Visa FAQs for international postgraduate students
Get your visa issues sorted as early as possible in the process of planning further study in the UK - we tell you how to get started.
Do I need a visa?
If you're not an EEA national, you'll need a visa to study in the UK.
Should I apply for a Student visa or a Student Visitor visa?
Normally, a Student visa. The Student Visitor visa is for those whose course will last under six months, and who do not wish to work part time or extend their stay. (The remainder of this section deals with the Student visa category.)
What's the visa application procedure?
You can apply in a variety of ways. In some cases, you can make an online application (see if this option is available to you: http://www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk/). Otherwise, you will need to fill up an application form called VAF3 - Student, which may be obtained from a visa application centre (listed at http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/wheretoapply/) or from http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/vafs/.
What are visa application centres?
Visa application centres (VACs) are run in collaboration with companies to facilitate visa applications in some countries. They have staff who can answer queries and advise you whether you have brought the required documents when you prepare to submit your application. You make your application and pay the required fees at the VAC, and collect your passport from them at the end of the process. You should ordinarily use a VAC in your home country to make your application.
Will I need to attend an interview?
Usually a decision is made on the basis of your application and supporting documents. If a decision cannot be arrived at using these, applicants may be interviewed.
How long will it take for my visa application to be processed?
Processing may take anything from a day or two in straightforward cases to around 15 days if an interview is required. However, it is advisable that you apply for your visa well in advance (ideally a month) of your travel date.
Can I enter the UK several times on the same visa?
Usually, if you are issued a Student visa, you will be granted one for multiple entry. This means you can enter any number of times within the validity period of your visa.
Can my family accompany me to the UK?
Your spouse or civil partner and any children below the age of 18 may accompany you to the UK if you can support them without turning for help to public funds. If you are given leave to stay in the country for twelve months or more, your husband, wife or civil partner may work in the UK. For what your dependants will need in order to apply for a visa, see:
Can I extend my stay in the UK to gain work experience?
Under the International Graduate Scheme (IGS), if you have received a postgraduate certificate/diploma or a masters/doctoral degree in any subject on or after 1 May 2007, you will be eligible to make an IGS application. If your application is accepted, you may work in the UK for up to one year. If you wish to avail yourself of this option, you should apply for this well before your Student visa expires.
Are there any briefings I can attend to gain an understanding of the things I need to think about?
The British Council runs briefings for prospective students on several topics. Get in touch with the nearest branch and see if they have any briefings on visa matters. You might also wish to read the British Council / EducationUK pre-departure guide: http://www.educationuk.org/downloads/first_steps_students.pdf.
Comprehensive information on visas covering every situation is available on the official website for UK visas (http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/), and you should go through it in detail before you make your application. You'll find their general FAQs (http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/faqs/) and Student visa FAQs sections (http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/howtoapply/infs/inf5students) particularly useful.