Obtaining A Visa

Unless you are a citizen of the European Union, you will need a visa to study abroad in the United Kingdom. This may seem daunting, but don’t worry – your Program Manager will walk you through each step, and send you full instructions and details for what you will need in order to receive your visa. If you intend to travel internationally in the months leading up to your program start date, notify your Program Manager as soon as possible.

There are three types of student visas for the U.K.:

Short Term Student Route - Upon Arrival

All US citizens and some other nationalities are classed as non-visa nationals by U.K. Visas and Immigration and will be able to obtain entry via the Short Term Student Route upon arrival in the U.K. as long as:

  • You intend to study in the U.K. for a period no longer than six months.
  • You are not participating in an internship program.

There is no fee for this visa, but U.K. Immigration authorities will need some materials from you before giving you your visa upon your arrival in the U.K. – so remember to have them handy:

  • Your passport (valid for at least 6 months from the end of your program)
  • Proof of your travel out of the U.K. (i.e. your round-trip plane ticket back to the U.S. or a plane or train ticket to Europe, if you intend to travel at the end of your program)
  • Arcadia University Certification Letter (included in your visa pack)
  • Immigration statement or acceptance letter from your British university (included in your visa pack).
    • Arcadia in London and STEM Summer Research students will receive this from Arcadia University, and there is no additional paperwork other than our certification letter
  • U.S. bank statement or evidence of your student loan – to show you can support yourself while in the U.K.

HOW TO OBTAIN THE SHORT TERM STUDENT ROUTE UPON ARRIVAL

If you are a non-visa national you can request a Short Term Study visa at the airport. To do this you should ensure you:

  • Do NOT go through the eGates. There will be big signs directing US passport holders to these gates, but this is for those visiting the UK. To study you must go to a desk and speak to an immigration officer. If you do not do this, you will be given the wrong permission and will need to leave the UK within 30 days to re-enter and obtain the correct permission. If staff try to direct you to the eGates, make it clear to them that you are studying and need a Short Term Study stamp.
  • Tell the immigration officer you are studying, and have all the documents above ready in case they want to see them.

SHORT TERM STUDENT ROUTE (UPON ARRIVAL) TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS:

  • Pay attention to the dates entered into your passport when your entry clearance is granted. Visas may be granted for up to 6 months, but may also cover only the length of your program. Do not plan to stay beyond the ending date of your visa.
  • You may leave and re-enter the U.K. during your term of study. If you do so, it is very important that you bring all documentation listed above with you during each exit and re-entry. Your permission to re-enter the U.K. is always at the discretion of the entry clearance officer so you should ensure you have all the information you need in order to prove that you are a current student in the U.K.

If you enter on the Short Term Student Route visa, you are not permitted to work or to participate in an internship. This includes voluntary and other unpaid work. You can volunteer, but this is distinct from voluntary work - you cannot have any kind of obligation, contract or set hours as part of any volunteering you do as this would be seen as work. You are also not allowed to extend your study period without first departing the U.K.

Short Term Study Visa - Apply in Advance

This visa is primarily for non-U.S. citizens who are classified as visa nationals. Please refer to the U.K. Government site to determine if you are a visa national or not. If you are, you will need to apply for the Short Term Study visa prior to departing for the U.K.

THIS REQUIRES:

  • Online application for entry clearance (begin when you receive your instructions from your Program Manager, sent via email and followed with a physical visa pack).
  • All documents listed above which are required for the Short Term Student Route.
  • Biometrics appointment, which is enrolling your fingerprints and facial image at a USCIS office.
  • For students applying from within the US, you will mail your complete visa application to the VFS Scanning Hub in New York within two weeks of your biometrics appointment. When applying from your home country, the process varies.

This visa costs £97 (around USD $123). You will need entry clearance prior to arriving in the U.K., so you should begin your application when prompted by your Program Manager.

UKCISA’s website includes some useful guidance on applying for this visa.

SHORT TERM STUDY VISA TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS:

  • The dates printed on your visa will indicate the time frame during which you are legally permitted to be in the U.K. Do not travel to the U.K. before your visa start date, and you will need to depart the U.K. before your visa end date.
  • Your visa is not valid before your visa start date. Similarly, overstaying your visa is a serious offense and could result in deportation.

If you hold a Short Term Study visa you are not permitted to work or to participate in an internship. This includes voluntary and other unpaid work. You can volunteer, but this is distinct from voluntary work - you cannot have any kind of obligation, contract or set hours as part of any volunteering you do as this would be seen as work. You are also not allowed to extend your study period without first departing the U.K.

PBS Tier 4 Student Visa - Apply in Advance

  • You’ll need this visa if one or more of the following applies to you, regardless of your nationality:
  • You are participating on an internship program.
  • You are studying in the U.K. for more than six months.
  • You intend to work or intern (paid or unpaid) while studying abroad.

This visa costs £348 (around USD $461). You will need entry clearance prior to arriving in the U.K., so you should begin your application when prompted by your Program Manager.

THIS REQUIRES:

  • Online application for entry clearance.
    • In order to start the application and submit it, you will need an online document called a CAS. This will be sent to you by Arcadia or your Direct Enrol institution in the U.K., approximately 90 days before your program start date.
    • You may also need to provide evidence that you have sufficient funds for your stay in the U.K. (U.S. nationals do not have to submit this with their application but could be asked for it later; some other nationalities will be required to submit this evidence with their application) - the requirements for this are very specific, so check UKCISA’s website for details.
  • Biometrics appointment, which is enrolling your fingerprints and facial image at a USCIS office.
  • For students applying from within the U.S., you will mail your complete visa application to the VFS Scanning Hub in New York within two weeks of your biometrics appointment. For students who are applying from outside the U.S., the process varies, so you should check this on UKVI’s website.
  • Students studying for more than six months: you will be issued with a Tier 4 visa in your passport which will be valid for 30 days, so you must travel to the U.K. within this period. When you enter the U.K., you will have 10 days to go to a designated Post Office and collect your Biometric Residence Permit, which will grant you permission to stay for the full length of your program. It is very important that you obtain this document within the allotted 10-day period.
  • Students studying for more than six months: You will be required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge as part of your initial visa application. This is set at £300 a year.
  • If you are a non-US student: If your program lasts longer than 6 months and English is not the native language of your home country, you will also need to submit an IELTS test score sheet less than 2 years old which shows that you've achieved at least 5.5 in all areas. Please reach out to your Program Manager if this applies to you.

TIER 4 TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS:

  • It is important to pay attention to the dates printed on your visa (and on your Biometric Residence Permit if you are studying for more than 6 months), which will indicate the time frame during which you are legally permitted to be in the U.K. You should ensure that you do not travel to the U.K. before your visa start date, and you will need to depart the U.K. before your visa end date. When you enter the U.K., keep evidence of the date you entered (e.g. your boarding pass or booking) as Arcadia may need this for your records.
  • Your visa is not valid before your visa start date. Similarly, overstaying your visa is a serious offense and could result in deportation.
  • Students studying for 6 months or less who are required to apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa (for example: internship program participants):
  • You should be given a visa start date which is 7 days prior to the start of your program, and ends 7 days after the end of your program.
  • Students studying for more than 6 months on a Tier 4 Student Visa:
  • Your visa start date will be based on your intended date of travel to the U.K., which you will provide in your visa application. You will not be able to enter the U.K. more than one month before your course start date. You will be permitted to stay in the U.K. for the full length of your program plus two months after the end of your program.

For more information on Short Term Study and Tier 4 visas, including guidance on ensuring you do not accidentally breach any of the immigration rules while you are in the U.K., visit UKCISA’s website.