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What is a Visa?
Do I need a Visa?
The Rules
How to apply Student Visa
Drugs Warning
Health Insurance
General Information
Other Considerations
 
This article is only a brief guide. It does not cover all the rules for immigration entry. The law is mostly set out in the Immigration Act 1971 and the Statements of Changes in the UK Immigration Rules. The Rules for entering the UK differ if you are a national of a Member State of the European Economic Area (the Member States of the European Union, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) or if you can claim British Citizenship or other connection with the UK, for example by ancestry. Details are available from the nearest British mission which offers a visa service.
What is a Visa?
 
If you need a United Kingdom visa you must apply for one before you travel to the United Kingdom. Even when you hold a visa you will still need to pass through immigration control when you arrive. But if you are holding a visa you will not be refused permission to enter unless there has been some change in your circumstances or you gave false information or did not disclose important facts when you obtained the visa. Holders of visas may also be refused on medical grounds, if they have a criminal record, if they are subject to a deportation order or if there are other exceptional reasons why they should not be admitted.

When you arrive in the United Kingdom, you may be questioned by an Immigration Officer so take all relevant documents in your hand luggage
 
Do I need a Visa?
 
If you are a national of one of the countries listed in leaflet INF 1 or if you are stateless or hold a non-national travel document or a passport issued by an authority not recognised by the UK you must have a valid UK visa on each occasion you enter the UK, unless you qualify for exemption as explained in INF 1. It is not possible to switch from visitor to student status once in the UK. You must therefore have the correct visa before you travel.

Other nationals (such as those from the European Union) do not have to have a visa to study in the UK. However, you will have to satisfy the immigration officer on arrival in the UK that you qualify for entry. If you are in any doubt about your eligibility you are advised to apply for a visa before you travel.
 
The Rules
 
You must be able to support and accommodate yourself and any dependants and pay for your studies without working in the UK and without recourse to public funds, except that:
  • it is acceptable for support and accommodation and the cost of your studies to be provided by relatives or friends in the UK; and
  • the income from part time work provided and guaranteed by a publicly funded institution of further or higher education in the United Kingdom at which you are studying may be taken into account when assessing your financial means.
It is not necessary to have finalised your arrangements but you must intend to study at a university, a publicly funded college of further or higher education, independent school or other genuine private educational institution. You must also be able to follow your intended course.

Your course of study should occupy the whole or a substantial part of your time (at least 15 hours a week organised daytime study of a single subject or of directly related subjects leading to a particularly qualification).

You must intend to leave the UK when your studies are completed.
 
How to apply for a Student Visa
 
If you wish to apply for an entry clearance you should fill in form IM2A (and related forms if applicable) which you can get free of charge from the nearest British mission offering a visa service. You can only apply at the British mission in the country where you are living. Where there is none in the country concerned, or it does not offer a full service, another British mission will have been designated to handle applications.
Your application form may be submitted by hand or by post together with:
  • your passport*
  • two recent passport-sized photographs
  • the visa fee, which is non-refundable
  • any relevant diplomas or educational certificates which you hold
  • a letter from the University, College or School confirming your acceptance for the course of study in the UK and a statement of charges for the course
  • evidence of Government sponsorship (if appropriate)

* In certain countries it may be inadvisable to send your passport through the post.

Fees must be paid in local currency (i.e. the currency of the country in which the British mission is located). You should not send cash through the post, but bank drafts, postal or money orders payable to the mission may be enclosed.

The visa officer may then be able to decide your application without further enquiries. However, you might have to attend an interview. In addition to the documents listed above you may be asked for:
  • evidence of funds to pay for your stay and your course of studies in the UK or
  • a letter from your host or sponsor in the UK to say that s/he will support and accommodate you during your course of studies, together with evidence that s/he can do so.
YOU SHOULD NOT BUY A TICKET OR PAY ALL OR PART OF THE COST OF A COURSE OF STUDIES IF DELAY OR REFUSAL OF YOUR APPLICATION WILL RESULT IN FINANCIAL LOSS. THE VISA OFFICER MAY ASK YOU FOR OTHER DOCUMENTS: PRODUCTION OF THOSE LISTED ABOVE DOES NOT GUARANTEE THAT A VISA WILL BE ISSUED.
If in doubt, you can obtain advice from the nearest British mission.
 
Drugs Warning
 

The UK has severe penalties against drug smuggling. Drug traffickers may try to bribe travellers. If you are travelling to the UK avoid any involvement with drugs.

CUSTOMS & EXCISE
Advice on importing personal effects and goods into the UK may be obtained from:
HM Customs and Excise, Dorset House, Stamford Street, LONDON SE1 9PY United Kingdom

IMMIGRATION ADVISORY SERVICE (IAS)
The IAS is an independent charity which gives free and confidential advice, assistance and representation to persons who are applying for an entry clearance for the UK. Their address is:
County House, 190 Great Dover Street, LONDON SE1 4YB United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 171 357 6917
Duty Office 24 hrs: +44 181 814 1559
Fax: +44 171 378 0665

 
Health Insurance

Before you travel, please check that you have adequate health insurance cover. Medical treatment in the UK can be expensive and visitors are not covered by the United Kingdom's national health insurance scheme (unless they are covered by a reciprocal health care agreement or they are enrolled on a course that is of six months duration or longer).
 
General Information for students

The following explains what the Immigration Rules say about students. They are only a guide and aim to answer frequently asked questions.
How do I qualify to come to the United Kingdom to study?
You must show that you have been accepted on a course of study at:

  •          a publicly-funded institution of further or higher education (for example, a university);
  •          a private-education institution; or
  •          an independent fee-paying school;

and that you are going to follow:

  •          a recognised full-time degree course;
  •          a course run during the week that involves at least 15 hours of organised daytime study a week; or
  •          a full-time course of study at an independent fee-paying school.

