It's a lot more than just landing in a country and explaining to immigration your plans.
Unfortunately, they care a little more about their country to just let it be that easy.
There are a few steps to this, and it is a few week process,
but if you have your details organized and all together, it'll be smooth sailing ... or flying.
As an international, one of two things must be done:
1) Pay your student deposit, which will be anywhere from £1000+.
This is apart of your tuition, so freak out and think that your £4000 deposit is an additional converted mess to run you broke with your school fees (like I did).
2) You are exempt from paying your deposit if you are getting some type of financial aid.
I'm assuming most everyone reading this will be receiving FAFSA or some type of student loan,
so you will likely fall into this category.
Because you are able to pass through the required payment, all you need to do is email your student admissions and request the form to fill out for your CAS number.
This process took me about a week - you'll need to receive the form to apply for the CAS, apply - which takes no time at all, and once finished, the application goes out to the school to process.
After your CAS is administered to you, you're ready to go - time for the application!
For the application, you'll need a few things:
Passport - duh
Information on any previous visas you have received
Where you have travelled to in the past 10 year - even just for a vacation
I know .. a little unnecessary, yea?
Parent details (DOB, place of birth, etc.)
Your course tuition fees
How much money you have to cover yourself (seen as Maintenance Charges)
University information (don't feel lost on these - they should all be listed together either emailed to you with your CAS or on your applicant portal):
University sponsor license number - a number that the University is identified with
CAS number - the number you applied for
Course title - whatever degree you are receiving
Course level - I don't understand these UK levels much, but as an example for you, my course level is "QCF / NQF 7"
Start/End date - official dates of your course beginning and ending - on the website or given to you
And your university's address
At the end of this, you will have to fill in the points-based-system that the UK follows.
For a student visa, the total will be 40 points - made up of:
CAS number = 30 points
Maintenance = 10 points
Total = 40 points
If some of this sounds foreign to you, well, that's because it actually is.
I don't quite understand it all either, but this is more of a guideline on how to fill it out, not why you're filling these things out - ask a Brit for those answers when you arrive.
Those are the major items you will need for your application - if you have all of those together before you begin, the process will be easy.
Heather and I dealt with impulsive applying and having to figure out what everything means/search for whatever we didn't know we had to find. And trust me - not fun.
Don't worry, the fun isn't over yet! That's just the first part.
After you finish your application, you'll need to submit and pay.
Applying for the visa outside of the UK is the 'cheapest' option,
but don't feel so lucky - it's still £310.
Convert that and you'll see you're paying over $500.
I recommend filling your mind with the excitement of your adventures starting a life abroad,
and overpower your exchange rate rage.
Once you submit and make the payment, you're on to the NEXT step.
Nope, we're not done just yet!
After this, you'll need to make an appointment at your local immigration office.
You'll need to bring:
a printout of your visa application (signed)
A printout of your immigration appointment confirmation email
A printout of your visa payment receipt
That was all that I was asked for, but the requirements ask for any other supporting documents, so to be safe I also brought:
My university acceptance letter
My acceptance of enrollment letter
My loans acceptance letter
etc. etc. etc.
The appointment is not as extravagant as you may think.
Basically, they put a stamp on your appointment confirmation email,
take a photograph of you,
and fingerprint you over and over again.
Then you're done!
Oh, not with the visa process. Is that what you thought I meant?
No no, you're done with the immigration appointment.
There is still another step.
Lastly, you'll need to send in all of these documents with your passport.
Yes, physically mail your passport - I mailed mine through DHL, in which I've got a shipping number and details to know where my passport is at all times.
The visa office also sends a confirmation email once they have received your package.
So once it's in the mail, then you're on the waiting game.
Let the UK do the work, and sit and wait for your passport to come back.
And not just your passport,
your passport with a new shiny visa stamp inside of it!
More of a tedious process than a complicated one, if you have all the details organized.
And if you're looking for something much more in depth regarding this process, check out the UK government's visa guideline HERE