There was a fantastic response with issues surrounding finance, student fees and student visas being recurring themes. I selected the 12 questions which I felt were most representative of your concerns and put them to Andrew Humphrey from the Advice and Training Team at UKCISA.
Is it true that a student visa is not allowed to be converted into a working visa?
No, that's not true. The immigration rules allow someone with a Tier 4 (General) visa to switch into Tier 2 (General) for sponsored skilled work in a graduate occupation, or into Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) if their university is part of that scheme. Some other work schemes require you to apply in your home country. For full details, see UKCISA’s guide Working in the UK after your studies
Is there financial help for international students to cover the living costs?
Funding from within the UK is largely limited to university scholarships, plus some competitive national scholarships offered through the British Council in your home country. In all cases you should apply well in advance of coming to the UK. You should ensure that you will have enough money to pay all your tuition fees and living costs for your whole course.
Between applying for UCAS admission, scholarship and visa which one should be done first?
Normally, it will be in the order stated in the question. Scholarship applications may be judged well in advance, perhaps even before you have final confirmation from UCAS of your place on the course. Check the deadlines directly with the scholarship provider. Applying for a visa will normally be the last part of the process. This is because when you apply for a Tier 4 General visa, you must show that you have an unconditional offer and money to pay your fees and living costs. If you apply for your visa without firm evidence of a scholarship, you will need to show that you have the relevant amount of money held you in your own name, or in a parent’s name.
I have a European passport, but I haven't lived in any country in Europe and my parents don’t work anywhere in Europe/UK either. Which fee would I be eligible for, the International fee or the Home/EU fee?
Holding EU nationality does not in itself make you eligible to pay the home/EU fee: you also need to satisfy a residence requirement, normally three years. From the situation you describe, you would almost certainly pay the international fee, but it is possible that there may be other aspects of your situation that make you eligible to pay the home fee. For example, in England only there is an exception for some family members of EU nationals, where the EU national themselves satisfies the residence requirement, but the student does not. For details of all categories of people who pay the home fee, see UKCISA’s guide Fees, Funding and Student Support
When I go to apply for my visa is it all done online or do I need to visit anywhere to do it? (I'm in Canada)
You will need to attend in person to give your biometric data. For details, see UKCISA’s guide Making a Tier 4 (General) application.
I have to pay the expensive overseas student fees. Is there any way I can change to paying the UK student fees after I’ve started my course?
Yes, this can be is possible if:
• You become a refugee, or your asylum application is refused but you are granted another specified form of leave, or this happens to a relevant member of your family and you met the relevant 'family condition' on the date of their asylum application.
• You already met the relevant three-year residence requirement on the first day of the first academic year of your course, and you become one of the following:
o an EU national, or the family member of an EU national
o an EEA or Swiss migrant worker, or the family member of such a person
o the child of a Swiss national
o the child of a Turkish worker in the UK
Other changes during your course, such as gaining Indefinite Leave to Remain, or other changes to your immigration status, or acquiring three years' residence in the UK, do not necessarily affect your fee status.
I have a British passport but I moved with my parents to Hong Kong four years ago when I was 14. Will I have to pay international student fees?
Yes, if the family has emigrated to Hong Kong. However, if you can show that your family now lives between both countries to some extent, or you are based in Hong Kong for a parent’s temporary work contract and the family will return when it is completed, you may be treated as being “ordinarily resident” in the UK and Islands, and therefore eligible to pay the home fee. For details, see UKCISA’s guide to Ordinary Residence.
If I want to stay in the UK to do a postgrad course after my degree, can I extend my student visa? If so when do I have to do it?
Yes, you can extend your student visa if you meet all the requirements, including the requirement that your new course starts no more than 28 days after your current visa expires. Your extension application for a Masters course must not result in you spending more than 5 years in the UK on a Tier 4 visa. (or 6 years if your degree was a 4-year course). For full details, see UKCISA’s guide Making a Tier 4 (General) application.
When am I supposed to get my CAS? Who sends it UCAS or my university?
Your university will send you the CAS details by email, usually no more than 3 months before the start of your course.
If I need to get a job when I’m studying, will my student visa allow that?
Will my student visa allow me to study at any college or uni in the UK?
I’m deferring my application until 2013 now. Will my CAS be valid until next year?
No. A CAS is only valid for 6 months. The expiry date may be included in your CAS statement that your university sends by email, or you can contact them direct to ask.
Andrew Humphrey is on the Advice and Training Team at UKCISA, the UK Council for International Student Affairs. UKCISA is the UK’s national advisory body serving the interests of international students and those who work with them. Andrew has also worked at several universities in London, advising students on immigration, funding and other welfare matters.