Coming to study to the UK? Frequently Asked Questions

You can find answers about visas & immigration, travel, life in the UK, living in London, and CONACYT’s admin and payment/money issues.

The Mexican Society (MexSoc UK) initially prepared these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) in King’s College London. We thank them for their contribution to all Mexican students in the UK. Since then, students from all the UK have contributed with new FAQs (and still contributing!)

For any enquiries, please contact the Latin American or Mexican Society in your university.

This is the best way to be informed on general issues, find support and meet people. 

Last update: May 2021.

Sections

  • Visas and inmigration
  • Travel
  • Life in the UK
  • Conacyt (Administrative)

DISCLAIMER:

We encourage you to issue an Apostille for every document in any of the procedures described in the forthcoming sections.

For CONACYT procedures, read “Guía de Becario al Extranjero”, and for any more information contact the personnel of Conacyt to https://www.conacyt.gob.mx/Directorio-de-Atenci%C3%B3n-a-Becarios.html 

For assistance from the Mexican Authorities in the UK, check the website of the Consular Section here: https://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/reinounido/index.php/en/ 

VISAS AND INMIGRATION:

Be aware that UK immigration policy changes constantly. We keep up to date on these changes but strongly encourage you to check for any recent changes here. 

My Tier 4 visa will not be on time for the start of my course. What can I do?

Don’t worry. Every university in the UK understands that the UKVI takes a long time with visas. They all have late enrolments so that you can get to the UK some weeks after your official start date. Usually, the last date for late enrolments is in mid-to-late October. The first couple of weeks usually involve introductions and welcome talks. So, if you get to the UK late, you can speak to student services and ask them to guide you.

BEFORE APPLYING:

I will be doing an exchange/research stay in the UK. What visa should I request? Does this include healthcare?

  • If you’re coming to the UK and intend to study for less than six weeks, you can enter the UK as a tourist. Check here the types of studies permitted. If you’re Mexican, you don’t need to apply for a tourist visa before travelling. 
  • If you’re coming to study in the UK for less than six months, because you are Mexican, you don’t need a visa to travel to the UK. However, if you are going to study for more than six weeks, you must get a study visit visa at the airport, presenting the letter from your university and travelling supporting documents. This visa DOES NOT include healthcare and does not allow you to work in the UK. If you’re from another nationality, check whether you need to apply for a study visit visa before travelling. Be aware that you cannot extend this visa or switch to another visa category if you’re already in the UK. 
  • If your stay is six months or more, you need to get a tier 4 visa, including healthcare (read the following FAQ about the NHS surcharge) and allow you to work in most cases.

What do I need to obtain a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK? Can I do it without X paper?

You can find a general idea about what you need to get a Tier 4 visa in this video by the UK government. Alternatively, you can read said guidance here. In general terms, you need two things:

  • To prove that you’re a genuine student by showing a CAS (Certificate of Acceptance of Studies). This document is given to you by your university and it confirms that you will be studying with them. You also need to provide: your previous degrees, diplomas and transcripts, as well as a recent IELTS (academic) exam. If your degree requires it, you also need an ATAS.
  • To prove that you have enough funds to support yourself in the UK. The documents you need to verify this depend on your circumstances but usually include either bank statements or letters confirming you have funding. 

You need all the documents they request. This is based on a point system: you get 30 points for being an authentic student and 10 points for having enough money. If you don’t present a paper, you will not reach 40 points, and your visa will be rejected.

I have two nationalities, one of which is European. Do I still need to get a visa? Do I need to pay the healthcare surcharge?

You need to check if you need a visa. There is no need to keep your double nationality a secret. You do need to pay the healthcare surcharge. However, this situation can change due to recent developments in the relationship between the UK and the EU after the UK left the Union.

DURING THE APPLICATION:

How can I provide proof of funds for the Tier 4 visa?  And how can I confirm that my university will cover 25% of my fees if I’m a CONACyT scholar?

You need to prove your funding comes with translating a sponsorship letter, and a recent bank statement with enough funds in a standard, non-investment account.

I have funding for my degree. Can I apply for my visa before I have the official documents for my scholarship?

If you can prove that you have enough funds for total tuition fees and 9 months of living expenses, then you can apply for a visa with your own money. Be sure to provide evidence of this in the appropriate format. If you don’t have enough money for this, then no, you have to wait until you have all the official documents to apply. 

I am a CONACYT scholar. Should I apply for a Tier 4 (general) or a Tier 4 (sponsored) visa?

You should apply to Tier 4 (general). Tier 4 (sponsored) is mainly for the Chevening scholarship and funding sources open from the UK government. 

Do I have to translate all my documents to get my tier 4 visa?

