Studying on a visitor visa
The Student Advice and Support Service (SASS) provides advice and support to all prospective and current international students. In addition to our guide our advisers can provide individual advice on the requirements and the application process.
General information on visitor visas is provided by UKVI
Throughout the guide we refer to ‘visa’ and ‘immigration permission’ interchangeably as they are commonly understood to essentially have the same meaning. As explained later some ‘non visa nationals’ do not require a ‘visa’ prior to travel but permission (or ‘leave to enter’) is still required and often it is readily granted by merely entering the UK.
When you might study as a Visitor
Standard Visitor visa is the most commonly used visa category – it covers many types of short stays in the UK including tourism, visits from family and friends, perhaps returning to the UK for your graduation ceremony. Previously visitors were only allowed 30 days study but if permission is obtained from 1 December 2020 it can be used to study for up to 6 months at an ‘accredited institution’ such as Loughborough University.
Prior to 1 December 2020 study for up to 6 months may have been covered by a ‘short-term study’ visa, this has been replaced by studying as a visitor. Short-term study visa remains available for English language courses between 6 – 11 months but this is not relevant to courses provided by the University.
Academic visitors or sponsored researchers are different from those coming to ‘study as a visitor’, separate information and guidance is provided by Human Resources
At Loughborough University you are only likely to need to study as visitor if:
- You need to study at the University, and
- You need immigration permission to enter the UK and
- Your studies are not appropriate for the University to issue a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). If it is not appropriate to issue a CAS the University may provide you with a visiting student letter instead. The University will routinely issue a CAS for pre-sessional English language studies so that a Student visa can be obtained and extended for further studies as required.
You may need to use visitor permission to study if you are:
- A student taking assessments without tuition, e.g. a taught student taking reassessment without attendance, a research student wanting to return to the UK just to take a viva voce examination and final thesis submission.
- A visiting student taking part in an exchange or partnership scheme who only needs to attend the University for less than 6 months at any given time.
- A student coming to conduct research studies as part of an overseas course that is equivalent to a UK degree.
- A distance learning student needing to attend the University for a short period for tuition and/or assessment.
What are the visitor visa requirements?
In order to get visitor permission you may need to demonstrate:
- You are 16 or over
- You are genuinely seeking entry to the UK for a period not exceeding 6 months
- You have been accepted on a course of study provided by Loughborough University (this includes those conducting a period of research studies as part of an overseas degree)
- Where relevant – proof of your overseas studies and that your time at Loughborough forms part of this.
- You intend to leave the UK before your visa expires
- You can meet the costs of your living expenses, accommodation and return or onward journey from the UK
- You do not intend to work or engage in any business or professional activity
- ATAS approval, if your study or research is in one of the relevant subjects and you are not exempt. Your offer should confirm if this is required, further information is available here. You should apply for an ATAS certificate at least one month but no more than 6 months in advance of obtaining your visitor permission.
How do I apply for a visitor visa or visitor permission?
Non-visa nationals can apply for leave to enter from a Border Officer on arrival in the UK, make sure you carry confirmation of your studies and finances to allow your circumstances to be verified. Some nationals can readily obtain visitor permission by entering the UK via an eGate. You might choose to apply for an entry clearance before you travel by following the visa application process, this could make entry at the border quicker especially if you have had any previous immigration problems. Entry to the UK from the Republic of Ireland is not always staffed or recorded, if so your permission can be limited by entering this way and it would not be advisable if you want to ensure you receive six months permission.
If you have a passport from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates you can obtain permission as a visitor using an electronic visa waiver (EVW). Show your EVW when you travel to the UK. You can print it or show it on an electronic device, such as a phone or tablet. Make sure you carry confirmation of your studies and finances.
What documents will I need?
The documents required will depend on your circumstances but could include:
- Loughborough University visiting student letter.
- An ATAS clearance certificate if required (see What are the visitor visa requirements? above)
- Evidence of how you will pay for any outstanding tuition fees, your living expenses, accommodation and travel costs, e.g. personal bank statements for at least three months, sponsorship letter, employer’s letter.
- Any evidence of your intention to leave the UK, e.g. letter confirming you have to return to work or further studies in your home country, proof of business activities, property ownership and other family or economic ties to your home country, return or onward flight booking.
- Any document not in English should be accompanied by a professional translation.
Visa permission - time limits and conditions
Permission will usually be granted for 6 months. If you enter the UK without getting a visa or stamp placed in your passport (e.g. via an eGate) you should keep records of your date of entry (e.g. flight confirmation) and avoid overstaying the time allowed.
You will not be allowed to work but you can volunteer with a registered charity for up to 30 days in total. Work placements as part of a course are not permitted (there are exceptions for unpaid medical electives which form part of a visiting student’s overseas studies).
You will not have access to ‘public funds’.
Visitors are not required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge, therefore you would not have free access to full NHS services (e.g. non-emergency hospital care) and it is advisable to take out your own travel insurance including medical cover for your trip.
Staying longer in the UK
It is not possible to extend visitor permission beyond 6 months nor can you generally switch to another visa category while in the UK. Applications for frequent and/or successive visits may be refused if there is little gap between such that your stays may appear longer than merely visiting.
Any spouse/partner or child wishing to come to the UK at the same time may also apply as a standard visitor.
The Student Advice and Support Service is authorised to provide immigration advice and services by an order made under section 84(4)(d) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 (Part V Exemption: Educational Institutions and Health Sector Bodies) Order 2001 (Statutory Instrument 2001 No. 1403)). Should you have a complaint about the service you can use the Student Advice and Support Service's complaints procedure or you can use the OISC Complaints Scheme.