If you are not a UK national, but have lived in England for a substantial period of your life you may be eligible for student finance and home fees in England under the ‘long residence’ category. This blog explains how you can prove that you are eligible under this category
If you are applying for student finance under the long residence category;
- you will eventually be asked to provide evidence that you meet the half of life criteria and the three year ordinary residence criteria;
- You need to provide different, specific evidence to prove you meet each of these criteria;
- You will not be assessed as eligible under the long residence category until you have provided this evidence.
You need to take this seriously. In the guidance for SFE practitioners it states,“The onus is on the student to demonstrate that they meet the long residence requirements”. You can read the guidance on page 37 of this document.
If you have not yet been asked for this evidence but believe you do meet the criteria in the ‘long residence’ category, you can start gathering this evidence now so you are prepared when the time comes. If you have not yet applied to SFE or you are looking for guidance about the application process, see this blog here.
Correspondence from Student Finance England
We have seen various letters sent by SFE but the most recent was sent to a student on 1st July 2016 and is shown below.
(28/7/16 – We have now been sent the letter below by several students and assume this is the standard letter that all applicants should receive)
As this is the first year that Student Finance England (SFE) have made these assessments, we do not know exactly what evidence will be sufficient. Below we make suggestions about what we think should work. Please note that this has not been written after consultation with SFE and at present these are suggestions that we will refine as we receive feedback from young people.
Evidence – Half of life
For a lot of people this is likely to be the trickiest to prove. Logically, you will have to demonstrate that you have lived in the UK for half of your life. SFE have suggested a number of ways of evidencing this in the letter above. If you can provide all or most of these, do so. We would imagine that official documents such as child tax and benefit records would be especially good pieces of evidence, if you have these.
Many people will not, however, have these documents. If this is the case, we would suggest obtaining the following, which most people should be able to access:
- Contact every school you have attended and ask them to provide you with two new, signed and dated letters on official headed paper confirming your dates of attendance at that school. In the example below (which was dated and on headed paper before being anonymised) the current school have also confirmed from their records all previous schools attended;
- Evidence can get lost or go missing so you might want to request multiple copies (not photocopies but several originals) of these letters, just in case;
- Together, the letters should cover every year that you have lived in the UK, without any breaks and this should enough to demonstrate that you have lived in the UK throughout this time;
- If you left school a year or a number of years ago, you will need to provide additional evidence to prove that you have lived in the UK since you left school. We suggest providing evidence selected from the list in the SFE letter above;
- If you arrived in the UK when you were very young, it may not be necessary to evidence some of your earliest years in the country or from the day you arrived in the UK. For example, if you arrived when you were 2 years old and are now 19, it should be enough to demonstrate that you have been in the UK since you were 9 years old as this would be long enough to meet the half of life criteria.
Evidence – Three year ‘continuous ordinary lawful residence’
This is not about proving you have lived in the UK for the last three years, which is dealt with by the half of life evidence. This is about proving that you have had some sort of ‘lawful’ status in the UK for three years leading up to the start date of your course. This start date is always taken as 1st September, regardless of the actual date your lessons started, for courses that start September – December. For example, for a course starting in October 2017, you will need to provide evidence of your continuous ‘lawful’ status in the UK from 1st September 2014 – 1st September 2017.
This is likely to include:
- Your current Biometric Residence Permit or other immigration status document or ID;
- Evidence of your previous status/Biometric Residence Permit/Visa etc, if your current status started less that three years ago.
Most people will not have their previous visa/BRP as this will have been sent off with your renewal application to the Home Office so will need to send some other form of documentation such as Home Office letters to evidence this previous status.
Reason granted leave to remain – not relevant!
SFE have been asking people to provide pieces of evidence that are not relevant for the long residence category, as well as evidence that many people do not have access to.
We assume SFE ask for this information about why leave to remain was granted to check that applicants are not eligible for student finance through any other eligibility category, categories that may be easier for SFE to assess than the long residence category and half of life criteria. This does not make it relevant to your application for student finance under the long residence category and if you do not have access to this evidence, your application should not be held up because you can’t satisfy internal processes at SFE. We know students who have been blocked at this stage for long periods of time, attempting to get letters from the Home Office which the Home Office will simply not give them. If you do not have this evidence to give to SFE, tell them this and that you are applying under the long residence category and that this information is not relevant to the long residence category.
Evidence that ‘in time’ application made when renewing
This is relevant to your eligibility for the long residence category and you may have documents from the Home Office that prove you made your application to renew your status ‘in time’. If so, it is worth sending this to SFE. Many people do not have this evidence, though, or they have documents which SFE do not accept as admissable evidence.
