for a visa extension in the UK; or 
  • you hold a Hong Kong SAR passport* or a British National (Overseas) passport and you are applying for entry clearance in Hong Kong, or for leave to remain in the UK; or
  • you hold a Taiwan (ROC) passport* with a residence card number, and you are applying for entry clearance in Taiwan, or for leave to remain in the UK.

* On the Tier 4 application form, select 'Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China' or 'Taiwan' (as appropriate) as your nationality.

It is very important that as a low-risk applicant you still obtain the evidence of your qualifications and your money, even though you do not need to send them. This is because the Home Office can request this evidence as part of their decision process and they will refuse your application if you are unable to provide it within a specified time-frame. 

We will always advise that low-risk nationals prepare their documents in the same way as normal applicants.


Once you have all necessary documents to show you meet the Tier 4 visa requirements, you can then move on to completing the visa application form online.

You can draft and save the form anytime you like, even whilst you are getting your documents ready. But it is important not to submit it until you are sure your documents clearly show you meet the Tier 4 visa requirements. 

Please read about BRP pick up location in the section below.

*VERY IMPORTANT - The UKVI will count the day you pay for the application as the official date you applied. All visa requirements should have been met by the day you pay for the application. For example, you should have already held money for 28 days and gotten the correct documents to show this by the time you pay for the application. You cannot pay for the application and then wait 28 days. 

You can find the online application form here

Click the picture on the right for guidance on how to complete the form. 

UKVI Tier 4 application form thumbnail

You will be making two payments for this visa application

Standard Visa application fee 

Current fee is  £348

This fee is subject to change and you will pay the equivalent of this fee in whatever your home currency is.

This is also the standard application fee for any dependants you include on your application.

Depending on which country you are applying from, there are usually services you can pay for that can expedite your visa application. If you want to explore using any of these extra services, find the UKVI partner which operates in your country and the information will be on their website.

TLS Contact


Please note that some countries may ask you to "Register with a Commercial Partner" in order to proceed with your visa application. This will usually be in countries where there are a low number of visa applications to the UK or the Home Office presence is low. You may be asked to pay an extra administration charge equivalent to £55 which should be paid at the same time as the visa application fee  

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)  

This is the fee you must pay as a mandatory part of this visa application and it will cover the use of the national health service in the UK. You are only liable to pay this charge if you will get a Tier 4 visa that is over 6 months long.

It will be £300 per year for however long your visa will be.

Please note that your entire Tier 4 visa length usually includes 1 month before course start date and 4 months after the end date therefore the IHS charge will likely be rounded up to the nearest 6 months. Approximate calculations of your IHS fee will be based on the course start and end dates on your CAS:

1 Year course: £450

3 Year course: £1050

4 Year course: £1350

5 Year course: £1650

*Please note that these  are estimates. Currency fluctuation (if paying in your home currency) and bespoke course lengths can affect these prices.  



The process can differ from country to country but the general idea is:

1) BRP pick up location
If your visa application is successful, you will notice when you get your passport back that you will only have a 30 day entry sticker. You have to enter the UK within these 30 days and you will collect a BRP card in the UK which will contain the full time for your Tier 4 visa. To collect your BRP card from Aston University you must write 2HE554 for the alternative collection code [ASTON STUDENTS ONLY]. You MUST collect your full visa issued on a BRP card within 10 days of arrival in the UK or before your 30 day entry visa expires, whichever is later. Please refer to the picture below for reference. 

2) Book an appointment at a visa application centre
You will book an appointment at a nearby visa application centre to submit your biometric information (fingerprint and facial scans). 
Usually, you will also be submitting your documents at this appointment but depending on the country, you may just be asked to post your documents after the biometric enrolment e.g. Visa Application Centres in the US will ask an applicant to post their documents to the British Consulate in New York after the biometric appointment. 
You may also be interviewed during the appointment. More on that later

3) Print the UKVI Checklist and attend appointment
You will be prompted to print the checklist and take this (along with all of your documents) to the appointment. Arrive in good time and once you have attended this appointment and documents have been submitted, you will usually just be waiting for a decision. 
Some visa application centres ask that you provide photocopies of all of your documents as well. We would usually advise that all applicants do this just so you have a copy of all documents being submitted. This will make challenging decisions easier. 