Yes, and it has to be by a translator certified by the local state tribunal. You can find translators as cheap as $200-300 pesos per page, so don’t let anyone scam you. You can check a list of translators recommended by the British Council here

How long does it take for my university to obtain/modify my CAS?

The first time you are registered for a CAS with the UKVI, it will usually take around five working days, although this might vary. After this, any additional notes or modifications, such as paid fees or funding agreements, can be added in one or two working days (depending on how much pressure you put on the admissions department) because it can be done directly from your university, without the need of external validation. 

My degree requires an ATAS certificate. How do I get it?

You can check our guide here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/academic-technology-approval-scheme 

Do I need a specific mark in my English test to get my visa?

No. If the university accepted you with a particular mark on your English test, that would suffice for the UKVI. The university will include your exam results in your CAS. You will have to present the exam results that coincide with what your CAS says during your visa appointment. Be very careful to check that these results were copied correctly from your exam because if they contain a mistake, and they don’t coincide with your English test, your visa might be refused. However, note that you need a specific mark to be able to apply for a CONACYT scholarship (79-80 for TOEFL and 6.5 for IELTS, at least). 

Is it true that TOEFL results cannot be used to obtain my Tier 4 visa and that I need to present the IELTS instead?

It is true, with some exceptions. For some years the UK government stopped accepting the TOEFL for visa applications. Therefore, if you’re still about to present your English test, we strongly recommend that you submit the IELTS instead. However, if you already have the TOEFL, there are some universities in the UK that will accept it. Immigration regulations state that higher education providers (i.e. universities) can evaluate your proficiency themselves. Therefore, some universities will accept the TOEFL score and state they are fine with your English in your CAS. However, note that this is the exception. In most cases, the IELTS is the only exam accepted. If you want to be on the safe side, either present the IELTS or contact your university’s admissions department to ensure you won’t have problems.  

I heard there is now an NHS/healthcare surcharge during the visa application. What’s that? How/when will I need to pay?

Everyone coming to the UK to study or work for more than six months will have to pay to receive public healthcare. This is regardless of whether you have private insurance. 

FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT:

Do I have to take the originals of all my documents to my appointment?

Yes. You have to take your originals and their copies. Don’t worry about your diploma. Most times, they don’t keep it, and they stamp the photocopy with the words “original seen”.

Do I have to take old passports with me? What on Earth do they want them for?

This will depend on whether you mentioned them in your application. If you did, then you should take them. These are used to guarantee that you have travelled outside your home country and returned without staying illegally anywhere. 

AFTER THE APPOINTMENT:

How long does the VISA take to process?

If you’re in Mexico, usually it takes around three weeks. If you pay priority service it should be slightly shorter in theory. If you’re already in the UK and deliver priority service, it will be ten working days from the day of your interview. Otherwise, the standard service can take any time between 1-3 months. If you’re in another country, you can check visa processing times here

Flight prices are low right now! Should I buy my ticket before getting my visa?

Absolutely not. Visa-processing times vary a lot, and there have been countless fellow scholars that have lost a lot of money because they had to change flight dates. 

I’ve been told I need to collect a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) when I arrive in the UK. What’s this? 

All visas to live in the UK need to have your Biometric data. Therefore, you will be issued with an ID card called a “Biometric Residence Permit”, which will contain all of your data. The BRP is effectively your Tier 4 visa. However, the UK consulates do not have the possibility of issuing BRPs just yet. Therefore, what they will give you will be a sticker on your passport. This sticker is a 30-day, temporary travel visa which will allow you to enter the UK to collect your Tier 4 visa, which will be in the format of a BRP. 

During the application process, you will be asked whether you want to collect your BRP in your university or a post office close to your address in the UK. If for any reason, you are not able to arrive in the UK during this 30-day window, you will need to apply for another temporary travel visa.

COVID-19 update available at https://www.gov.uk/biometric-residence-permits/collect 

My Tier 4 Biometric Residence Permit has an error. What can I do?

Check https://www.gov.uk/biometric-residence-permits/report-problem  within ten working days of receiving the permit – otherwise, you may be charged for a replacement and will need to apply again. The following details must be provided in the e-mail: full name, date of birth, nationality, passport number, BRP reference number,  case reference number, a contact telephone number and an explanation of the error. Alternatively, this information can be sent by post. Check the guidance for more details. 

I lost my Tier 4 Biometric Residence Permit. What can I do?

Report it as soon as possible to https://visas-immigration.service.gov.uk/product/biometric-residence-permit-replacement-service providing your full name, date of birth, nationality, passport number, BRP reference number, case reference number, contact details, and when, where and how the BRP was lost or stolen. You must also report the loss or theft to the police and get a police report and crime reference. Once you already have that number, you have up to 3 months to apply for a replacement, which you can do with this form. If you take longer, you can be fined or deported. If you lost your BRP while outside of the UK, you must wait until you return to the UK to apply for the replacement. To get back in, you need a BRP replacement visa, which you can request here. Note that if this is the case, you only have one month to reapply. 

