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Do I need immigration permission to study in the UK?

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 “permission to enter”. Immigration permission issued in the UK is called “permission to stay”. 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 call everything “immigration permission”.



EEA and Swiss nationals

If you hold a passport or national identity card as a citizen of an EU or EEA member state (excluding nationals of the UK and Republic of Ireland who are not subject to immigration control, and can enter the UK without obtaining immigration permission), or Switzerland: 

  • If you moved to the UK before 31 December 2020, please see our guidance about applying for the EU Settlement Scheme, to be able to stay in the UK after 30 June 2021. 
  • If you move to the UK after 31 December 2020, then you will be subject to immigration control and will need to apply for the appropriate immigration permission in order to come to the UK. Please read this guide.

Please note that from 1 October 2021, the UK will no longer recognise EU, EEA and Swiss national identity cards for travel and entry to the UK, so you will need a passport to travel to the UK. However this will not apply to those EU, EEA and Swiss nationals whose rights are protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, including those with status under the EU Settlement Scheme who will still be able to use national identity cards for travel until 31 December 2025 at least. If you are entering the UK with Student immigration permission you must travel with your passport. For more information please see The Home Office guide to your immigration status.   

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, see the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website

Visa nationals

If you only hold a passport or passports that state you are a national or citizen of one of the countries on the visa national list, you must always apply for immigration permission before travelling to the UK. The visa national list is in Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Visa national list

Even if you hold a diplomatic passport, you would still normally need to apply for immigration permission for the purpose of studying before travelling to the UK.

Nationals of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates may be able to apply for an Electronic Visa Waiver(EVW) document if you are studying for less than 6 months. 

Non-visa nationals

The visa national list is in Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Visa national listIf you have a passport or travel document issued by a country or territory not on the visa national list, then if you are coming to study on a course of longer than six months you must apply for immigration permission before you travel. If you are a non-visa national who wishes to come to study on a course of up to six months, you can apply to enter as a Standard Visitor on arrival to the UK, but there are specific requirements you need to meet. 

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.

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, except Student permission for another institution, you can normally study (full time or part time) 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 Queen Mary Permission to Enrol web page has information about this.

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 permission can 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 an application for student immigration permission 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 student 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 wish to apply for the Graduate Route visa on completion of your studies, please note the minimum period for which you would need to be in the UK with Student permission in order to be eligible. 

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 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.

Please see our guide “Applying for Student immigration permission” for more information about who can apply in the UK and how to apply. 

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.

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