Your visa will be issued as a vignette (sticker) in your passport. You should take a photocopy of this vignette and of the pages of your passport that contain your personal information, and carry these pages separately from your passport when you travel to the UK (and/or scan and save these pages), in case your passport is lost or stolen.
If your application was for leave for six months or less then your vignette will be valid for your whole stay in the UK. However, in most other instances the vignette in your passport will only be valid for 30 days.
This 30 days will start 30 days before the course start date on your CAS or seven days before the date that you specified on your application as your intended date of travel to the UK, whichever is later. [Note: the Home Office guidance says that it will start 30 days before the intended date of travel stated on your application form, but this is not correct.]
It's important to realise that if the intended date of travel that you state on your application form is less than one month before the course start date listed on your CAS then you will not be granted the maximum period of leave possible before the start of your course. Instead your visa will start seven days before the intended travel date on your visa application; you will not be able to travel to the UK before this date.
If you do not travel to the UK during this 30 day period then your vignette will expire and you will need to apply for another 30-day vignette if you still wish to travel to the UK. Information about applying for a new vignette is contained within the Home Office guidance for staff ECB17.3. You will have to pay £189 for this new application and provide your biometric information again, but you will not have to submit a new Tier 4 application. You should use the same online application form but you should select the following options:
- Reason for Visit: Other
- Visa Type: Others
- Visa Sub Type: Vignette Transfer
At the end of the application form you should use the 'Any other information' field to explain that you have been granted a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK but you need a new 30-day vignette as you have not been able (or will not be able) to travel to the UK before the end of the 30-day vignette that you have been issued.
If you are applying for a new 30-day vignette because your passport has been lost or stolen then the Home Office guidance says that you should provide evidence that you have reported the loss/theft to the police if it is reasonable for you to have done so.
Your 30-day vignette will be accompanied by a letter. When you enter the UK you should show the border force officer your 30-day vignette and this letter.