Posts Tagged ‘ UK Tier 4 Visa ’

A few things about council tax

October 7, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

People in the UK are famous for their dark humour, and we often say that there are only 2 certain things in life: death, and taxes. Now, we’re not going to talk about death, but we are going to talk about tax. In fact, there’s one tax in the UK that you should be aware of, and that is council tax.

Firstly, don’t panic: not all students will have to pay council tax, and if you’re an international student it is likely that you will be exempt. However, it is better to be safe than sorry, and to know just what it is that you may or may not have to pay. Council tax is something that most people living in the UK have to pay based on the value of their property (called a ‘dwelling’), and that money goes towards paying for services provided by the council, such as the fire brigade and rubbish collection. The bigger and more valuable your dwelling is, the more council tax you have to pay. Similarly, if you live with one or more working adults (people over 18 with full time jobs), you will also have to pay council tax.

However, the good news is that not everyone has to pay council tax, as some people – and some properties – are actually exempt. This means that if you meet certain requirements, you don’t have to pay any at all. Yes, that’s nothing at all. Zero. Zip. Nada. Having those extra pounds in your pocket can make all the difference to students trying to survive on a budget, and it is definitely worth knowing who is exempt, and who is not.

The people who have to pay council tax are those who are ‘solely and mainly’ resident in the UK. This means that any of you who are international students studying English for a short period of time, or if you’re a student studying another kind of short course, then you won’t have to pay council tax, as you are not regarded as long-term residents in the country. In the case of university students, you also don’t have to pay council tax. Even if you’re writing your dissertation or thesis, so long as you are still enrolled at your university you will be considered a student – which means no council tax.

Some courses have work placements as part of them, and this can affect your status as a student. Basically, the length of your work placement can’t be longer than the period you spend studying; if it is, then you are no longer regarded as a student. This is going to be a rare occurrence, but it shows that you need to remain enrolled as a ‘student’ for the majority of your stay in the UK in order to be exempt from council tax.

Some universities will give you a certificate stating that you’re a student, and you can show it to the local authority if they ask to see one. Other local authorities have online forms that you need to complete, and then they check your student status directly with the university. Each local authority is different, so it is worth checking when you arrive in the UK.

When you’re choosing who to live with, as a full time student who will need to be a little careful: this is because, if you’re living with a person or people who are not full time students, then you might have to pay council tax. As a student, you will be able to apply for a student disregard discount, but this will still mean that you have to pay some council tax. You can apply for a discount with your local council.

If you are an international student in the UK with a spouse or dependent who is not a British citizen, and they have leave to enter or leave to remain in the UK, but are not able to get employment here and ‘no recourse to public funds’ on their visa or Biometric Residence Permit, then you will be exempt from council tax. You will have to show a copy of the passport or BRP to prove it, of course.


A few things about IELTS

October 2, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

From 6th April 2015, the UK government changed the regulations for English tests acceptable for visa applications, meaning that only Secure English Language Tests (SELTs) can be used in visa applications. One of these is IELTS Academic for UKVI, which is the test most international students will take, and is the main English test that UK universities recognise. There other tests that universities recognise, but IELTS Academic for UKVI is the standard.

If you took your last test before 6th April 2015, you will still be able to use it to apply for a visa – but only until 5th November 2015, when the new regulations come into force. So if the last IELTS test you took was before April 6th, then you will need to take another IELTS test as soon as possible! The IELTS Academic for UKVI test is the same as the previous one, so you should prepare for the same type of questions as before. The only difference is that you will receive a secure number that will be used for your visa application, so make sure that you choose the right test when you’re completing your online booking.

You can see more information here, but let us know if you have any questions about the new IELTS test!

Even when you have submitted your carefully prepared documents, your Tier 4 Student Visa application is not over. If you come from the Middle East, Africa, China, or other parts of Asia, you will have to take something called a Credibility Interview.

The UK Home Office – we should really call them UK Visa and Immigration, or just UKVI – have decided that they will interview almost every Tier 4 applicant coming from those locations, so you should expect an invitation to a Credibility Interview. These interviews are a very important part of the Tier 4 application process, as they are increasingly being used to UKVI to refuse applicants who otherwise meet all the conditions. If you have an interview, then you need to be prepared for the different types of questions, and make sure that you practice. Remember: practice makes perfect.

