Passport Control

Sorting out all your legal documentation is time-consuming but essential. Make use of all the available help, says Sam Pope
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The Independent Online

Congratulations, if you've received an offer of a higher education course in the UK. Now that the hard work is over, you've got a bit more work to do! Because, before you can take up your place, you must make sure that you meet the UK's immigration rules for students.

Congratulations, if you've received an offer of a higher education course in the UK. Now that the hard work is over, you've got a bit more work to do! Because, before you can take up your place, you must make sure that you meet the UK's immigration rules for students.

Immigration rules depend on which country you're living in. You'll fall into one of the following categories:

EEA (European Economic Area) national

Visa national

Phase 1 national

Phase 2 national

Check with the UK visas website www.ukvisas.gov.uk to see which category you fall into.

Yet another application!

The first step to take is to apply for clearance as a student. Find out where your nearest British diplomatic post with a visas section is (eg an Embassy, High Commission or Consulate General) - look at www.ukvisas.gov.uk for a list. When you make contact with the office, ask them what their procedure is for applying for entry clearance. The sort of questions you should be asking include:

Do I need to come along in person to submit my application or can I do it by post or internet?

Do I need to attend an interview? If so, when?

How long does the application process take?

You should also ask them to send you application form VAF 1. There is no charge for this. Once you have completed it, send it to the diplomatic post in the manner advised. Make sure you keep photocopies of everything you send in case something goes astray. When you make your application, you will have to pay a fee: £36 (or the equivalent in your country's currency) for every person on the form, including dependants.

Permission to work

As long as your course lasts for six months or more, you will be allowed to work under certain conditions. If your course lasts less than six months, you must ask the Entry Clearance Officer to give you conditions in your application that will allow you to work. If you don't do this, your visa will not permit you to undertake any sort of employment.

The results...

If your application for entry has been refused, get in touch with the International Student Adviser at your school or college immediately by phone or fax. They should be able to advise you what's best to do.

For your offer to be accepted, you will have to show proof of the following things, both in your application and (possibly) on arrival in the UK:

A letter from your college or university stating:

that you have been unconditionally accepted onto a course;

the title of the course and the qualification it leads to;

when the course begins and ends;

the qualifications required for the course (including English language tests) and the fact that you possess such qualifications;

that you will be given English language support by your university or college before or during your studies;

that the course is full-time or, if not, that it involves a minimum of 15 hours' daytime study per week;

how much the fees are, if you can pay by instalments, and the dates when these payments are due.

If someone else is paying for your course, you will need a letter from them explaining their connection to you, how much they will give you and how often and where this money will come from. They'll need evidence to prove this, in the form of bank statements, wage slips or a letter from their employer confirming their salary.

If you're being sponsored by or are in receipt of a scholarship from your government or school, you will need a letter from them confirming how long they will pay your scholarship for and detailing the costs it will cover. If you're paying for your studies through savings, you'll need original bank statements from the last three months at least.

If you know of an employer in your home country who would like to employ you after you get your qualification, you should get a letter from them confirming this. If not, try to find any other evidence that people with the sort of qualification you're hoping to get will be in demand in your country, eg job adverts.

You should provide any other evidence that you will return to your country after your studies, eg you have dependants or family members to return to.

Arriving in the UK

If your application for entry clearance has been successful, you will still have to show your entry clearance sticker to an Immigration Officer when you arrive in the UK. It's unlikely you'll be asked many questions at passport control unless the officer thinks your conditions have changed since you first made your application. It's sensible to have all relevant documentation you might need, including the ones listed above, in your hand luggage in case this happens. Make sure they're easy to get at - you don't want to have to empty all your belongings onto the floor as you try to find them! Check your passport when it has been given back to you so you're aware if they have made any changes to your status.

Remember

Whenever any stamps or stickers are added to your passport by immigration officials, take a photocopy. You should always have an up-to-date copy of your entire passport in a safe place in case you lose your passport.

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