The basic division is between European Economic Area citizens (European Union plus Iceland and Norway), people
from other countries who do not need a visa to enter Britain (non-visa nationals), and people from countries who
do need a visa before entering Britain (visa nationals).
The Home Office divides the categories as follows:
European Economic Area
If you are a national of a European Union country or are from Norway or Iceland you are free to enter the UK to
study, live and work and you do not need a visa. European Union citizens face fierce competition from British
students and also have to pay the same tuition fees of up to £1,000 a year depending on financial circumstances.
Icelandic and Norwegian students have to pay full fees as international students, but do not need work visas and
so can fund their course by working.
Non-visa nationals are from countries that donít require a visa to enter Britain, you can arrive with the necessary
documentation and be issued the visa when you arrive. You need:
Proof that you have been accepted onto a full-time course at a UK school, college or university
(totaling 15 or more hours a week).
A letter from your new school, college or university, on their official headed paper, to state
that you have paid your deposit and/or your tuition fees.
Proof that you have the funds to pay for your study and living expenses. This could be in the
form of travellersí cheques in sufficient quantity to cover your expenses, a bank draft drawn on a
UK bank, letters or bank documents from sponsors, or a combination of all these things. You will
have to show that you will not have recourse to public funds that you can support yourself
financially without relying on the British welfare state or by working to fund your studies.
If you are staying for longer than six months, your finances will be inspected much more rigorously. It is advisable
to submit your documentation to the British Embassy/High Commission in your own country and get entry clearance (a
visa) prior to arrival. Your status can still be challenged but you have the right to lodge an appeal and remain in
Britain while your case is heard. If you were intending to be issued with a visa on arrival you could be sent back
at your own expense. There are plenty of scare stories around, but this is unlikely to happen in practice unless you
have done something that arouses suspicion. This might include travelling back and forth from Britain a number of
times over a short period, appearing to have little money, or enrolling at a school with a reputation as a visa factory.
You can bring your partner/husband/ wife or children with you. However, they will require a separate student dependent
visa, which they must obtain BEFORE they arrive (even though your own visa can be issued on arrival). To obtain this
you will have to show that you can support them out of your own pocket. Remember that it can be very difficult to find
accommodation for families and what there is tends to be expensive, so try and make arrangements before you arrive.
Most universities can offer family accommodation, but space is limited. Be as organised in your arrangements as possible,
as this will make you look more credible in the eyes of immigration officials.
You could also enter Britain as a tourist. In theory non-visa nationals can then apply to have it changed to a student
visa without leaving the country as an in-country application. In practice this is not advisable as the immigration
department is inherently suspicious of people who change the purpose of their stay while they are in Britain. You may
succeed in getting your visa changed this way, but you will get a grilling in the process. Many people come to Britain
on a tourist visa, and then look around for a school to enroll in. Be careful, because you could end up being deported
if you are thought to have deliberately deceived the immigration department. The best thing to do is to apply for a
prospective student visa in your home country. You will need to show that you have the finances to support your course
and will be allowed to stay in the UK for a maximum of six months.
Visa nationals need to get a student visa from their nearest British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission before
arriving in Britain. In order to get this you will need to show the following:
Proof that you have been accepted for a full-time course (15 or more hours a week) at a reputable
UK college or university. If it is at a language school it is preferable for it to be an ARELS or
British Council accredited school.
A letter from your new school, college or university, on their official headed paper, to state that
you have paid your deposit and/or tuition fees.
Proof that you have the funds to pay for your study and living expenses. This could be in the form
of travelerís cheques in sufficient quantity to cover your expenses, a bank draft drawn on a UK bank,
letters or bank documents from sponsors, or a combination of all these things.
Immigration officials prefer a bank draft as this is the most difficult to forge and can be checked
with the issuing bank. You will have to show that you will not have recourse to public funds. The
longer your proposed stay, the more convincing your financial credentials will need to be.
You will need to get your visa, and bring it along with all the above documentation when you enter Britain, as
immigration officials may wish to see on arrival. If you have been given entry clearance in your home country this
is usually sufficient. However, your right of entry may be challenged if immigration officials believe that there
has been a change of circumstances or you have not disclosed, or have hidden, some relevant information. In this
situation, you have the right to remain in Britain while you lodge an appeal.
If you entered the UK as a tourist you will not be able to get your tourist visa changed to a student visa in Britain.
You will have to leave the country, and re-apply for a student visa before re-entering.
Additional Regulations for international students (immigration, fees):
Address for the British Council:
Education Information Services
Information Services Management
The British Council
10 Spring Gardens
London SW1A 2BN