Before we look at the questions in more detail, let’s look at the Credibility Interview itself. Depending on from where you are applying, it will either be in person or over Skype, or a similar service. And it will be one-on-one, as you can’t get a family member or a friend to come with you and help out. The interview should last around 10 to 20 minutes, though it could last longer – and it is worth remembering that these details are just general details, as UKVI have quite a lot of freedom to choose what they ask you.

The interview is the UKVI’s method of testing that you are a ‘genuine student.’ The problem is that they don’t offer any exact definition of what they mean by genuine, but the basic idea is that they will check that you know what you are coming to study, where you are going to study, and why you want to study in the UK. They are also interested in whether you can afford to live and study in the UK without needing to work, even if you are often allowed to work part time as a Tier 4 student.

Now, the questions. The UKVI officer will usually ask you about your study plans, your motivation, and also why you chose to come to the UK. These questions might be quite basic, such as: What are you going to study? Why did you chose that course? Where are you going to study? They will probably also ask you how your chosen course fits in with your career path, and what you expect to learn from it – similar to what you had to write in your personal statement. The general rule to remember is that more information you can give to each question in your Credibility Interview, the better your application will be.

If you’re applying for a post-graduate course, then you will probably get a couple of extra questions thrown in. We all know that studying in the UK is expensive, so they might ask you why you chose to study overseas rather than staying at home to study. This is a great chance for you to talk about how great you think the UK is, and all those nice things! If you have had a break between studying your previous degree and the one you will study in the UK, you will be asked about what you have been doing in that break. If you’ve been working, you can tell the UKVI officer about that, and also demonstrate how your Master’s course will help your career.

Those are the general questions, but you will need to prepare for some extra ones. You can never tell what the UKVI officer will ask, but they sometimes ask about who will pay for the course, and even how much your parents or you earn. There could then be questions about anything the officer wishes to know which they believe a genuine student should know. Those can be quite tricky to answer – and not being able to answer them clearly might make the UKVI Officer doubt you are a ‘genuine’ student. This is of course not really fair – so what can you do?

You should do plenty of research beforehand, ask your school or university for any advice they can give you, and perhaps look for professional advice. What you can do is work with an immigration advisor, as they will be able to give you thorough interview practice, as well as help you if you have problems caused by certain questions. Speaking with someone who has experience preparing Tier 4 Student Visa applicants will be really useful for your application, and will give you the confidence to be able to answer everything the UKVI Officer throws at you. They should also know about what information or documents UKVI might expect you to have at your interview, particularly those that don’t appear in the Tier 4 guidance. When choosing an immigration advisor, you should always check that they are qualified and permitted to work as an immigration advisor. In the UK, this means being regulated by the OISC as an immigration advisor, or by the SRA as a solicitor.

Have you had a Credibility Interview? Did you get any strange or difficult questions to answer? Or did everything go smoothly? Share your experiences in the comments section!

Help, my visa’s expired!

June 3, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

It’s every international student’s nightmare – your Tier 4 student visa is expiring, and there doesn’t seem to be anything that you can do about it. The clock is ticking, and it looks like the final countdown has begun…but all is not lost. ECA UK looks at some things that you can do.

If you want to stay in the UK for longer than your current visa allows, or you want to change your visa status, then you will have to make a new application to the Home Office. Applying for a new visa is all about timing: if your current visa is expiring in a few months, then you’ve got some options about what to do. If your visa is expiring in a few days, however, then your options are really limited. If you’ve left it too late, then you might have to bite the bullet, go back home, and re-apply for your UK visa from there. This isn’t an ideal situation, but it might be the only option that you have – so be careful about those expiry dates!

So, one option is to apply for another visa as soon as possible. When you submit an application to the Home Office before your UK visa expires, your permission to remain in the UK is automatically extended. You can then stay in the UK until the Home Office makes a decision on your application. You can do this to give yourself a little more time to find a new course, or to find a new sponsor; however, doing so isn’t really advisable, as you will be overstaying your original visa. You need to plan for this in advance, and to have your application prepared and submitted long before your expiry date arrives. If you sit on your hands and do nothing until the last minute, then you will at best have to take a course you’re not so interested in, or at worst have to leave the country.

If you have planned in advance, then you will be able to submit an application to the Home Office in time. It depends on each case, but it can take from a couple of weeks to a month to hear back about your application, so you shouldn’t have too long to wait.

If you do stay in the UK after your visa has expired, however, and you haven’t submitted an application to the Home Office to extend your visa or change to another immigration category, then you will become an “overstayer”. This could result in you receiving a re-entry ban – so you need to be careful.

