Marta Mendiondo Head of Immigration
Student visas for the UK, an easy process? Only sometimes.
At Ince, we have assisted numerous European applicants in obtaining visas to study in the UK after Brexit. These are normally fast, straightforward applications, however, some occasional problems can arise later on if the student starts on the wrong path.
The main advantage for EEA citizens is that their mandatory documentation is less complex than for other non-European nationalities. We can also verify the applicant’s identity through a mobile app, instead of attending an appointment at a visa centre. The common characteristic, regardless of the nationality of the applicant, is the cost of the visa itself, plus the Immigration Health Surcharge (mandatory charge to have access to the National Health Service).
In most cases these are relatively simple processes if applicants take the correct steps. Many proceed alone, once they have secured sponsorship from educational institutions and they are assigned a CAS (Certificate of Acceptance of Studies). Minors have to provide a birth certificate and parental consent.
In certain cases, however, given the apparent simplicity of the application, students do not read instructions carefully and assumptions are made. Other times, applicants choose the wrong visa route in their browser or later via the app to verify their passports, which leads them to complete the wrong form. This generates non-relevant questions and even if they are answered in good faith, the error is perpetuated, leading to a possible delay and eventually, the case’s refusal. This brings additional costs, not to mention the consequences that the student will have to face if they return to the UK before the error is corrected. Sometimes this may impact their ability to continue their studies or even enter the United Kingdom as short term visitors.
We receive many enquiries each academic year and after the start of a new term, when things have gone wrong. Basic, seemingly insignificant errors create a domino effect that often ends in a refusal. Border officials often discover a problem when the student subsequently attempts to enter the UK, creating difficult situations for the applicants, who will be stopped and questioned. In other cases, the educational institutions detect these shortcomings, not allowing studies to continue until they are addressed. Their sponsor license (and related income streak) depends on them fulfilling their compliance duties. At this point, applicants must act diligently, honestly and rely on experts to rectify the error and represent them efficiently. Unfortunately, the Home Office is inaccessible to most individuals. After an assessment of the case, we can correct these issues, sometimes on an existing case. In other situations we will have to submit a new application. It is important to determine the best path for each case on the basis of the rules and our practical experience.
It is understandable that European applicants are unaware of the requirements of the UK’s immigration rules, and the Home Office’s lack of flexibility, given the ease with which European students could previously establish themselves in the UK prior to Brexit. Unlike most countries, the UK does not allow to apply for visas in country or correct administrative issues after arrival. It is essential to complete the correct application from abroad and wait for its approval prior to attempting to enter the UK. There are some exceptions but we recommend to contact an expert to explain what steps to follow and the risks they may entail.
These mistakes, however innocent they may seem, can have harsh consequences for the student, who may be refused entry to the country or removed from the UK soon afterwards. Sometimes they will be admitted, but will not be able to attend lessons. In some cases, a five year re-entry ban may apply, particularly for adult students, even if the application was completed by a parent.
Studying in the UK long term is not a cheap exercise. Having your application prepared and reviewed by a professional is well worth the cost. This will allow students to start their visa journey with peace of mind, whilst having a good understanding of their rights and obligations as sponsored students.
For more information, please get in touch with Marta Mendiondo, Head of Immigration at Ince.