TRAVEL:

TO THE UK:

Where can I get cheap plane tickets to go to the UK?

You can get some discounts with the OIM as a student but bear in mind that this process requires time to request. You can also look for deals on Despegar, Mundo Joven, or Edreams. Aeroméxico, especially in off-peak seasons. We advise you to buy tickets with enough time in advance.

You can check constantly in Skyscanner or Google Flights for all the different routes in case you want to save money and do not travel straight, there are several routes you can take, often the cheapest ones are through the USA, but keep in mind you need an American Visa to make a connection flight in the USA you will go through customs (that could take extra time so bear in mind any short layovers).

 What is the weather like in the UK? What clothes should I take with me?

The UK is usually rainy and windy, and it is freezing in the winter, although, depending on the year, summers can be hot. Set some money aside to buy a decent winter jacket when you get here because jackets in Mexico are not designed for this kind of cold. Bring warm clothes but also be prepared for the warm summer.

Some ideas where to get affordable and good quality jackets/coats in the UK: TK Max, Primark, Decathlon, Mountain Warehouse (this is a bit more expensive, but they have several discounts). Also, we suggest browsing charity shops, they can be really cheap. Every time you visit a clothing store, ask if they have student discounts. In most cases, your student ID should be enough to get the % off.

Do I need to hire health insurance to travel to the UK? Can you recommend one?

If you are going to study in the UK for more than six months, you do not need to pay for health insurance. All of your health costs will be covered by the NHS (National Health Service). When you get to the UK, you should register in a clinic either in your university or close to where you live. If you will be in the UK for a period shorter than six months or want to be extra safe, you can buy private health insurance, although it is not a requirement. 

In some cases, with private insurance with international coverage bought in Mexico, if you go to a hospital you will need to pay in advance and then get a refund. Private health services in the UK are extremely expensive, so do not be overconfident that the insurance company will pay for the hospital in any case.

Is there anything I must do before travelling?

Mexicans should leave a legal power (carta poder notarial para actos administrativos y de cobranza) to someone they trust so that they can solve issues with your bank or with CONACyT if needed. They should also register in the SIRME or the Registry for Mexicans abroad.

Will my phone work in the UK?

Your phone will work in the UK, but you will spend your data quickly when you arrive. Buy a SIM card as soon as possible to get a UK number. O2, Vodafone, Tesco, and Giff-Gaff offer diverse services as you want to adapt your payments. Usually, you will have to register with your passport.

You can order online a sim card, you will need a UK address for this, here you can find a comparison of the prices and mobile companies in the UK.

What things should I take/not take to the UK?

You definitely need an interchangeable plug for your devices. You can get these at the airport. However, be aware NOT to bring things with motors and things that produce heat, such as hair straighteners, curling irons, epilators, lamps, or kitchen appliances, because even with your electrical converter, they will be fried because they were designed for UK electricity standards.

On other things, you can bring Mexican food in enclosed packages. But we recommend buying most things in the UK and in any shop that you can find in the MexiBrit directory.

Souvenirs from Mexico are widely appreciated, everything related to “Dia de muertos” is a good idea for a souvenir.

I take medication. How much should/can I take with me? Do I need to travel with my prescription?

If you take medication, bring enough for at least 1 month. You can get prescriptions with your GP in the UK. However, you should have enough medicine before registering and having your registration processed.

Bear in mind that the NHS will not necessarily respect the brand of the medication you take. While travelling, it is always better to take your prescription with you if you carry a lot of medication, just in case. However, be aware that the UK only needs you to prove that your medicine belongs to you if it is a controlled drug. If it is a controlled drug and you have more than 3 months of it, you also need to get a licence. That being said, it is rare when you get checked at customs.

Can I take X food/drink in my suitcase?

In general, you can bring most things that are factory packed. However, it is illegal to get any meat and dairy products, even if they are canned. How much alcohol you can bring depends on the type of alcohol. However, only one litre of tequila or other spirits (destilados) is allowed. You can find your allowance of other alcohol here. That being said, it is very, very rare to find customs officials in the airports. but that does not mean they do not exist!

FROM THE UK:

How expensive is it to travel around Europe once I am in the UK?

Usually, tickets in Europe are cheap off-season, and relatively cheap in comparison to plane tickets to Mexico. There are also train tickets via Eurostar to Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels.

I have European friends that want to visit Mexico. Do they need a visa?

If the person is from the UK or any country in the Schengen area, they will not need a visa and can only travel with their passport. If they are from another nationality, you can check if they need a visa here

Can I apply or renew my USA tourist visa whilst in the UK? How do I do this?

