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Immigration rules and regulations often use names and abbreviations or acronyms, which can seem confusing. Our list below should help you understand the most frequently used terminology:



Academic Technology Approval Scheme

People who want to study at advanced levels (Masters/PhD) within certain subject areas (Computer Science, Physics, Medicine, Biosciences and Engineering) must obtain clearance certificates from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  Tier 4 visa applications: students need to provide an ATAS certificate to the University before a CAS can be issued.

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Brexit is short for "British exit" - and is the word people use to talk about the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union (EU).


Biometrics Residence Permit

BRPs are secure identity cards which contain personal details and biometrics information.  Only issued to people who are coming to the UK for more than 6 months.  This is your visa.

We strongly advise you choose to have your BRP card delivered to the University. This ensures we can safely store your BRP card ready for collection when you complete International Student Clearance. You can find out how to arrange this here.

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Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies

Your CAS Number is a unique string of numbers and letters which you will be issued once you have firmly accepted an unconditional offer from a UK University. It is sent to you in an electronic document called a CAS Statement and you will need it submit your Tier 4 visa application.  


Credibility interviews

Part of the Tier 4 visa application process, students may be asked to attend an 'interview'. This will usually take place in the Visa Application Centre via a video-conference link.  It is a short interview that aims to test that you are a genuine student.  You will be expected to have:

  • a good understanding of the course you are planning to study including why you chose this course/subject area, what modules you are likely to study and your planned career path following the course.  
  • researched the university that you are going to study at including the reasons you chose the UK, whether you know of anyone else studying there and whether you considered any other universities. 

You may also be asked about: 

  • your qualifications,
  • your finances, and
  • any plans to work in the UK (remember that you can only work 10 or 20 hours per week on a Tier 4 visa and that you cannot intend to support yourself by working in the UK). 

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Curtailment of leave means that the expiry date of your Tier 4 visa is cut short (brought forward), effectively giving you a new visa end date.


Dependants are immediate family members such as a spouse (husband or wife), unmarried partner or child that come to live in the UK with you while you study.

Entry clearance

Entry clearance is the process of checking before a person arrives, whether that person qualifies under the Immigration Rules for entry to the UK. 


European Union / European Economic Area

The EU is a political and economic union of 28 member states. The EEA includes the 28 countries in the EU and 3 additional countries which are part of the European Single Market. 

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EU Settlement Scheme

The Home Office EU Settlement Scheme has been designed to provide EU citizens and their families with a route to living and working in the UK beyond 31 December 2020.

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The Home Office is a ministerial department of Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom, responsible for immigration, security and law and order. 

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Immigration Health Surcharge

The Immigration Health Surcharge is an additional payment you are required to make as part of your Tier 4 visa application. This payment allows you to access the National Health Service (NHS) during your time in the UK. 

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Leave to Enter Leave to Enter is the technical term for someone granted entry to the United Kingdom by British immigration officers. Home Office

Non-visa national

A term used to describe citizens of 56 countries who are exempt from requiring an entry clearance visa to enter the UK for up to 6 months. It also applies to non-EU British Nationals.



National Qualifications Framework / Regulated Qualifications Framework

The national qualifications frameworks in the UK that define and link the levels and credit values of different qualifications. For the interests of your visa application, these can both be treated as one and the same.  

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This word can refer to two different things:

A financial sponsor - an organisation or government which is paying for some or all of the tuition fees for a course;

or a Tier 4 Sponsor which is the UK educational institution where you will be studying (i.e. The University of Exeter is a Tier 4 Sponsor).  

Tier 4 (General) visa

The Tier 4 visa is for students who have been offered a place to study in the UK. If you have an EU/EEA passport, you likely will not require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.

Tier 4 Pilot Scheme

Due to low refusal rates, from September 2018, some University of Exeter students will benefit from a streamlined visa application process and a longer visa expiry. 

You are part of the pilot scheme if you are are studying a Masters level course of 13 months or less starting in September 2018.  You are also eligible if you have a combined CAS which covers both your pre-sessional and Masters courses. 

As part of the pilot scheme this means:

  • You do not need to submit financial or academic documents with your visa application. You must still meet all of the financial and academic requirements, including possessing the required funds for at least the 28 days before you submit your visa application.  
  • You will be given a 6 month wrap-up period at the end of your visa. This is enough time to undertake an internship, look for a job with a Tier 2 sponsor, or just finish your sightseeing.

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UK Council for International Student Affairs

A good place to find advice and information on living in the UK, and various visa options.


UK Visas & Immigration

A division of the Home Office branch of the UK government responsible for the United Kingdom's visa system. 

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Vignette A vignette is a sticker placed in your passport following a successful entry clearance application. It contains basic details about you and the permission you have been granted. 



Wrap-up time The period between the end date of your course and the date your visa expires. This is normally 4 months if your degree programme is 12 months or longer unless you are on the Tier 4 Pilot (see above) when it is 6 months.