You must also:

  •          be able to pay for your course and support and accommodate yourself and any dependants without working or help from public funds; and
  •          plan to leave the United Kingdom when you complete your studies.
If you are a visa national, you will need a visa to enter the United Kingdom. If you are not a visa national, you will find it helpful to carry documents with you which will show immigration officers that you meet the requirements for entering the United Kingdom as a student.

What are public funds?
If you come to live or stay in the United Kingdom, you must be able to support and accommodate yourself without claiming certain state benefits. These are:

  •          Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA);
  •          housing and homelessness assistance;
  •          Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit;
  •          Working Families' Tax Credit;
  •          a social fund payment;
  •          Child Benefit; or
  •          any disability allowance.
Can I extend my stay as a student?
If you are already studying here, you can apply to extend your stay as a student.
If you did not enter the United Kingdom as a student, you may apply to stay on for studies as long as you are a non-visa national.
If you are a visa national, you cannot stay on as a student unless you entered the United Kingdom with a student or prospective student visa.

How do I apply?
You will need to complete an application form. Applications (except those for asylum and work permits or under European Community law) will not be valid unless they are made on the appropriate application form.
To apply for further leave to remain, get form FLR(S).
 

If you are not sure which application form you should complete, the Application Forms Unit will be able to help you. You can telephone them on +44 870 241 0645.

You should send the completed form by post, before your permission to stay ends. The application form will give you details of all the documents you will need to send with your application and where you should send it.

If you need to travel urgently, you can apply in person at one of the public enquiry offices.

All documents should be originals unless you have a good reason as to why you cannot produce them with your application. We will not normally accept photocopies.

Am I allowed to work?

You may take part-time or holiday work but you must not:
  • work for more than 20 hours a week during term time, unless your work placement is part of your studies and your education institution agrees;
  • do business, be self-employed or provide services as a professional sports person or entertainer; or
  • work full time in a permanent job.

Can I bring my husband or wife and children with me?

Your husband or wife and any of your children under 18 can come to the United Kingdom with you during your studies as long as you can support and accommodate them without help from public funds.

Is my husband or wife allowed to work?

Your husband or wife will be allowed to work if you were given permission to stay in the United Kingdom for 12 months or more.

Can I come to the United Kingdom to arrange my studies?

You may come to the United Kingdom as a prospective student to arrange your studies for up to six months. You will need to show that:

  •          you plan to enrol on a course of study within six months of arriving;
  •          you can pay for your course and support and accommodate yourself and any dependants without working or help from public funds; and
  •          you plan to leave the United Kingdom when you finish your studies or when your permission to stay ends if you are not able to qualify to stay in the United Kingdom as a student.

If you are a visa national, you will need to apply for a visa as a prospective student before you travel.

Can I get medical treatment?

If you come from a country with a health-care agreement with the United Kingdom, or you are enrolled on a course for six months or more, you may be able to get medical treatment on the National Health Service (NHS)
Short-term students who are here for less than six months and visitors are not entitled to free medical treatment, and you will be charged for any treatment you receive.  Please make sure you have enough health insurance to cover your stay.
You can get more information from the Department of Health:

Do I have to register with the police?

If you have to register with the police, we will stamp this requirement in your passport. You must register within seven days of arriving in the United Kingdom.

To register, you will need your passport and two passport-size photographs of yourself. If you are staying in the Metropolitan Police Area, you should take these to the Overseas Visitors Records Office, Ground Floor, Brandon House, 180 Borough High Street, SE1 1LH between 9am and 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. If you are not staying in the Metropolitan Area, you should contact your local police force for the address and opening hours of other police registration offices. You will have to pay a fee for registering with the police.

You can get guidance leaflets and information about visas from the Joint Entry Clearance Unit. Please write to:
The Visa Correspondence Unit
Joint Entry Clearance Unit
89 Albert Embankment
London SE1 7TP.
General enquiries:+44 20 7238 3838
Application forms: +44 20 7238 3858

 
Other Considerations
 
The UK has introduced service targets for processing visa applications by international students.
Targets have been introduced to speed up the turn-round of visa applications. The targets for dealing with straightforward and non-straightforward student visa applications are 24 hours and 10 working days respectively.

Partnership arrangements between Visa Sections and the British Council have been introduced in some countries where we receive a large number of student applications. These ensure that people who qualify to come here submit properly documented applications which can be processed quickly. These arrangements are in place in New Delhi, Islamabad are Beijing. There are plans to introduce them over the coming year in Moscow, Istanbul and Bangkok.
The UK is reducing the need for international students in the UK to extend their leave to remain in the UK.
 
Immigration Officers will normally grant an international student leave to remain in the UK for the full duration of his or her course unless the student does not have the appropriate documents or there are overriding issues of immigration control.

Before entering the UK, international students should check that they have the right documents by referring to The British Council's "First Steps" guide for international students coming to study in the UK and the pre-departure briefing pack. These are available from British Council offices overseas.
 
The UK has introduced a general service target  which will include international students in the UK who want to extend or vary their leave to remain in the UK.
International students can expect to have a decision made on a straightforward application to extend or vary their leave to remain in the UK within 2 weeks of receipt by the Home Office Initial Consideration Unit.
 
The UK is making it easier for international students taking courses of 12 months or more to plan their futures when their courses end.
 

In general, international students on courses of one year or more will be given leave to remain in the UK until 31 October following the end of their course. This will enable international students to consider whether to progress to a further level of study in the UK, arrange training or work experience with an UK employer, organise their personal affairs or simply to say goodbye to friends and visit some of the tourist attractions in the UK before returning home.

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