In the first of three blog posts, Andrew Humphrey investigates some persistent myths about the money and evidence you need for a Tier 4 application. Part 2 is about where misreadings of the Rules and guidance have caused misunderstandings, while Part 3 is about whether there are secret Tier 4 rules about money.
"There are many myths surrounding the UK visa application process"
Claire Murray, Head of Visas and Immigration, British High Commission Islamabad (22 July 2014)
As an International Student Adviser I spend a lot of time debunking myths and correcting misunderstandings about student visas. And the most persistent myths are those about the money you need for a Tier 4 application and what evidence of your money is required.
Myths often arise from a simple misunderstanding of what the Immigration Rules say. For example, some applicants think that because an Immigration Rule requires that your money must “remain available” after you apply, it means that you cannot spend it. Or even that the Home Office will somehow gain access your personal bank account to check your money is still there. Neither is true, and in Part 2 next week I will explore the reality of this common myth and some other frequently misunderstood Rules.
Another type of myth arises when the Immigration Rules and the related Tier 4 guidance have a specific requirement, but experience seems to suggest that there may be some flexibility around that requirement. A rumour may then spread that it is fine to disregard the requirement completely. UKCISA and most International Student Advisers always advise that you act on what the Rules and guidance actually say, and Part 3 of this blog will offer some practical advice on how to do that, even when the Home Office's Rules and practice appear confusing or contradictory.
In this first blog, I will break down some of the myths that have no basis in the Immigration Rules at all, nor in any related Tier 4 guidance. They may appear to be logical and common sense, but they are not Tier 4 requirements. For example, some applicants believe that if you apply in your home country, you cannot use evidence of money in a UK bank account, and vice versa. It’s not true! Others will start to panic about their bank statement because it has their old address, or no address. It doesn’t matter!
Where do these myths come from? It is difficult to know. I have sometimes tried to trace the source, for example asking a student where they read or heard it. The trail usually goes cold very quickly. Sometimes it seems that the busiest student immigration adviser in the UK is “my friend”. To be fair, sometimes wrong information and advice can also come from parents, agents, bank staff, lawyers or even from the Home Office. These people may mean well, but it is very important to only act on advice from the expert who has your best interests at heart and who is embedded at your Tier 4 sponsor institution: the trained and regulated specialist International Student Adviser.
Bank statements are always needed for a Tier 4 application, even if all your costs are covered by a scholarship or loan.
If you have a scholarship or loan that covers all your fees for the first year and the required amount for living costs, that is all the evidence of your money you need. Additional evidence (for example, bank statements) would only be needed if there was a shortfall.
What’s more, even if you do need evidence of your own money, bank statements are only one type of acceptable evidence. You can also use a bank letter or a building society passbook, and any of them can be held in a parent’s or legal guardian’s name. You can also use evidence of certain types of loan, although that can only be in your own name.
We have prepared a detailed guide on showing evidence of your money.
If you apply in your home country, your money must be held in a bank account in your home country. If you apply in the UK, your money must be in an account in the UK.
There are specific requirements for the evidence of your money, including the types of account and financial products where it can be held, and in whose name it can be held, but otherwise the money can be held in any country and any currency.
The Home Office also has specific requirements for what any bank statement needs to show, and you should check any bank statements against these requirements. But they are fairly universal requirements and most formal bank statements issued anywhere in the world would usually meet them.
There is no requirement to show (or not show) evidence that they money is held in any particular country. Nor is there any specific advantage in doing so. For example, using statements from your UK bank account does not make an application made outside the UK more likely to succeed than using a local bank account.
There may be some situations where you specifically choose to show funds held in the UK or held not in your local home currency. Perhaps your home currency is very volatile and may dip below the minimum required balance when converted into sterling, or your home country account may be held with one of the “unacceptable” banks listed in the Immigration Rules.
See our guidance on evidence of your money, including the “unacceptable” banks.
If you are using statements from your joint account, you need the consent from the other account holder(s)
It is a good idea, or at least polite, to make sure the other account holder(s) agrees for you to use money in your joint account to pay for your tuition fees and living costs, and that you will be showing the Home Office evidence of that. However, the Tier 4 application does not require their consent or any evidence of their identity or of their relationship to you. This is so even if they are your parent or legal guardian. (If the money is held only in a parent's name, not jointly with you, you do need evidence of their consent and of the relationship.)
There are some tricky issues around using evidence from a joint account where you are not one of the account holders, including a joint account in both your parents’ names. I will look at this in more detail in Part 3 of this blog.
A bank statement must include your full name and current address
Neither is required. Appendix C, Paragraph 1B(a)(iii) of Immigration Rules lists exactly what a bank statement must include. It must show the account holder’s name, but not necessarily their full name. A UK bank account rarely includes the account holder’s full name, usually just their initials and a family name, so it would not be sensible or reasonable for this to be a requirement for a statement used in a Tier 4 application.
A bank statement must also show the account number, the date of the statement, the bank’s name and logo, and the transactions. Of course, overall it must also show that the right amount of money has been held for the full 28 days, with the closing balance no more than 31 days before the day you apply.
There is no requirement in Appendix C, Paragraph 1B(a)(iii) for a bank statement to show the account holder’s address. So a statement can show an old address, a wrong address, any other address, or no address at all.
See our full guide to the maintenance requirement, and what evidence you need
Part 2 of this series includes our answers to questions about:
Part 3 covers:
Andrew Humphrey is an Advice and Training Officer at UKCISA. References to and quotes from the Immigration Rules and related guidance were correct at the time of publication, but they may change.
Did you believe any of these myths? Have other wrong impressions or misunderstandings about Tier 4 money and evidence caused any problems for you? Leave us your Comments below.
Please do not post questions asking for information or advice. For information please see our detailed guidance on Tier 4 eligibility and requirements, and for one-to-one advice please contact your international student adviser or our student advice line.