Do I need immigration permission to study in the UK?
What is “immigration permission”?
It is a generic term that we use to keep our guidance clear.
Immigration permission is also known as a "visa". If the immigration permission is issued from your home country, it is called “entry clearance”. Immigration permission issued in the UK is called either “leave to enter” (if you apply from your home country or on entry) or “leave to remain” (if you apply in the UK). The permission is shown on a “vignette” (sticker) in your passport, or on a plastic card, a “Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)”.
Sometimes we do use these specific terms if it is useful for clarity, but mostly we use call everything “immigration permission”.
EEA and Swiss nationals (including UK) and their family members
If you hold a passport or national identity card as a citizen of one of the following countries, then you are not subject to UK immigration controls and you do not need immigration permission to study in the UK.
Family members of EEA nationals
If you are not an EEA or Swiss national yourself, but you are coming to the UK with a family member who is, you are exempt from UK immigration controls. However, applying for an EEA Family Permit will make travel and entry more straightforward. For more information see the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website
The rest of this guide does not apply to EEA or Swiss nationals or their family members
If you are a visa national, you must always apply for immigration permission before travelling to the UK.
If you only hold a passport or passports that state you are a national or citizen of one of the following countries or territories, you are a visa national:
If you only hold a passport or travel document issued by the former Soviet Union or by the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, if you are a stateless person or you hold non-national document then you are also considered a visa national.
If you have a passport or travel document issued by a country or territory not on the list above, you are a non-visa national. You can come to the UK as a visitor or a Short Term Student for less than 6 months without applying for immigration permission before you travel, but if you are coming for any other reason, including as a Tier 4 General student, you must apply for immigration permission before you travel. If you are a non-visa national who wishes to come to study for less than 6 months (e.g. if you are an associate student), see our guide 'Apply when you arrive in the UK'
Holders of more than one nationality
If you hold passports that state you are a citizen or national of more than one country or territory and those countries or territories are in different categories above, then you can benefit from whichever category is least restrictive.
- If you hold passports that show you are a citizen or national of the Russian Federation (visa national) and Iceland (European Economic Area), you would not need to apply for immigration permission if you travel to the UK using your Icelandic passport.
- If you hold passports that show you are a citizen or national of Canada (non-visa national) and Iraq (visa national), then, in certain circumstances, you can come to the UK without applying for immigration permission before you travel if you use your Canadian passport.
Those who already have immigration permission to stay in the UK
If you already have immigration permission to stay in the UK for another purpose, other than as a visitor, you can normally study at Queen Mary University of London without applying for new immigration permission. However, you must make sure that you will continue to meet the requirements of your current immigration permission while you are studying and that your immigration permission does not prohibit you from studying at Queen Mary.
The types of immigration permission that prohibit you from studying at Queen Mary are:
- Any type of visitor visa
- Tier 4 immigration permission issued for study at another institution unless the study at Queen Mary is supplementary to that main study.
Other types of immigration permission do allow you to study:
- Dependant of someone in the UK
- Tiers 1, 2 or 5 , UK ancestry or other work categories
- Any other type of immigration permission,
If you are thinking about studying on your existing immigration permission, check that you will have enough time to complete your course before your current permission expires, or that your will permission will be extended. For example, if you are a dependant, check with your family member that they plan to extend their stay, and that you will be included in the application.
You may already know that you will need to make a Tier 4 application at some point during your studies, for example, you are currently in the UK as a dependant and the person you are accompanying needs to leave the UK before the end of your studies, In this case, you would need to leave with them and make a Tier 4 application in your home country. This could disrupt your studies, so you might choose to find a convenient earlier opportunity to go home apply, for example during a summer vacation.
If you have immigration permission and you start a part-time course, Queen Mary cannot sponsor you under Tier 4 to complete your part-time course unless you switch to full-time studies.
Extending existing immigration permission for your studies
If you are already in the UK with immigration permission which expires shortly, or which prevents you from studying at Queen Mary, you may be able to apply for new immigration permission without going home. There are very strict rules about when it is possible to apply in the UK. If you do not meet the requirements of these rules you must leave the UK to make an immigration application.
It is not possible to apply for immigration permission as a Short-Term Student from within the UK. You need to leave the UK and apply at a British visa centre or section in another country. Non-visa nationals can apply for immigration permission as a Short-Term Student when re-entering the UK.
Tier 4 (General) Student
If you are applying for immigration permission as a Tier 4 (General) Student, you can normally only apply in the UK if you have Tier 4 (General) Student[‡], Tier 4 (Child) Student or Tier 2 immigration permission.
To apply for Tier 4 student immigration permission, your course at Queen Mary must start within 28 days of your current immigration permission expiring. For example, if your CAS statement states that your course starts on 19 September 2016, your current immigration permission must not expire before 22 August 2016.
There are some exceptions. Please see our guide “Applying for Tier 4 (General) Student immigration permission” for more information.
If you cannot apply for Tier 4 (General) Student immigration permission while you are in the UK, you will have to make an application to the British visa centre or section in the country where you would normally live[§][**] when you are not in the UK.
[*] Even if you hold a diplomatic passport, you must still apply for immigration permission for the purpose of studying before travelling to the UK, unless you also hold an Electronic Visa Waiver document.
[‡] Unless this was to study at a private college.
[§] If there is no UK Visa Application Centres operating in your country of nationality, the UK Government may specify other UK Visa Application Centres where you can make your application. See www.gov.uk/find-a-visa-application-centre
[**] If you have immigration permission to live in a country, which is not your country of nationality, and that immigration permission allows you to live in that country, the UK government will normally consider that you live in that country. This means you can apply for Tier 4 (General) Student immigration permission in your country of nationality or the country where you have been granted immigration permission to live.
Law, regulations and policies can change quickly. The information on our website is given in good faith and has been carefully checked but QMUL cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. QMUL is not responsible for the content or reliability of the linked websites which are provided for further information.