Yes, as long as you are not in the UK as a tourist. The US government will require you to fill a form and book an appointment. Once you have your appointment, you will need to go in person to the US embassy in London, where you’ll have your visa in about 3-5 hours. 

Website: https://uk.usembassy.gov/visas/

My passport got lost/stolen whilst in the UK. What can I do?

If you lost your passport, first try and find it in the lost and found office of the place where you think it got lost, such as TFL, Heathrow Airport, or anywhere else. For robbery or if you failed in finding it with the lost and found offices, then you should contact the police and report the theft. They will give you a case number which you will require for the rest of the process. You will also be preventing your lost passport from being used to commit fraud. After you have done this, if you are Mexican, you can book an appointment at the Mexican Consulate to get a new passport. Note that you will have to prove your nationality and identity as if you were getting your passport for the first time. You can read more details here

LIFE IN THE UK:

How can I find a flat?

You can check our post about accommodation on websites like SpareRoom, Zoopla, Gumtree. All universities have accommodation services but compare with any other rooms. Also, on Facebook, in some cities, Mexican students and university students, in general, are looking for flatmates.

How does healthcare work?

Basically, you will have a relationship with the NHS with your General Practitioner Clinic (GP). We recommend joining the GP of your University. Dental services, chiropractors, and some counselling services are not covered by the NHS.

However, regarding mental health, the NHS covers medication and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Most universities have counselling services.

How should my family dial my UK phone number?

If they are in Mexico, they should dial 0044 and then the number, omitting the 0 at the start. If it is from a mobile phone, they should dial +44 and then miss the 0 at the beginning. However, we strongly recommend just getting Skype. It is much cheaper.

Utilities and broadband suppliers

You are entitled to change utility companies if available options. Electricity and gas providers are more accessible to change than the water service. Again, check with local providers to make an informed decision. In some cases, they might charge you for setting up, which includes a landline. 

Where can I buy Mexican products in the UK?

Predominantly from online vendors. You can find many options in MexiBrit.

Can you get a job while in the UK with a tier 4 visa? 

Yes, if you are a Master or PhD, your visa allows you to work for 20 hours per week during term time and full time on vacation. NOTE THAT A WEEK IS DEFINED AS “ANY ROLLING 7-DAY PERIOD“.

Given that a week does not start on a Monday, you need to be extra careful to not work more than 20 hours on any given 7 days. For example, if you did 20 hours of work on a weekend, you would not be able to do any work on the following Monday or Tuesday. 

What type of job can I aspire to?

In terms of what jobs, you might get, most people that find jobs will be either as waiters or as teaching assistants, student ambassadors, or exam invigilators in their own uni.

Please observe potential variations from one institution to another. Unitemps is a private organisation that works with Universities, but certainly not part of them. When looking for a position (exam invigilator, seminar tutor or similar), always observe your week limit of 20 hours. You may have 5 hours in an Unitemps contract and up to 15 directly with the University due to teaching, lab assistant, or similar. 

Teaching while doing a PhD

While every person has a different way to deal with the workload, it is suggested not to take more than three seminar groups from one or two modules. Consider that you will need to provide teaching hours (with the group), office hours (for questions and other queries from students) and preparation hours (the time to prepare class). Of course, this is just a suggestion. Feel free to challenge yourself but remember that your research is a top priority while being a PhD student. 

Tax refund

if you were deducted tax from your payroll, shown in the paying slip, you might be right to claim paid taxes. Please refer to https://www.gov.uk/claim-tax-refund.

Pension withdrawal

If you are teaching, Universities are required by law to enrol people working with them into a pension scheme when essential criteria have been met. Contact your HR department or Pensions department for more information and, if decided, withdraw from the system and get your contribution refunded via payroll. 

Does volunteering count as “work”?

Technically, you are totally allowed to volunteer if you are a Tier 4 visa holder. However, note that volunteering and “voluntary work” (or unpaid work) are not the same for immigration purposes. While volunteering does not count towards your weekly work hour limit, “voluntary work” does. The distinction between these two terms is not entirely clear in the guidance. However, what is clear is that volunteering needs to be with a registered charity to count as such and that unpaid internships or being part of the core personnel of an organisation count as voluntary work. You must make sure which of these two you are committing to before starting. 

What do I need to do to get a job/How do I get a National Insurance Number?

Before starting work, you need to get a National Insurance Number (NINo). For this, you need to call the numbers on the previous link, where they will assess whether you can apply by post or whether you need to go in-person to a JobCentrePlus, where they will fill out the exact same form you would have filled had you been allowed to apply by post. This is one of the most unnecessarily bureaucratic bits of paperwork you will experience in the UK, which means you will get your NINo in about a month after your appointment in the JobCentrePlus (on top of the approximately one month you will have to wait to get the appointment in the first place).

