August 9, 2009

First things first - Getting a UK Student Visa

I apologize for not writing for long time. I have really good excuses! Since my last post I got to:

  1. Celebrate with my wife her acceptance to MBA at LBS! Yes, she's going to be my classmate :)
  2. Become a holder of a student visa (tier 4) to the United Kingdom
  3. Get married(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  4. Pack and leave our apartment in Haifa
  5. Enjoy a wonderful honeymoon at Costa-Rica and Guatemala
  6. Complete all pre-leaving tasks (I'll elaborate on that in one of the future posts)
  7. Quit my job at Intel and say goodbye to my colleagues
  8. Saying goodbye to my beloved 15 year old dog, who is now living with my parents
  9. Take a BMI plane to Heathrow
  10. Look for and find an apartment near the school.
see... told'ya - really good excuses! ;)

As I promised in my previous post I will dedicate this one to elaborate on the 'get a UK student visa' process. I will try not to miss anything, but it's been a while, so I might update the post if I recall any new details. As a general recommendation I suggest you to be super-ready when you come to the embassy to apply for a UK student visa. Flexibility is not a common phenomenon in these places, if you know what I mean. Some of the requirements need to be prepared couple months in advance (like financial state - see below).

Documents you'll need:
  • Passport - where your visa will be added. The passport must be valid for at least 2 years (the time of your studies)
  • 2 passport photos (35mm x 45mm) - DON'T smile!!! :D There is a very elaborated explanation on how the picture should look. One of the requirements is that the person doesn't smile.
  • Bank letter (this is what worked for me, but you can try the other options as explained on the official UK visa web site) - now this is a hard one, so get ready to sweat. The UK Border Agency want to see that you have enough funds to pay for the studies. Sounds trivial - guess what, it's not. You have to show that you have money to pay for the first year + 7200 GBP (~30,000 GBP). But you cannot just print your bank statement. You have to prove that you had the money for at least 28 days prior to application. As far as I understand, the logic behind this requirement is to prevent false bank statements - like moving the money from someone who has it to your account for a minute, then giving it back. They probably assume that if you have the money for enough time, it means that it really yours. In addition, the money must be held in cash or in a saving account (פק"מ) but not invested in stocks or something like that. Every bank in Israel should be able to provide you a bank letter in English. Make sure that all the small details are mentioned:
  • Your name
  • Your account number
  • The date of the letter
  • The financial institution’s name and logo
  • The funds held in your account
  • That there is enough money in the account to cover your tuition fees and living costs
  • Branch manager's signature
  • Official bank's stamp
  • Printed on official bank paper
Here is how my bank letter (approximately/wishfully) looks like:

23 April, 2009
Mr. Alex Tzukerman
Acc No. XXXXXXXX (if you want it to send me some money, just drop me an e-mail)

Dear Customer,

As per your request, we hereby confirm that the total balance of your accounts held with us, as of the date of this letter, shows an amount of 1,000,000 GBP (It's my blog - I can write here any number! ;)) in cash to your credit since 14/01/2009).
  • Your visa letter - the school will send it to you in a week or two after you get admitted. In my case, because of the transition to the points-based-system in visa application, it took more time.
  • Original documents used to obtain your visa letter - I brought my original undergraduate degree certificate, original GMAT score letter, original transcripts and original TOEFL score letter.
  • Printout of your visa application form - This is the first form you should fill. At the end of the form you'll need to chose a date for your meeting at the embassy where you'll submit all your documents. Note that the slots there are only open for the next one-two months. Additional slots are added regularly.
  • Filled form called "PBS Appendix 8 General Student" - now this is a real headache, especially the 6.20 section where you need to state the sum of money you need for your studies. I filled there numbers only for the FIRST year - and it worked. If you have specific questions, I'm here to help.
  • Printout of the invitation to the embassy.
Things to remember:
  • Your passport will be taken away to prepare the visa. It means, that unless you have other passport, you will not be able to leave your country. So make sure there aren't any foreseeable trips planned during the month that comes after you submit the documents to the embassy. We could barely breath before my wife got her visa, because we had a honeymoon planed one month after her application day. Everything was OK eventually :)
  • Make a copy of EVERY document you submit, and make sure that the person who takes the document from you understands that you want the originals back.
  • Here's a link to a statistics on how long does it take to get a visa in different countries.
  • There are different types of students coming to study in the UK. MBA students are defined as "TIER 4 General Student".
  • No need to dress fancy. Jeans and T-Shirt worked for me and my wife :)
I got my visa about 2 weeks after I submitted the application, but as you can see in the statistics this is not always the case. Hope all the above helps, or at least doesn't do any damage ;). There are many other guides on the internet on that theme so you can do an intensive research on probably every aspect of the visa application process.

I will try to get back to a more frequent blogging from now on, so.... see you soon! Oh... and good luck for those who start their 2010 MBA application.