It is very important that you find out about immigration procedures well in advance before you travel to the UK to study. That way you will be more prepared and therefore less likely to experience problems.
You are strongly advised to look at the following website for advice on your entry clearance/visa application which includes details of your nearest British Consulate, application forms, fees and other charges, required documents and guidance on how to complete the forms (www.ukvisas.gov.uk).
Further help and advice can also be found at www.ukcosa.org.uk who produce information and guidance sheets on a variety of international matters including how to apply.
Nationals of EEA Countries
If you are an EEA (European Economic Area) national or Swiss national you are entitled to enter the UK freely and have the right of residence here. To enter the UK you will need your valid passport or identity card and will not need to apply for prior entry clearance/visa.
Nationals of non-EEA Countries
You are classed as a non-EEA national if you are a national of a country that is not in the EEA or Switzerland.
If you are a non-EEA national and want to enter the UK as a student, you must meet the conditions for being a student, details of which can be found at the UK-visas website shown above. Evidence that you meet the conditions will be required in the form of documents when you apply for an entry clearance/visa or arrive at your port of entry.
Non EEA National Studying in the UK for More Than 6 Months
If you are coming to the UK to study for more than 6 months it is compulsory for you to obtain an entry clearance/visa in your home country before you arrive in the UK. You should not arrive in the UK without obtaining entry clearance or visa for the entire length of your academic course of study.
Non EEA Nationals Studying in the UK for Less Than 6 Months
If you are a visa national you will need to apply for an entrance clearance/visa before you leave your country regardless of why you are coming to the UK and for how long you want to come, so even if you are studying for less than 6 months you should follow the procedures for applying for entry clearance/visa - see below for process. A list of visa nationals can be found at www.ukvisas.gov.uk.
As long as you are not a visa national and are coming to study for less than 6 months you can choose if you apply for entry clearance/visa before you leave your home country. However, there are a number of advantages of applying for entry clearance before you arrive so you should think carefully about your decision.
It is important to remember- do not enter the UK as a 'Visitor' if your intention is to study more than six months, as you will be unable to switch to 'Student' later on and will instead have to return to your home country to get the relevant entry clearance/visa.
You should consider applying for entry clearance/visa before leaving your home country if you are likely to want to be in the UK for more than 6 months or would like to work up to the permitted 20 hours for students. If you decide to apply for entry clearance before you leave you should follow the steps below.
If you decide not to apply for entry clearance before you leave you will need to provide proof that you will be studying in the UK to the immigration officer at your port of entry. This proof will normally be your offer letter from your university. If the immigration officer is satisfied that you will be studying here, they will give you a 'student' stamp of leave to remain for a maximum of 6 months. A 'student' stamp of leave to remain will permit you to work a maximum of 20 hours per week.
If the immigration officer is not satisfied that you will be studying here then you will be only able to enter the UK as a visitor and receive a 'visitor' stamp up to a maximum of 6 months with a prohibition on working.
On deciding whether you want to apply for prior entry clearance or not, please note that if you are refused entry at immigration control and you have not obtained prior entry clearance you will be sent home immediately without the right of appeal or remaining in the UK. However, if you are refused entry and you already received entry clearance you have the right to remain in the UK whilst any appeals are heard.
Process for Obtaining Entry Clearance/Visa
To apply for entry clearance/visa you should:
- Get an application form (VAF1- non settlement visa) and guidance on completing the form, as well as how to apply at www.ukvisas.gov.uk. The form and guidance can be downloaded free but you will need to pay a fee later.
- Fill in the form carefully and keep a copy of the completed form and of all the documents you submit with it for your own records.
- Make sure that you apply as a 'student' or as a 'prospective student'.
- Do not apply as a 'visitor'.
- Make sure that you have all the required documents to apply for your entry clearance/visa (see below).
If you are in any doubt about applying for your entry clearance/visa please contact the ISA- contact details at the back.
Required Relevant Documents
All non-EEA nationals entering the UK to study will be expected to produce (together with their valid passport) documents to show that they meet the Immigration Rules for students.
If you apply for entry clearance/visa, these documents will have to be submitted with your form VAF(1) non settlement visa.
If you do not need to apply for entry clearance/visa or are studying here for less than 6 months and have decided not to apply for entry clearance you will need to show the below documents to the immigration officer when you pass through passport control. Remember all documents must be originals.