Note you can start work without a NINo, as long as you have already applied for the NINo, and you can prove to your employer that you have the right to work in the UK. 

Do I need to pay taxes in the UK?

You do not need to pay taxes for any scholarship or grant money (such as a CONACYT scholarship). However, if you do find employment, you will need to pay taxes. Given the number of hours you will be allowed to work and the salary you will receive, these will presumably be very low. If you only have one employer, they will discount the money automatically on your behalf. If you have more than one employer, you will need to file taxes. 

Credit cards from UK based banks

We suggested getting a credit card from a UK based bank to start building a credit record. Please contact your bank for more details and look for a tutorial on managing a credit card. Knowledge is always the best weapon. American Express offers a Global Card Relationship, a member-only service that seamlessly makes Card Members apply for a new American Express Personal Card in select countries. Please contact the bank for more details. 

Council tax

If you are a student, you do not have to pay council tax but always inform on moving into a new place. If non-students live in your household, then you’ll get a discount but not an exemption. Check the regulation to see how much you will pay.

Emergency phone numbers to always record in the mobile

You can dial 999 to reach either the police, fire or ambulance departments. Along with the coastal areas, this number will also put you in touch with Britain’s voluntary coastguard rescue service, the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.

Is there any British bank that has an agreement with a Mexican bank so that I can use their ATMs for free?

Yes, Scotiabank has an agreement with Barclays, and BBVA Bancomer has a deal with Lloyds. Other banks that have branches worldwide do charge you for using their ATMs, such as Santander and CitiBank. Some premium accounts on HSBC allow you to use their ATMs worldwide, but you need to check whether your account has this option. Check which banks are members of the Global ATM Alliance so you can know where to withdraw money without fees.

How do I open a bank account in the UK?

You need to have a sponsor letter from your university, usually offered by student services. Then you need to book an appointment at the bank you choose. Barclay’s does not take the student letter from the University. HSBC does, but the process might take time (reportedly four visits to the branch before you might have the procedure done). Once in the bank branch, you will submit your BPR, Passport and residence letter (Student Status Letter). You will receive by post separately a debit card and a NIP. You will be able to activate your account by phone or in an ATM.

What is the best way to send/receive money to/from the UK?

Fellow scholars mention that PayPal is the cheapest and fastest way. You will need two PayPal accounts: one for each country. We have also heard many recommendations about Azimo and Wise/Revolut.

Monese allows you to top up using your Cibanco card or any other debit card. Please be aware of limits per day and per month. By March 2021, you have a limit of two top-ups without charge, on two different days, for up to £500 each. 

Revolut allows you to top up as well without charge once a month. You can top up more than £700 in a single try. After topping up, delete your card, so you are not charged the next time. 

Both services offer you a debit card, so if you have just arrived in the UK, these are the best option to get a British bank account fast (while you get an appointment in one of the high street banks such as Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, Santander, RBS, etc.). Other options include the Starling bank, Monzo and Wise. 

Are there any discount cards or programs that I should totally get?

  • If you plan on travelling inside the UK a lot, then get a student railcard, which will give you 30% off on any train travel in the UK, including pay-as-you-go on the London underground. It does not matter if it says 16-25: you can get it regardless of age if you are a full-time student.
  • We strongly recommend the Museums Association card, which gives your free entry to all paid exhibitions in most museums in the UK.
  • The National Union of Students (NUS) card will entitle you to significant discounts on many venues, including Pizza Express, Amazon, and the Cooperative.
  • Some many supermarkets and pharmacies have loyalty programs, such as Sainsbury, Tesco,  and Boots. These let you accumulate points and sometimes give you discount vouchers. They can save you some money, but be aware that they will track your purchases, so if you are very concerned about your privacy, you should consider the pros and cons before getting these. 
  • Finally, multiple shops and online retailers subscribed to MyUniDays, so you might want to check it out.

LIVING IN LONDON:

How much money do I need to survive in London?

This depends on how many people you are living with. A two-bedroom flat in a cheap area would be around £700-900 per month per person, but you can find rooms for £400 if you look carefully and do not mind sharing with 3 or more people.

The monthly transport travel card for zones 1-2 is around £80 for students if you get a student Oyster card, and your average supermarket for the week would be around £25-35, depending on how much you buy.

A very cheap meal out might be £5, but bills in restaurants will be £14-20 per person on average. Many restaurants do student discounts, so ask. Maintaining a cell phone is relatively cheap, with moderate monthly bills of around £10-15 with most companies. Fellow scholars have come to the following conclusion: if you want to starve, come with £690 for every month. If you are going to survive, £880 well managed can work. If you want to live decently and maybe have a couple of pints on the way, come with £1000. If you are going to eat out and have pleasant times during your studies, come with at least £1300.

Are there any discount cards I definitely need to get when I arrive in London?

