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LEAVING AND RE-ENTERING THE UK

See also Travelling in Europe for information on Schengen visas and medical care arrangements for international students visiting other European countries.

Before you travel...

  • Do you need a visa for the country you are visiting or transiting through?  Check directly with the country's Embassy
  • Have you collected your Biometric Residence Permit already?  If you arrive in the UK with a 30-day Tier 4 vignette (sticker), you then have 10 days to collect your BRP. If you want to travel outside the UK shortly after you first arrive, collect your BRP first.  If you cannot collect your BRP and you need to travel in an emergency, contact us for advice.
  • Is your passport at the UK Home Office for a pending Tier 4 application, but you need to travel in an emergency?  See our guide Tier 4 : What to do if things go wrong [PDF 1,103KB]

 

When and why are you re-entering the UK?

To continue your course
For a re-sit
After a course you studied as a Short-term student
After your course, before graduation
To make a Tier 4 application for a new course at QMUL
After graduation

*If your current Tier 4 immigration permission has been curtailed, please check the section 'Can I travel and return to the UK after I have been reported to the Home Office?' on our Tier 4 reporting and curtailment page.*


To continue your course

With Tier 4 (General) Student permission, you can leave and re-enter the UK as often as you wish before the end date of your course.  On re-entering, you will need to show the Border Force Officer some evidence, so you should carry all of the following in your hand luggage:

  • Your passport, and your BRP if you have one
  • An up to date QMUL Certificate of Attendance letter showing that your course is continuing. Contact the following office to obtain a letter:
  • If you are traveling during term time, you could ask your academic school to provide you with a letter to explain that your absence is authorised. You can direct the staff in your school to our guidance on absence, which includes a template letter.
  • Documents relating to your finances 

The UKCISA website has useful information about what happens at immigration and customs on entering the UK.

Short-term Student immigration permission that you applied for on arrival in the UK ends when you leave the Common Travel Area (this area comprises Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey). When you return to the UK, you will need to apply again for entry. You should carry in your hand luggage an up to date QMUL certificate of attendance letter stating course start and end dates from the Student Enquiry Centre, Queens’ Building, and evidence of your finances e.g. recent bank statements, and a return ticket to your home country, if you have one.  Your new Short Term Student immigration permission may not be for a further six months: the Border Force Officer may give you just the time you need to complete your studies, or six months minus the length of time you recently spent in the UK as a Short-term Student.

A Short-term Student visa or entry clearance which you applied for before travelling to the UK allows multiple re-entries. You may be required to show that you are still studying. In your hand luggage carry an up to date QMUL certificate of attendance letter (see above), and evidence of your finances, e.g. recent bank statements.

For a resit

You will be entering as a Short-Term Student, not with Tier 4 immigration permission. Make sure you understand the differences: a Short-Term Student cannot work, cannot extend or switch to any other immigration permission from within the UK, and as we explain in the next section you cannot re-enter the UK on the Short-Term Student permission if you travel after your resit.  

For more details, see our guide What Immigration permission do I need to study at Queen Mary? [PDF 1,331KB]

After your course you studied as a Short-term student

As a Short-term Student, you are expected to leave the UK within 30 days of finishing your studies or before your immigration permission ends, whichever is sooner. If you leave the UK after your studies, for example to travel to Europe, you may be questioned about your intentions if you try to return to the UK as a Short-term Student, even if you are planning to study another course. If the Border Force Officer believes that you are making the UK your home through successive visits, then you could be refused entry to the UK.  

You can apply to enter the UK as a Visitor (Standard) instead, if you are genuinely coming for a short visit without studies. You will need to make a new application for Standard Visitor immigration permission before you travel to the UK, unless you are a non-visa national, in which case you can apply to enter as a Standard Visitor on arrival. To check if you are a visa national, see our advice guide What immigration do I need to study at Queen Mary?  If you are a non-visa national and request Standard Visitor immigration permission at the port of entry to the UK , it would be a good idea to carry evidence in your hand luggage to show your intentions in the UK, for example proof that you have sufficient funds to stay in the UK, evidence of where you will be staying, your itinerary in the UK and your return travel tickets to your home country. 

It is advisable to read the Home Office Visit Guidance [PDF 347KB] before applying to enter the UK as a Standard Visitor, to make sure you understand what criteria you will need to satisfy. One of the criteria that applicants must satisfy is ‘a genuine intention to visit’ (Appendix V of the Immigration Rules, paragraph 4.2). Part of this includes that visitors must not live in the UK through extended periods through frequent or successive visits. This is particularly relevant as you will have just spent a period in the UK as a Short-term student, which also comes under the 'visitor' category of the Immigration Rules. There is some useful information on pages 10-13 of the Visit Guidance that explains what a decision maker takes into account in assessing a genuine intention to visit and how to assess frequent and successive visits. 
 
