In this second blog on myths and misunderstandings about the money and evidence needed for a Tier 4 visa application, Andrew Humphrey looks how the guidance issued by the Home Office may have inadvertently created some myths. Is it a case of Too Much Information? Part 1 covers myths that seem to have appeared from nowhere while Part 3 is about whether there are secret Tier 4 rules about money.
This blog post was published on 26 January 2018. The information in it, all references to Immigration Rules and Home Office guidance, and any links to other websites and guidance were all current and accurate on that date. If you are reading this blog post after 26 January 2018, please also see our full guide to Tier 4 eligibility and requirements, which is updated regularly.
Making a Tier 4 application? Make sure you read the application form and the form’s help text closely. Don't forget the 97-page “policy guidance” for applicants, which is based on the Immigration Rules. There is also some useful stuff in the Tier 4 “sponsor guidance” for universities and colleges (93 pages), and the Tier 4 “modernised guidance” for Home Office staff (a whopping 151 pages!), although a lot of the content is near-identical across all three guidance documents and the Immigration Rules. And do make sure you are reading the latest version: guidance is amended and republished three or four times a year.
It's a lot, and to help their students focus on what is important international student advisers at many colleges and universities produce guides, leaflets, videos, podcasts and workshops. Here at UKCISA we also do our bit with our online guides to eligibility for a Tier 4 visa, applying in the UK and applying in your home country.
The Home Office seems to be taking baby-steps to streamline the Tier 4 application process. I hope they will go further and create single integrated Tier 4 guidance for students, institutions and Home Office staff, perhaps even in a format that international student advisers can customise for their own students. Meanwhile spare a thought for your international student adviser for whom writing, maintaining and updating Tier 4 application guidance is like painting the Forth Bridge.
The current web of Rules, guidance, information and advice can sometimes (perhaps through sheer volume of detail) produce some myths, misunderstandings, contradictions and confusions. This blog looks at seven of them, suggesting the source of the confusion and explaining the reality.
For a full guide to the money you need for a Tier 4 application, and how to show evidence of it, visit UKCISA's guide to Tier 4 eligibility and requirements.
You can show evidence of less money if you have already been studying in the UK, or if your living costs will be low, for example if you will be living with family and/or rent-free.
First, the “established presence” provision whereby some people only needed to show 2 months’ worth of living costs was abolished for most Tier 4 applicants back in November 2015. It is now only relevant for people doing a work-related Tier 4 application: for the Doctorate Extension Scheme, as a student union sabbatical officer, or as a postgraduate doctor or dentist in training.
Second, the money you need for your living costs is a set figure, regardless of your actual living costs. The monthly amount is higher for those studying in London, but otherwise it is the same generic monthly amount for every Tier 4 applicant. If your living costs are lower than the set monthly amount, and even if they are zero, you still need to show the standard amount.
The only deduction that some applicants can make is a maximum of £1265 for money paid in advance for housing to the university or college (not to anyone else). The payment must be confirmed in your CAS or on a receipt. You cannot deduct or offset any other amounts.
Those who believe that you can show less money if your living costs are cheap or free may just assume it is true, or they may be conflating the Tier 4 rules with the rules for a Visitor or Short-Term Student visa These types of visa do not require a specific amount of money like Tier 4 does, just evidence that you have enough money for the actual costs of your visit. In such applications if your living costs will be very low, or already paid for, you can indeed show less money. This is not so for a Tier 4 application.
If you use evidence of money in your parent’s name, you must provide a birth certificate confirming they are your parent
True for most people. But there is also flexibility if your country does not issue birth certificates showing your parent’s details.
The Immigration Rules seem clear: Appendix C, paragraph 13 states that someone using evidence of their parent’s money in a Tier 4 application
must provide [an] original (or notarised copy) [of] his birth certificate showing names of his parent(s)
The policy guidance for applicants reiterates this, and for most applicants that is fine. But there are other options for people without a birth certificate.
First, the modernised guidance for Home Office staff assessing your application confirms on page 99 that a government-issued household register showing your name and your parent's name is also acceptable evidence of your relationship. This option is not listed on the application form, so you will still need to confirm that you are including a “birth certificate” even though strictly speaking you are using a different type of document.
Second, the same paragraph of this guidance tells Home Office staff to accept
whatever document a country issues and not restrict it only to those documents specifically called 'birth certificates'
Therefore you can use whatever official document your country issues as evidence of its nationals' birth and family relationships.
These options are meant for applicants who have never had a “birth certificate” because their country doesn’t produce them -- it is not a workaround for those who did have one but where it is lost or not available. If your country does issue birth certificates, but you don’t have yours, you should either request a replacement or notarised copy.
Easiest of all, simply have your parent transfer the money to you in advance so you can show the money in your own name anyway, with no need for any evidence or documents from your parent.
You can nominate someone as your guardian and use money held in their name as evidence of your maintenance
Appendix C, paragraph 13 of the Immigration Rules does allow for someone with a legal guardian to use money held in that legal guardian’s name. However a legal guardian is not someone who has agreed with you or your parents to act as your guardian or as your financial sponsor. They are formally appointed by a court, usually when a child has no other parent.