Start with the ones we mentioned for the UK (Museums Association card and National Union of Students (NUS) card). Then add the following:

  • Definitely get a student Oyster card, which will let you buy monthly travelcards (abonos mensuales) with a 30% discount for the London transport system, including buses, railways and the underground. However, if you plan on cycling everywhere, do not waste your money getting it. The discount is only valid for travel cards, not pay-as-you-go.
  • The student railcard which we mentioned for the UK will also give you 30% off on the Tube in pay-as-you-go (off-peak), making it even more convenient for Londoners. To get the discount on the Tube, you should take your railcard and your oyster card to a ticket office on the tube and ask them to link your cards. After that, you will pay 30% less for all your train travels. 
  • If you are a classical music lover, do not be discouraged by prices. The Royal Opera House and the London Philharmonic Orchestra have student programs that allow you to book cheaper tickets. For theatre tickets, some schemes work for you if you are under 26. 

Where can I buy cheap things in London?

Firstly, get to terms with the idea that nothing is cheap in London. However, you can get less expensive items in some places. For clothes, you can go to Primark or H&M or TK Maxx. Primark also does sheets and bedding stuff. You can go to Argos or Home Bargains for home and kitchen appliances, where we’re told you can get perfect pots and pans.

Robert Dyas sells really cheap plate sets and offers student discounts. Furniture can be bought in Argos, Ikea or Amazon. You can go to a market for fruits and vegetables, or, if you are in central London, there are two cheap stands outside Holborn station. Cheap supermarkets, in general, can be bought in Iceland. The Cooperative has a 10% student discount if you have an NUS card (see above). You can visit Poundland or go to Bethnal Green station and walk up Bethnal Green Road for cheap utensils and home stuff. Finally, you can get a lot of mean things on Amazon and eBay. 

CONACYT (ADMIN):

ASPIRING SCHOLARS:

How can I obtain a CONACYT scholarship?

  1. Get accepted by a university to the Master or PhD program that you are interested in. It is preferable to join a university that has a collaboration agreement with CONACYT. Even though this is not necessarily a requirement for getting the scholarship, you have better odds of getting it. 
  2. Read the instructions to apply for a CONACYT scholarship and gather all the documents stated there.
  3. Check whether applications are currently open here.  
  4. Apply.

Do you know when the next round of scholarships will open/close?

Each year, the first round usually opens in mid-February and closes at the end of March. The second round usually starts in early April and closes at the end of June. You need to keep visiting the CONACYT website to know of any changes in the publication date of the scholarships calling.

Can I get a CONACYT scholarship for my undergrad degree (“licenciatura”)?

No, but please refer to the AMEXCID website for further information.

Will CONACYT cover my tuition fees in full?

This will depend on your university, your area of interest, and your tuition fees. Many universities have a collaboration agreement with CONACYT, which gives you specific discounts. Please refer to the section on collaboration agreements at the CONACYT website. CONACYT will grant you your scholarship depending on whether your area fits in their priority areas or not and whether you are at a master or PhD level. If you are looking for a master in a priority area or a PhD (in most cases), they will grant you a maximum of $300,000 MXN per year for tuition fees. 

If you are looking for a master in a non-priority area, they will grant you $65,000 MXN per year. In any case, this is subject to change every year. Whatever remains unpaid is your responsibility, meaning that you may need to pay from your pocket the remaining balance. 

As a rule of thumb, you will not have to pay anything in most non-science PhDs because they are cheaper and CONACYT tends to grant the full $300,000MXN for PhDs regardless of area. You might be OK with Master of Science’s programmes or pay a slight difference. In non-science masters such as MBA’s, you probably will have to cover a lot of money. Science PhDs with laboratories and consumables will have more expensive tuition fees, and you will probably have to pay a difference. 

My CONACYT scholarship will/does not cover my total tuition fees. What other options do I have?

Firstly, you can request some scholarships from your university or from your department. CONACYT does not place any restriction on other scholarships if they are not “from the Mexican federal government and for the same purposes” as your CONACYT scholarship. If you cannot get one of the university’s scholarships, you can also apply to some charities to check on The Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding, Santander Scholarships and others. You can log in using your university email. If you are a prospective student, you can request login details from admissions. As a Mexican, you can also apply for the SEP “Beca Complemento” or apply for a student loan with FIDERH. Finally, you could consider crowdfunding

Should I apply to the national call for scholarships or the one from my state? Can I apply to both at the same time?