BRP Pick up new form

Usually the application process can take up to 15 working days (3 weeks) if you opted for the standard application. Paying for priority or super-priority services (if available) can shorten this time but with whatever application you decide to do, you need to factor in enough time to apply for your visa and arrive in the UK before the latest date of enrolment for your course. If you arrive after this date, we may not be able to accept you onto course despite you having a visa to study.

Be mindful that during the busy period (August to October), waiting times may be longer. 

You can see up to date processing times here


Most Tier 4 applications should be Interviewed as part of the Tier 4 visa process. Interviews take place when you attend a visa application centre to give your biometric information. It will be done via videolink with a Home Office member of staff in the UK and they will ask you questions about

  • The course you want to study
  • Why you want to study at Aston University
  • The reasons why you chose to study in the UK
  • And how the course fits into your future career plans

The transcript of your interview will be sent to the Home Office Entry Clearance Officer who decides your visa application. They will use it to determine your genuineness and English Language Ability. You may be called in for a further interview or your visa application may be refused if the Entry Clearance Officer determines you are not a genuine student.

We heavily recommend that you research your course in preparation for a credibility interview. 

We also advise that you read pages 100 - 105 of the Tier 4 Modernised guidance for further information about credibility interview factors

Please also watch the videos below (produced by INTO Study) for advice about how to conduct yourself in the credibility interview. 

  1. Student is well prepared
  2. Student is not well prepared

Once you go through all the above stages, you should just be waiting for a decision on your visa application

We hope everything goes well and we look forward to welcoming  you to Aston University

We encourage you to contact us at any point during this whole visa application process if you need help with anything. You can contact us by calling us on +44121 204 4007 or emailing us on astoninternational@aston.ac.uk 



The most important thing would be not to panic. Please contact us straight away so we can assess the reason for refusal and determine whether we can challenge the refusal or if you can apply again.

We will need to see the visa refusal decision letter and to see your supporting documents.

Do NOT try and challenge a refusal without seeking our advice first. 


Not all Tier 4 students can bring their dependants to the UK with them.  You will normally only be able to have dependants with you in the UK if you are studying at Aston for a postgraduate course that lasts more than 9 months or you are a government sponsored students studying for a course that lasts at least 6 months.  There are some other special circumstances in which dependants that currently have or have recently had permission to be in the UK as a Tier 4 student’s dependant may also qualify but this is rather complicated and you should contact us for further advice.

You will need to show that there is enough money available to cover your dependants living costs in addition to your living costs and the tuition fees for your course.  You will need to show that this money has been available throughout a 28 day period that ends no more than one month before you apply for your visa.  The money must be held in an account in your name and/or the dependant’s name and this includes joint accounts. You cannot use money held in an account that is solely in your dependant’s name as evidence that you have enough money to meet your own maintenance requirements for your Tier 4 application.

For the financial requirement for your dependant (Spouse, a child under 18 years old), you will need to show that there is at least £6,120 held for 28 days available for each dependant’s living costs.  If your dependant's new visa will last for less than 9 months then you should only need to show that you have at least £680 available for each dependant for each month (including part months) that the new visa will be granted for.

For example:

If your partner and child are in the UK as your dependants, you are applying to extend your visas together and you have more than 9 months left of your course you would need to show a total of £21,375 for you and your dependants’ living costs (£9,135 for you and £6,120 for each dependant).  You will also need to show that you have enough money to pay your tuition fees.


You will also have to pay the same application fee and immigration health surcharge to process the dependant visa application, and you should ideally apply all at the same time. Besides the financial requirement, there will be some other documents you need and they can be found here


  • UKCISA website - UK Council of International Student Affairs. A non-government organisation who focus on International student issues
  • UKVI website - Official Home Office website for the Tier 4 visa application
  • Tier 4 policy guidance - The laws and regulations of the Tier 4 visa
  • Tier 4 modernised guidance - These are instructions for the UKVI caseworker will use to assess your Tier 4 visa application

Click the picture below for information about how to get in contact with us

Contact Us

Last Updated 15/01/2019 JCD