If you do have a legal guardian, and you are using evidence of money in their name, it will only be acceptable if supported by a court letter showing evidence of the guardianship.
Remember that anyone can pay for your fees and give you money for your living costs, but your Tier 4 visa application can only include evidence of money held in your name, a parent’s name, or a legal guardian’s name. If anyone else is paying for your living costs, they will need to give the money to you in advance (or to your parent or your legal guardian), so you can show evidence in an acceptable name.
You can use evidence of a bank loan if the bank confirms in their letter that the loan is for studies
You can use evidence of a bank loan, but only if is part of a formal Educational Loans Scheme, administered by a regulated bank. A general personal bank loan that you happen to be using to pay for your studies is not acceptable, even if the bank explains this in their letter.
The bank will need to confirm in their loan letter that your loan is part of an Educational Loans Scheme, but to avoid doubt and further queries we advise you also include some general information about the scheme. This could be a print out from the bank’s website or a leaflet about the scheme. You can be sure that the Home Office caseworker or entry clearance officer will be checking on the bank’s website that a formal Educational Loan Scheme does exist.
Despite being a popular way to hold money in China and some other countries, you cannot use a Certificate of Deposit as evidence of your money.
False! You can.
You will not find it in the Immigration Rules or in the Tier 4 Policy Guidance for applicants, and it is not an option on the Tier 4 application form. But the modernised guidance for Home Office staff assessing your application confirms on page 96 that a certificate of deposit is accepted if it meets both the following requirements:
- the certificate of deposit must have been issued within 31 days of the date of application
- at least 28 days must have elapsed between the date of the deposit and the date of issue of the certificate
There are no further requirements for the certificate, but it would be wise if it included all the relevant requirements of a bank statement. There is no maximum time limit on how long the money has been held.
A Certificate of Deposit is acceptable evidence of your money, but it cannot say that the funds are frozen or inaccessible.
False, although it used to be true.
The Tier 4 policy guidance used to say this about frozen funds, but it was changed in November 2016. Apparently some Chinese banks in particular were using ambiguous wording that says the funds are frozen when in fact they are accessible, so the Home Office decided that a certificate of deposit is acceptable even if it it says funds are frozen, and changed the guidance accordingly.
If you are still in doubt, the Tier 4 student visa checklist published by the British Embassy in Jakarta says it in Plain English:
UKVI will accept money that is frozen in a certificate of deposit.
After you submit your financial documents showing enough money, you cannot spend the money until the outcome of your application. This is because the Home Office might contact your bank to check that the money is still in your account.
This is a very complicated one to unpick. The myth seems to have grown out of three different matters which have become conflated:
- a misunderstanding of an Immigration Rule and the question about it on the application form; and
- an incorrect assumption about the powers of the Home Office; and
- a good idea that some immigration advisers suggest, to maintain your bank balance until the outcome of the application, but for a different reason
First, the Rules. Appendix C, paragraph 1A (ca)(ii) requires that
the funds will remain available [in your account, or your parent’s account, or as funding from your official financial sponsor] unless used to pay for course fees and living costs;
Note that the funds must “remain available” indefinitely, not just until the outcome of the application. But even more important is the vital final clause “unless used to pay for course fees and living costs”. This Rule and the related question on the form do not commit you to not spending your own money, which would not be reasonable or sensible. Rather, they make you confirm that this money is genuinely available for paying your fees and living costs, and that it will only be spent on those things. It means that someone who attempts to use evidence of money that is not genuinely available to them for paying their fees and living costs will have made a false declaration about that, which in itself would be grounds for refusal of the application.
As for the Home Office checking your bank balance, that is not possible or legal without a warrant or unless you are a serious immigration offender. A bank in your home country is highly unlikely to agree to such a query from the Entry Clearance Manager or from any third party asking for details about your bank balance. And while it is technically possible for the Home Office to obtain a warrant to access information about an individual’s UK bank account, or to instruct a bank to freeze or close an account as part of the government's "hostile environment" for immigration offenders, this would only be done as part of an investigation of criminal activity, security concerns or immigration offences.
What the Home Office may do is double-check with your bank that a specific document is genuine and was issued by them, not a forgery. They could do this with any bank, but they are likely to do it if you use statements from a bank in Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ghana, India, Iran, Pakistan, Philippines or Sri Lanka which is not on the "accepted" lists in Appendix P of the Immigration Rules.
Finally, while some advisers do recommend that you maintain your bank balance until you get the outcome of your application, this is not because the application specifically requires it or because it will be checked. It is to give you a safety net: if your application is rejected or refused, and you still have all your money in place, you could in theory apply again immediately and still meet the maintenance requirement. In practice, there would be other factors affecting whether you could apply again, but at least the maintenance would not be a problem.
Part 1 of this blog series covers:
Part 3 covers:
Andrew Humphrey is an Advice and Training Officer at UKCISA.
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