This depends on many factors, mainly which round of scholarships you are applying to and which state you are from. From 2020, state scholarships callings migrate to regional scholarships callings, meaning you will compete with people from other states for a scholarship. Therefore, there is no definitive answer, so we advise you to read carefully each scholarship calling and contact CONACYT at an early stage in the application time frame. However, we can tell you the following general points to consider while making your decision: 

  • Generally, there are more scholarships available on the national call for applications. However, there are also many more applicants. Even though the states offer far fewer scholarships, fewer people apply, and many hands in incomplete applications are discarded. Therefore, if you definitively suit the profile and the requisites of the regional scholarships, then there are more possibilities for your application to get approved. However, be aware this is not always a rule: conveniently, you check your regional results from previous years to see how many scholarships were awarded. 
  • Usually, the science and technology council of every state offers you the possibility to check your documents before submitting them to CONACYT, they used to have a specific number of scholarships assigned, thus, depending on the state the number of applicants can be much lower than in other states.
  • Once your application gets approved, you will have to wait to formalise your scholarship. You will sign a contract and receive a letter that states how much money you will be getting during your studies. This document is called “Anexo 1”. You will need this letter to apply for a visa (unless you have enough funds of your own to fulfil the financial requirement for the visa). If you get a scholarship, the formalisation process with CONACYT can take a lot of time, so you should apply at the earliest date when possible. If you are applying for the first round of scholarships, the wait does not pose a concern because you will have plenty of time before starting your course. However, if you apply for the second round, you will arrive late for your class. Experience has shown that some of them end up arriving by mid-October, so beware of timing.
  • The national scholarship does not cover any visa or travel expenses. While getting a scholarship is exciting, please be prepared for the money you will need to invest in applying for the visa, travel arrangements and other current expenses.
  • In some states, you can ask your regional science and technology council for some support, normally they can support you with travel expenses.

Do not apply for both scholarships at once. CONACYT states in the call for applications that this is not permitted. If you apply to both, your applications will be automatically rejected before being reviewed. In any case, your decision.

CURRENT SCHOLARS:

DISCLAIMER: rules can change and we always emphasise checking on “Guía del Becario al Extranjero” and when necessary, send an email to the personnel of Conacyt in: https://www.conacyt.gob.mx/Directorio-de-Atenci%C3%B3n-a-Becarios.html 

What is up with the annual report one must send to CONACYT?

Usually (but not always), CONACYT will send you an email reminder saying that you must send your report. Frequently you will have to send it at the end of March or April, depending on when your scholarship started. To send your report, please refer to the “guía del becario” for further instructions. The report should be filled by your supervisor and signed by hand, then scanned in PDF so it can be uploaded. Note that this page is still very glitchy, so if you experience problems, contact CONACYT straight away. Log in again, upload the scan of the report, and copy the information in the message to the online form. Finally, click on save. 

I am doing a master’s and want to stay for a PhD. Does CONACYT allow me to do this?

Yes, if you stay in the same university for the PhD. You must request a “change of academic degree” (“solicitud de cambio de grado”). In 2021, most changes of degrees were cancelled or not authorised, and we do not know if they will come back. If you want to change universities for the PhD, you need to finalise your current scholarship contract and request another scholarship. Do not assume that you will get an automatic change of degree in any case.

I need to extend my CONACYT scholarship because I will not finish my degree when they initially said they would pay me. Can I do this?

You can extend your CONACYT scholarship according to the limits for each postgraduate program. Please refer to the CONACYT website for further information, as this could change according to new rules of operation (“reglas de operación”).  

I want to stay in the UK for the doctorate extension scheme. Can CONACYT make me a letter stating that I have their permission?

It is extremely likely this will not be possible by any chance (remember your commitments as CONACYT scholar when formalising), and we strongly suggest not to forge any kind of documents just to get a visa and stay in the UK. This is illegal so consequences might be severe.

My supervisor is moving to another university. What can I do?

Do not panic. It is not the end of the world. You have two options. The easiest one is to change supervisors and stay at the same university. In some cases, your second supervisor can become your primary supervisor, with your current supervisor keeping you as a student from the new university. However, if you really want to follow your supervisor, it is possible. Bureaucracy might be terrible in some cases, but if you are convinced, it is doable. 

You will need to submit this format, together with a letter stating why you are requesting the change and any documents that might support what you said in that letter. Please check up for any updates that could take place since the publication of this FAQ guide. If this is approved, you can change universities. However, be aware that timings will be tricky because your visa is specific to one university. Therefore, your new university will have to issue you with a new CAS for a new visa, which you will need to request before enrolling at your new university. The issue with tuition fees might be tricky, too, because CONACYT tends to pay for your whole year of studies. Therefore, it is better to make this change at the start of an academic year. Otherwise, you will have to make sure that CONACYT only pays for the terms you will be at your current university or request a refund for the remaining time. That really does not sound fun but getting informed by the right sources (your university and CONACYT) is essential.

CONACYT (PAYMENTS) AND CiBANCO:

STUFF TO KNOW BEFORE/TO RECEIVE YOUR SCHOLARSHIP:

Will my CONACYT scholarship be enough for living in the UK?

