If you are an EEA or Swiss national then you do not need permission to enter the UK or to study here.
If you already have immigration permission to come to (or remain in) the UK in a non-study related category this might allow you to study. However, some immigration categories prohibit study, you should therefore seek advice from an adviser at the institution where you intend to study.
If you have not yet finalised your study plans you can come to the UK as a Prospective student.
If you have already been accepted onto a course of study there are two types of visa for studying in the UK: Student Visitor visas and Tier 4 student visas.
If you are coming to the UK to study for a maximum of six months (or 11 months if you will be studying English language), you may be able to enter as a ‘Student Visitor’. For some nationalities (“non-visa nationals”) who come to the UK as a Student Visitor, it is not compulsory to obtain entry clearance before travelling to the UK as long as your course is less than six months long.
However, if you choose to come as a Student Visitor you will be much more restricted than if you come as a Tier 4 student. You will not be allowed to do any work or work placement (even if it is part of a course or unpaid work). You will also not be allowed to apply to extend your stay in the UK.
If the Student Visitor route is not appropriate for you then you must obtain entry clearance as a Tier 4 student before travelling to the UK, regardless of your nationality.
I have received my Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). How long is it valid for?
A CAS is an electronic reference number which is issued to you by the institution (college or university) that you have chosen to study at. Your CAS will be valid for use in a Tier 4 application for 6 months from the date that it was issued by your institution. Your Tier 4 sponsor will normally include the expiry date in the CAS statement that they email to you.
I want to travel to the UK via Ireland. Is this possible?
Yes. However, it is important to understand that both countries are part of a Common Travel Area (CTA). The CTA streamlines arrival from Ireland for most travellers, because there is no immigration control on arrival in the UK, but it can cause a problem for non-visa nationals on short courses.
There is no problem for someone who has applied in their home country for UK Tier 4 or student visitor entry clearance (visa) before travelling. Your UK visa will not be date stamped on entry to the UK, but this is fine. You should keep evidence of your travel in case your date of entry ever becomes important or relevant. Furthermore, if you do travel and re-enter the UK later, for example for a short trip elsewhere in Europe (other than Ireland), your entry clearance will simply be date stamped on re-entry.
The rest of this information is for nationals of the USA, Japan, South Korea and other non-visa nationals who are planning to travel to the UK via Ireland, to study a short course, without applying for a visa before travelling.
As a non-visa national, you can indeed normally travel to the UK and apply on entry for immigration permission to enter as a student visitor (or other type of visitor) for up to six months. Non-visa national students on short courses often choose to do this rather than applying for entry clearance before travelling. However, if you arrive in the UK from elsewhere in the CTA, including Ireland, you will not have the opportunity to do this because there is no immigration control at your UK arrival point. You should therefore apply for UK entry clearance (a visa) as a student or student visitor in your home country before travelling to Ireland.
If, despite the above advice, you do enter the UK from Ireland with no specific UK immigration permission, and you are a non-visa visa national, you will in most cases automatically have permission to be in the UK as a visitor only for three months, not for six months. This may not be enough time to complete your short course, but you cannot extend your stay in the UK as a student or student visitor. If you need to be in the UK for more than the three months, you will need to leave the UK within the three month period, then re-enter asking for immigration permission to enter as a student visitor, for a maximum visit of six months total.
Note also that any immigration permission you are given on arrival in Ireland is for Ireland only, not for the UK.
Can I bring my family with me to the UK?
Yes, in certain circumstances. However the Immigration Rules changed on 4 July 2011 and now fewer students can have their family with them in the UK as dependants. For more information, please read our Information Sheet Your family’s immigration.
You might also find our Guide for Tier 4 Family tool helpful. It asks you a series of questions to help you find out if your family can join or stay with you in the UK.
Can I come to the UK before I get a place on a course?
Yes, but it is very important that you apply for entry clearance as a ‘Prospective student’, and not as any other kind of visitor. You will be expected to provide evidence that you have made contact with institutions in the UK, for example letters inviting you for interviews in the UK. Prospective students can stay in the UK for up to six months to make arrangements for their studies. When you have enrolled at a college or university, you will need to extend your stay in the UK as a Tier 4 student. If you have not come to the UK with entry clearance in the immigration category of Prospective student, you will not be able to do this in the UK and will have to return to your country to make this application.
I have already paid my accommodation fees, can I deduct this amount from the total money that I need to show when I make my Tier 4 application?
You can deduct a maximum of £1000, if you have paid your accommodation fees directly to your Tier 4 Sponsor. You need to provide a receipt as evidence of what you have paid, or your Tier 4 Sponsor may choose to include this information in your CAS.
However, if you have paid any accommodation fees directly to a landlord or to a private company, you are not able to deduct this from your maintenance funds. In this case you will need to show that you have additional money in your bank account to cover the full maintenance requirements as part of your Tier 4 application.
Can a relative or friend financially sponsor me for my studies in the UK?
For your Tier 4 immigration application, you will need to show that you have enough money to pay for your course fees and for your maintenance costs (accommodation and other living expenses) while you are in the UK. You must prove you have this money by showing evidence of it in one, or more, of the following ways:
- funds held in your own name;
- funds held in a parent or legal guardian’s name;
- funds provided as a loan from a financial institution;
- funds provided by an “official financial sponsor” – this is one of a list of specified organisations and it cannot be an individual person.
You are not allowed to use money held in any other person’s name, even if you have their permission to do so. If someone who is not your parent or guardian is financially sponsoring you, they will need to transfer the funds to your account (or to your parent or legal guardian’s account), allowing time for you (or your parent or legal guardian) to hold the funds for at least 28 days.
A Tier 4 immigration application requires that you show enough money to pay your living costs, including housing, using specific monthly figures specified by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Although you can deduct from this amount any money you have already paid direct to your Tier 4 sponsor for accommodation, you cannot deduct any other types of housing costs, even if they are already paid or if you have no costs. If someone other than a parent or legal guardian is offering you free housing, or paying your housing costs, you must still show you have the required maximum amount.
For further details on how to show how much money you have, when applying for immigration permission, you should read the relevant UKCISA information sheet