The documents are:
- An unconditional letter of acceptance onto a course of study.
- Evidence that you can pay the course fees and support yourself and your family (if applicable). This could include a letter from an official sponsoring body, or from a family member, confirming that they can support you, together with evidence that they can do this. If you plan to support yourself you will have to submit personal bank statements. If your family are travelling with you, you will need to show that there will be adequate accommodation for them.
- Any certificates or educational results.
Producing the above documentation does not guarantee that you will be granted entry clearance/visa and you may be asked to provide other documents and/or to attend an interview in person.
Important Note - even if you are granted entry clearance, you will still have to pass through UK immigration control on arrival, so carry the documents listed above together with your valid passport in your hand-luggage, whether you have entry clearance or not!
Problems Getting Entry Clearance/Visa
If your entry clearance/visa application is refused make sure that you ask for a written explanation with the reasons why it was refused. For advice on appeals consider contacting a lawyer or The British Council. You should also contact International Office to keep us informed.
Applying for your entry clearance/visa before you leave home
- Visit www.ukvisas.gov.uk to find out how to apply for your entry clearance/visa in your home country.
- Download the form "VAF(1) non settlement" from the above website and guidance notes on how to complete it
- Complete the form, make a copy and collect together all the required documents to show that you meet the Immigration Rules (shown in guidance notes at Uk-visas website)
- Make your application with the completed form VAF(1), your passport, at least two recent passport-sized photographs, the correct application fee and the required documents -see website above for how to apply in your home country and list of fees and documents required
Immigration After Arrival in the UK
On arrival in the UK, you will be asked to show your passport to an Immigration Officer. There will be two queues for passport control: one for EEA nationals and the other one for non-EEA nationals, make sure you join the right queue.
- EEA Nationals: EEA nationals will be allowed to enter the UK freely with their valid identity card or passport. EEA nationals will have nothing stamped in their passports by the Immigration Officer as they have the right of residence in the UK for the period of their studies.
- Non EEA Nationals: Non-EEA nationals will be asked a series of questions when presenting their passports to the Immigration Officer, such as why are they coming to the UK and whether they have enough money to cover the cost of their studies. You may be asked to prove your financial means with bank statements or a sponsor's letter, and to prove that you have a definite place at an educational institution in the UK (e.g., with a letter of acceptance from BSUC) All these documents will be required even if you have already been given entry clearance. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself and your intentions during your stay in the UK and ensure that all the required documents are in your hand-luggage.
When the Immigration Officer is satisfied that you are a genuine student, they will stamp your passport with an arrival date and if you have not applied for prior entry clearance/visa a stamp telling you the amount of time that you are permitted to stay in the UK - your "leave to remain", as well as under which immigration conditions.
If you do not meet the Immigration Rules for students or the Immigration Officer is not satisfied with the evidence you have provided, you might get refused entry into the UK. If this happens, seek advice immediately by asking to see a representative of the Immigration Advisory Service (IAS) at your port of entry. They will be able to advise you on appeal rights. Once you have done this, you might want to call the International Office at Bath Spa University to let them know your situation. You can ring +44 1225 875577, +44 1225 875423 or +44 1225 875724, Monday to Friday from 09:00h until 17:00h.
When you enter the UK as a student, items that you will need for your studies (including computers) are free of duty or tax, as are clothing and household items (including linen). However, expensive articles (such as computers) must be declared on arrival.
See also HM Revenue and Customs website for further information www.hmrc.gov.uk.
Notices in the customs area at the airport or port of entry will tell you what you need to declare.
- Carry a doctor's prescription (with a certified translation into English) for any medicines you may need to bring with you and avoid any other involvement with drugs.
- Do not carry parcels or luggage through customs for other people.
- Do not cross land borders with people you do not know.
- When entering the UK, certain goods are prohibited and others are restricted, for example: Unlicensed drugs; offensive weapons; counterfeit and pirated goods; firearms, gas canisters, dogs, cats, birds, without a British import license; endangered species (whether alive or not); meat, poultry and most of their products; certain plants; radio transmitters such as CB radios not approved for use in the UK; etc.
- Never bring prohibited goods into the UK. If in doubt, go to the Customs enquiry point and check with the offices there before passing through the control.
See also Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs www.defra.co.uk.