Yes, the scholarship should be enough if you live a modest, austere yet comfortable life. Most supplemented the scholarship with savings or with help from their families. If you want to read about other options for funding, read the second FAQ in the previous section. 

Will CONACYT pay for the new NHS charge?

Yes, but only as reimbursements. Pay the charge when you apply for your visa. Please refer to the CONACYT website for the right contact to request the reimbursement of NHS insurance/health coverage. Even when the UK government can modify the cost of health coverage, this does not imply CONACYT will pay the full amount. CONACYT can take years in adjusting what they pay for NHS (and monthly allowances) to their scholars. 

Keep in mind that the actual fees in 2021 for the NHS insurance are 470 pounds and CONACYT pays only £150, this payment is necessary for getting the visa and you will have to pay 4.5 years if you are applying for a PhD and 2.5 years if you are applying for a Masters Degree.

Do I have to open an account to receive my scholarship?

No, CONACYT will open a CiBanco Multicurrency account for you, where they will deposit your scholarship in pounds. Do keep this card in a secure place, as getting a new one because you lost it or whatever can be time-consuming.

When will CONACYT start making the deposits, and which day of the month?

That depends on the start date of your course. Usually, they start paying on a given month if your period begins in the first two weeks of that month. They will usually pay on the first five days of each month, but if there is a bank holiday or a weekend, it might be on the 6th or 7th day. Maintain a “colchón” or savings each month if payments are delayed and you need to pay rent or other bills in the UK. Remember that CONACYT will not start paying you until you send the BRP/visa once you get into the UK.

How do I activate my CiBanco card?

You do it online. You go to this link, click on “Primera vez que se conecta”, and follow the instructions. You must have all your account information at hand and use the same email you gave to CONACYT. Please contact CONACYT for any specific orientation or your colleagues at the Mexican/Latin American society in the university.

STUFF TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR CURRENT SCHOLARSHIP PAYMENTS:

CONACYT has not paid my tuition fees. What can I do?

Please contact your international office team straight away. They might have a specific officer for Mexican or Latin American students. They could help you in mediating with the Finance Office and CONACYT. Also, contact CONACYT to obtain information about why fees have not been paid and what can you do to sort that out. Here is the link to contact CONACYT: https://www.conacyt.gob.mx/Directorio-de-Atenci%C3%B3n-a-Becarios.html 

Will I get charged for using my CiBanco card in British ATMs?

No, if you use ATMs that advertise “free cash withdrawals”, which are the most. Depending on the bank, you have a daily limit to withdraw, so check the bank’s website for details or ask the people at the counter. You might consider using Revolut or Monese to “top up” a UK bank account using the CiBanco card.

Can I use my CiBanco card to pay for stuff online?

Yes, if they are not monthly payments or Direct Debits. We do not suggest this, to reduce the risk of blocking or problems of any sort. We suggest withdrawing your money and deposit right away in your UK bank account or top up online if it is available.

Can I make deposits on my scholarship card?

No, it is exclusively for your scholarship. If there are other deposits, the account may get blocked. Some scholars report having used it successfully for this purpose, but we do not recommend it. Again, it is your decision if you decide to go ahead with this.

Can I transfer money from my CiBanco account to another account?

No. If you want the money to be in your personal UK account, you will have to get the cash out on an ATM and deposit it in your bank’s local branch. 

Can I use my scholarship card in Mexico and other countries?

No. It used to be possible, but CONACYT is now incredibly strict about this, and the account gets locked immediately. If you REALLY need to use it abroad, contact CONACYT. CONACYT only allows the use of the CiBanco card within the country the scholar is studying.

My CiBanco card got blocked. What can I do?

Option 1 is calling/emailing CONACYT and asking him to sort this out for you. Option 2 is to call the number on the back of your card to sort it out with the bank. Mention that you are a CONACYT scholar. 

If you cannot call or prefer not to, you can write an email to atencionaclientes@cibanco.com. They will answer you by requesting a phone number and will contact you to solve the issue. We hear they are very efficient and will call back quickly. 

I lost my CiBanco card. What can I do?

Go to CiBanco’s online portal and select the option to deactivate the lost card. Then contact CONACYT, saying that you lost it and mentioning your scholar or CVU number. They will send a replacement using international courier services. You will have to send some scanned documents authorising the transfer of the funds from the old to the new account. Then you can activate the new card in the same way as you did it with the previous card. According to what fellow scholars have reported, depending on whether it is low or high season for paperwork in CONACYT, this process can take from a couple of days to some weeks.  

Can I keep my CiBanco card after the end of my studies?

No. It is an institutional account and can be deactivated at any time. Withdraw any remaining balance from your CiBanco account right after you receive the last payment of your scholarship.