The decision maker will take into account the cumulative period the applicant has visited the UK over the past 12 months.  However, the guidance states on page 12:
There is no specified maximum period which an individual can spend in the UK in any period such as ‘6 months in 12 months’. However, if it is clear from an individual’s travel history that they are making the UK their home you should refuse their application.

After your course, before graduation

You can ask the Border Force Officer to allow you to re-enter the UK with your Tier 4 (General) Student immigration permission, even though the course it was issued for has now finished.  We cannot guarantee that this will always be allowed, and it is at your own risk, but feedback from students tells us that it often is allowed.  We strongly advise you carry a letter from QMUL in your hand luggage to confirm the date of your graduation ceremony so the Border Force Officer can see that you have a study-related reason to re-enter the UK. 

You can apply online for a letter that confirms the details of your graduation ceremony for immigration purposes. If this request process has closed, please request proof of your graduation ceremony by asking for a certificate of attendance letter from the Student Enquiry Centre (Ground floor of the Queens Building, Mile End) or from the Student Office (Garrod Building, Whitechapel campus) if you are a medical or dental student. You can either request a letter in person or by email. Do not use an old certificate of attendance letter: if you already have one, but it is more than a few weeks old, you should apply for a new one. You will need to ask for the graduation ceremony dates to be added to the letter, before you request it.

If you are only coming back to the UK for graduation, and perhaps for tourism and  to pack up your belongings, you can choose to come as a Standard Visitor instead, not on your Tier 4 (General) Student immigration permission.  Standard Visitor status allows you to stay in the UK for up to 6 months, which will be longer than your remaining Tier 4 permission, and it also saves you needing to prove that you are entering for a study-related purpose, which can be difficult if your course has now finished.  As a Standard Visitor you cannot do any kind of work, only short recreational study, and you cannot switch to any other immigration status.  Non-visa nationals can apply on entry as a Standard Visitor, while other nationals need to apply before travelling, but they can apply in any country not just their home country.  

If after graduation you intend to extend your stay under Tier 4, or switch to another status such as Tier 1 or Tier 2, you can only do this if you have re-entered the UK with Tier 4 immigration permission.

To make a Tier 4 application for a new course at QMUL

As a general rule, it is always best and most straightforward to enter the UK with Tier 4 immigration permission issued specifically for your new course at QMUL. 

If it is not logistically possible for you to apply for the new QMUL Tier 4 permission before travelling, you can enter on your current immigration perrmission if you meet all these requirements:

  • Your current immigration permission allows you to make a Tier 4 application in the UK.  See UKCISA's information on Can I apply in the UK?; and
  • Your QMUL course starts before your current permission expires, or no more than 28 days later; and
  • Your CAS confirms that your new studies are Academic Progression on your previous Tier 4 studies; and
  • You have everything ready to make the new Tier 4 application in the UK as soon as possible, including meeting the 28-day maintenance requirement. See our detailed Tier 4 guide for full information on eligibility, evidence, and how to apply.

You must make the new application before your programme at QMUL starts, and before your current Tier 4 permission expires.

Do not attempt to start the application process from your home country.

In your hand luggage, we advise you carry

  • a print out of your QMUL CAS statement
  • ideally, any other evidence you will be using in your new Tier 4 application for studies at QMUL, for example evidence of your money and any qualifications listed in the CAS

After graduation

While you can stay in the UK after graduation until the end of your Tier 4 (General) Student immigration permission if you wish, we do not advise that you attempt to leave and re-enter the UK during this period, especially if you intend to make an application to switch to Tier 2, Tier 1 or another immigration status. The only exception is if you will be making a Tier 4 application shortly after you arrive (see previous section). 

It is important to understand that your Tier 4 status is not generic permission to enter the UK for any reason: it is issued specifically for you to enter the UK to start or continue your studies.  A Border Force Officer is highly unlikely to allow you to enter the UK on your Tier 4 permission if your course at QMUL has now finished and your graduation has already happened.  You have no study-related reason to enter the UK, so the BFO could cancel your Tier 4 permission and either refuse entry or, if you are a non-visa national and you can show you are coming for a short visit, admit you as a Standard Visitor.

If you intend to switch to Tier 2, Tier 1 or another status, we advise that you do not attempt to leave and re-enter the UK on your Tier 4 permission after graduation. Instead, we advise you apply first for your new immigration permission (either in the UK or in your home country) and enter the UK with that new permission. 

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