Applying for a UK student visa is a typically straightforward business, but it can sometimes get tricky. Immigration is now a hot button topic in the UK, and the government under Prime Minister Theresa May has signalled its intention to tighten rules for student visas. The UK is still an outstanding study destination, but given its current political climate, it’s imperative that you pay extra attention to the visa application process so you don’t receive an unnecessary rejection.

To help you navigate this crucial process, here are some pitfalls you should take note of:

Avoid filling forms out incorrectly

This is obvious enough, but cannot be understated. Not only must you ensure that relevant and correct information is entered into the appropriate field on the form, you must firstly ensure that you’re filling out the right form! Fortunately, the UK government has helpfully digitised many of its visa procedures and you can easily apply online via the Visa4UK automated system.

Many of the online form fields can be confusing, so it’s best to check your host university’s website for a guide on how to proceed – most UK university websites provide detailed instructions for your visa application. Failing that, you should consult your university contacts, who may be able to walk you through each field. Third-party experts with knowledge in UK immigration law and procedures may also offer their assistance for a small fee. Given that a single error may seriously compromise your application chances, that’s a pretty small price to pay.

Avoid ambiguity

Fill out all necessary information clearly, leaving no room for misinterpretation. For instance, spell out all acronyms – the UK official handling your application may not be familiar with local acronyms that refer to street or state names in your country. If you live in Kuala Lumpur, write “Kuala Lumpur” and not “KL”. You’re not sitting next to the entry clearance Officer as he or she goes through your application. The Officer may contact you to clarify certain details, but that only delays your application. Furthermore, you’re not allowed to submit a new application while your visa is being processed.

Conduct some thorough research

Read up on relevant immigration rules and procedures, and get to know the university you’re submitting your application to. Many international students will have to undergo an interview at a visa application centre (students from certain countries are exempt and you can check which countries here). Interviewees who show they know nothing about their chosen university can potentially derail their entire application. So prepare yourself. You have to be at least able to tell interviewers why you’re studying there (why you picked the university), and demonstrate that you’ve researched the area and thought about living costs, etc.

Avoid complacency on your documentation

No one likes to deal with stacks and stacks of paper, but it’s a necessary and absolutely crucial part of your application process. Failure to submit a particular supporting document could delay your application, or worse, doom your chances altogether, requiring you to start again from scratch. Make sure all your supporting documents are translated into English and arranged neatly together before you submit them. If you make things easier for immigration Officers, they will make things easier for you.

Make a checklist of all the documents you need to submit – you can refer to this page on the official UK government website as well as this detailed PDF. In general, you must provide the following:

– Your current passport or other valid travel documentation

– Evidence that you can support yourself in the UK and pay for your studies

– Proof of parental/guardian consent if you’re younger than 18

– Your tuberculosis test results (only relevant to certain countries)

Don’t worry – you should get all your documents back within 14 days.

Avoid being financially unprepared

Here. there are two issues: firstly, you have to be able to pay all the fees involved in the visa application process; secondly, you hmust be able to prove you have the funds to support yourself and pay for your studies.

On the first matter, it will cost you £328 to apply from outside the UK. You’ll also have to throw in some money for the healthcare surcharge – the amount will sometimes vary so you can check it out here.

For the second, you’ll need to provide documents proving that funds to support yourself have been present in your, your parent’s or your guardian’s accounts for 28 days before submitting your application. You must prove you have enough funds to pay for one year of course fees, or the entire course if it lasts less than one year.

As for living costs, the threshold depends on where you study. If you’re studying in London, you’ll need to save £1,265 for each month of your course, up to a maximum of nine months (£11,385). If you’re studying elsewhere in the country, the amount is £1,015 for every month of your course, or £9,135 for a course lasting nine months or more.

Don’t lie

No matter whether it’s in the forms or at the interview, tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! If you give false information and/or forge any of your submitted documents, your visa application will not only be rejected, but a severe penalty will hang over your head. The UK government takes this very seriously, and pretty much exercises a zero tolerance policy against forged or fraudulent information.

“The use of fraudulent or forged documents should be—there’s absolutely zero tolerance from us on this. If we find people submitting documents that are forged or fraudulent or they haven’t disclosed full facts to us, we will not only refuse their application, they then risk a ban of 10 years from the UK if they make a subsequent application,” UK Border Agency (UKBA) Regional Manager, Ed Mackie, told GMA News Online.

Other possible penalties include being deported from the UK if authorities discovered the deception while you are there, and being charged with a criminal offence, leading to a fine or maybe even jail time. So don’t do it. It’s just not worth it.

Don’t break the rules

Lying isn’t the only thing that can get you in hot soup. There are pretty harsh penalties if you violate the rules and conditions of your student visa. If you overstay – remaining in the UK beyond the duration allowed by your visa – the severity of your penalty will depend on how long you actually overstayed.

If your overstay period exceeds 28 days (four weeks), you won’t be able to apply for further leave to remain from within the UK. If your overstay period exceeds 90 days (three months), you will typically be banned from returning to the UK for at least one year.

Not only that, overstaying will have huge repercussions for all future immigration applications, including applications involving countries other than the UK. So always keep track of your visa duration, and if you need to, apply for an extension well in advance.

It’s also a terrible idea to violate the working rules surrounding your visa. Tier 4 are indeed allowed to work in the UK – up to a maximum of 20-hours paid or unpaid work per week during term time for degree students. However, if you work without permission or pursue work that is not allowed by the rules, you may face a court case, a hefty fine up to £5,000, jail time, and even deportation.

That’s it for now – better get to work on your UK visa application!

Image via Flickr

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