If this is the case and there is no way that you can get this evidence – the Home Office will not provide this evidence if you contact them – you can tell SFE that you do not have this evidence and there is no way that you can get it. SFE have a service level agreement with the Home Office where they can access your information directly and find out if you made an in time application. In fact, they will do this in every long residence application in any case, even if you do provide the evidence. If you cannot provide the evidence requested, you can inform SFE that you give your permission to contact the Home Office directly and access the information themselves.
SFE deal with a huge number of applications every year. It can be very difficult getting accurate and consistent information from their telephone helpline about your case, especially when their are problems with evidence. Things you can do:
- Keep a record of everything that you do. Keep a detailed diary of all of your actions and communications with SFE;
- Keep photocopies of all documents that you send to SFE and a record of what you have sent and when;
- Start early and be prepared for the process to take quite a long time. It seems as though the process may be getting quicker but in academic year 2016-17 , the first year after the long residence catergory came fully into force, many people were well into their second term of study before they received their decisions.
If you are getting letters from schools, try asking for multiple copies (not photocopies but several original letters);
- Send documents special delivery, to be signed for, so there is a record of postage and receipt;
- Give them what they ask for and don’t send large quantities of ‘secondary’ evidence, evidence that is not listed in the SFE letter as being admissable e.g. school reports and certificates, photographs, bank statements. This evidence may be necessary if you cannot provide the evidence they are requesting and have exhausted your options. But if you send large quantities of evidence our experience is that SFE assessors will not have the capacity to scan all of the documents onto their system and may simply send it back;
- Include a cover letter with your evidence, explaining in detail all of the documents that are enclosed. Keep a copy of this cover letter. The example below is a real example sent by a young person who has been assessed as eligible under the ‘long residence’ category (although we cannot say for sure if the evidence listed was alone deemed sufficient by SFE);
- If SFE tell you there is a problem with your evidence or the evidence is not sufficient, get specific, detailed information about exactly what is not sufficient and why. What dates are they disputing? We can only assist if you have this clear and specific information;
- If you are speaking with SFE on the phone, persevere and do not take the first ‘no’ for an answer. If they say they cannot provide you with the information that you need to progress your application, ask to speak with someone who can give you this information as it will be impossible to progress without it;
- If you are asked to provide evidence that is not relevant to the half of life rule or the three year ordinary residence rule, get in touch;
- If you are considering taking a year out and applying next year, it may be worth thinking about how you will prove you have been in the UK during this year. In reality it is easier if you are oding something which can provide evidence such as those listed in the SFE letter.
Communicating with SFE – USE THE COMPLAINTS TEAM!
If you call the regular Student Finance England (SFE) contact number, you will not be able to speak with an actual assessor. You may be given incomplete or inaccurate information. If you call them again, you may be told something different by the next person you speak with. The person you speak with will not be able to contact an assessor who is looking at your case and will likely be interpreting information on your case file as best they can.
Instead, you can contact the Complaints Team on 0300 100 0601 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. It seems that the complaints team are able to contact assessors and get more accurate information about what stage your case is at and what is holding up your assessment.
If you contact the complaints team, give them accurate information and ask for detailed information back so you know what you need to do next (you may have to wait).
We will add to this section as people contact us with new issues they have faced providing evidence.
No evidence – Time spent out of school
Several young people have contacted us with this issue. Time spent out of school has been for periods of a few weeks to several months long.
- In the first instance, check if you can provide any of the other types of evidence suggested by SFE;
- If this is not possible, we would suggest providing anything else that you can find: photos, letters from people who can confirm your presence in the UK, certificates, GP records etc. Absolutely anything and everything;
- Keep a detailed record of everything you do and send and of all conversations and correspondence;
- It may be that these are deemed insufficient by SFE, but if there is no way of getting the documents listed by SFE then this really is the only option and it is important to exhaust all possible avenues;
- If you have tried everything, and have a detailed record of the evidence you have sent SFE, but this evidence is still deemed to be insufficient, get in touch.
Evidence that you feel should be acceptable has been deemed insufficient
One young person provided letters from all of his schools but was told he had provided insufficient evidence.
- Get clear and detailed information from SFE about what is insufficient and why. Is it insufficient between specific dates or for the whole period? Is one school letter acceptable but another not? Without this detailed information it is very difficult to advise what to do next;
- If you have obtained this detailed information but have still not been able resolve the issue, get in touch.
Receiving your Student Finance
After you have provided sufficient evidence for SFE to make a positive assessment, and if the Home Office do verify your immigration history, you will eventually be greeted with this, wonderful screen:
We add to as soon as we receive new information from young people. Please do contact us if you have any new or different information.