The other issue is that, even if you submit an application for another Tier 4 visa, your sponsor might not issue a CAS. This is a genuine worry now that the UK government is changing immigration and visa regulations, and if you overstay then it is almost definite that they will not issue a CAS, and will withdraw the one they did issue.

The best option, of course, is to talk to an expert, someone who knows what they’re talking about. There are visa agencies in the UK who can help you, but they need to be certified by the UK government. This certification is called an OISC certification, and they will be able to give you advice, as well as help you with your UK visa application. ECA Legal, our sister company, is certified and able to offer advice to you, so instead of worrying, pay them a visit and get some advice from the specialists.

How to apply for a student visa

May 26, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

 Applying for a UK student visa can be a tricky process, but here at ECA UK we want to help you make that process as easy as possible. So easy, in fact, that we’ve made a guide for you to follow – and we even have a sister company, ECA Legal, who are visa specialists. There is quite a lot to prepare for your application, so let’s get started, shall we?

Confirmation from your university or school

A student visa in the UK is called a Tier 4 Student Visa, and the most important thing you’ll need for your application is confirmation that you have been accepted to study on your course. This means that you’ll need to have received an ‘unconditional offer’. Once you’ve got this and accepted it, your university or school will send you a reference number called a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). This is often a letter with your reference number, course details, and personal information, and you’ll need to keep it safe. Take a scanned copy when you receive it, just in case. You’ll need to enter the CAS reference number on your visa application, so make sure that you don’t lose it!

After you receive the CAS reference number, you will have 6 months to apply for your Tier 4 student visa – even though this seems like a long time, don’t sit on your hands and do nothing, as there are other documents you’ll require, and things you’ll need to do that could take a long time to prepare!

IELTS – special update

Before your university gives you a CAS, you will have to do an IELTS test to check your English. There is a new test especially for applying for a UK visa, so when you are looking for a test centre, make sure you choose one where you will do “IELTS for UKVI”, as this is the new name for the IELTS test for visa applications!

What is ‘maintenance’?

So you’ve done your IELTS and got your CAS – what’s next? The next step is all about money: tuition fees, and living costs – or ‘maintenance’. This can seem quite complicated, but as long as you work out everything you need, then you will be OK.

How much will you need? The answer to that question has two parts: you will need to have enough money to pay your course fees for the first year (minus any that you have already paid), and this amount will be stated on your CAS letter. You will also need to show that you have enough for living costs, or maintenance. This is more complicated to work out, as it depends where you are living. It’s best to ask for advice about this point, but in general if you are living inside London you need to show that you have £1,020 per month for up to 9 months (£9,180 in total). If you are living in Greater London or the rest of the UK, you need to show that you have £820 for up to 9 months (£7,390 in total). Again, as there are different factors and variables to consider, it is better if you check with a visa advisor to make sure.

So, how can you show it? In order to show that you have enough money for the course fees and maintenance, you will have to provide a bank statement that shows you have the required money in your account for at least 28 days before your application. For example, if you apply for your Tier 4 student visa on June 28th, you will need a bank statement that shows you have the correct amount of money in your account during the period of June 1st to June 28th. Ideally, you will show a bank statement from May to June 28th, as this will give you a stronger case, and the stronger your case is the better.

Where should I apply – and what else do I need?

You can apply for your Tier 4 student visa online, through the UK government website. If you prefer, you can ask a visa agent to do it for you; in the UK, visa agents need to be regulated by the government, so always check that they have an OISC license. Using a reputable agent will make things less complicated for you, as they will tell you which documents to prepare and how to prepare them. After you’ve applied, you will need to go to a British embassy, high commission, or consulate, which might be in your home country, or might be somewhere in the region, such as Abu Dhabi in the Middle East. When you go to the embassy, make sure you bring all the documents they request. You will also need to do a fingerprint scan, and have your photograph taken there, so you might have to wait for some time. However, once you have submitted all your documents, and you are confident that everything is ready, you shouldn’t have to wait too long.

How long does it take, and how much does it cost?

Different countries have different processing times, but it could take from a couple of weeks to a month to process your visa. Fees are always the same, as a Tier 4 student visa application costs £323.

What else is there?

There is also an interview stage that you will need to prepare for, called a ‘credibility interview’, which tests if you are a genuine student. Now, I’m sure that you are a genuine student, but the UK Home Office will still want to check themselves. The interview will usually be at the place you applied for your visa, so the UK embassy or consulate you went to originally. If that’s not possible, then you might be interviewed by phone, which isn’t always easy but you’ll need to be prepared.

There are a lot of different questions that you could be asked. In general, they will ask you about your study history, what you want to study in the UK, for how long, and also your finances – who will pay for your course, how much it is, and so on. They could even ask you for extra documents that aren’t mentioned in the visa application, so it would be a good idea if you speak to your agent first, so that you can get a better idea of what the interview will be about. You’ll also have the chance to practice with someone who knows what they’re talking about.

Not sure if you need a UK student visa? Click here to check on the UK government’s website!



From 6th April, 2015 UKVI now only accepts two test providers as evidence for UK visa applications – IELTS and Trinity College London.




UKVI has this week removed all but two English language test providers from its list of approved tests for UK visa applications. Only IELTS and Trinity College London are now accepted by the UK immigration authorities in support of applications, and these must be taken at one of the approved test centres either in the UK or worldwide. The new rules apply to anyone taking their test after 6th April 2015 – Any test taken before this date, as long as it is still valid and met the UKVI requirements at the time, can be used for UK visa applications.

Anyone taking the test outside the UK after the 6th of April, and applying for a Tier 4 student visa, can only choose IELTS. If a student plans to study at or above degree level, this must be IELTS academic module, although people planning to study below degree level may take the General Training module. Potential students should be careful only to book IELTS for UKVI tests, and to check that the test centre is on the list of approved centres, which can be found here.

For students taking their test inside the UK, there is also the option to take Trinity College London exams. Either the Graded Examination in Spoken English or their Integrated Skills in English tests can be used, but students should make sure that the exam they intend to take is also accepted by the school or universities they are applying to.

Certain other categories of visa (mainly settlement type visas) can be covered by the new IELTS test, IELTS Life Skills, but as this only tests speaking and listening, is not suitable for any visa application which requires testing in all four skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) such as student visas or Tier 1 Entrepreneur applications, for example.

Ben Elton, immigration adviser with ECA Legal Ltd, said “in some ways this has made matters more simple for students coming to the UK, but until more testing centres are added to the approved list, it may be difficult to secure a test date within the timeframe students have for making their visa applications. There are also students who had planned to take other English tests, and will now need to prepare for IELTS tests instead. Anyone in this situation, or simply unsure of which test they need, should seek independent advice immediately to allow themselves time to change their plans.”

More information on the tests accepted, and lists of approved testing centres can be found on the UKVI website here. ECA (UK) and ECA Legal Ltd are available to offer expert, independent advice on this and all other issues for those planning to study or work in the UK.

London Metropolitan International Students

August 30, 2012 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

Following the news that London Metropolitan University’s Tier 4 Sponsor licence has been revoked by the UKBA, London Met’s international students face possible deportation if they fail to find a new sponsor.

Education Consultant Agency would like to offer our services to find another university course. As one of the UK’s leading education consultants, we are ideally placed to find a solution to this situation for all international students affected, and can place you in an excellent UK university. All counselling and application services are free of charge to any international student presenting a London Met student ID or offer letter.

We can also offer immigration advice through our OISC licensed partner, allowing us to solve all your problems efficiently and easily.

It is essential that any students affected take action quickly to avoid being deported and to allow their academic career to continue, so give us a call today to arrange an appointment.


Investment in study

November 30, 2010 | Posted by ECA UK | Comments Off

Reasons for selecting a good university are as much as motives.  Some people used to say that the education is not everything and talent do not need diploma. Nowadays, increasingly numbers of people claim that a good education leads to success. Choosing and studying at a good university is usually a ”severe”, but now there are many good reasons why not only look easy way.

When I talk with students who speak English (or other language) and are making decisions about where to go to study, they usually considering between universities geographically located in Europe, United States, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. But far the most popular country to go and study these days is United Kingdom. Indeed, according to many newspaper articles there is a rise in European or International students at UK universities.

But why are the British Universities so popular? There are several reasons for selecting a UK university.  One is related to fields of study the ambition to learn more and better; because let’s face it UK universities has very good ranking among the Universities worldwide. The second is a desire to travel, to experience something new. It does not just mean dissatisfaction with domestic conditions, but to try a different system. Those who studied or are currently studying in UK probably experienced a little bit of  cultural shock.  For this situations is good to have somebody who can guide you through it.

I have decided to invest in my future and I did not regret it. I finished my masters in UK and I can only suggest this wonderful experience to everybody. If you are considering to invest in your future, do not hesitate to contact us and would be pleased to help with the first steps.

by Jozef Simon