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Visa information

Female student's feet next to a suitcase with a Cardiff University sticker stuck to it.

If you are coming to the UK to study, you will need a visa. The visa you need depends on several factors including the length of your stay and what you wish to do when you are here.

While every effort is made to keep this information up-to-date, immigration regulations are subject to changes and the information provided here is for guidance only. You should check the UKVI website for up-to-date information and contact us if you have any questions.

Most study abroad students can apply for one of the following two types of visa. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Once we have made and you have accepted an offer to study with is, we will also email you further information regarding visas.

It is slightly easier for study abroad students to apply for a short-term study visa, because there are more restrictions on this visa and conditions attached to your stay in the UK. For example, you cannot:

  • stay for more than six months - so if your study abroad programme is longer than six months you will need a Tier 4 visa (below)
  • work or volunteer
  • extend your stay in the UK under any circumstances
  • bring your family with you to the UK.

If you are a visa national, you must obtain your student visitor visa from a British Embassy in your home country before you travel to the UK. Visit the GOV.UK website to see the list of visa nationals.

It is possible for non-visa nationals to apply for their short-term study visa when they arrive at Heathrow or Cardiff airports. However we strongly recommended that you apply for the visa in advance of travel in case of any problems/missing paperwork at the airport, as this could result in you being refused entry into the UK.

Additionally, if you obtain this visa in advance, it is a multiple-entry visa, meaning you can use it if you leave the UK and re-enter it (ideal if you are planning a trip to Europe).

If you choose to apply on arrival at the UK airport, this will be a single-entry visa, meaning you will need to ensure you have all relevant documentation each time you subsequently re-enter the UK during your studies.

You are a non-visa national if you do not fall within the list of visa nationals.

Students who enter the UK via the Republic of Ireland without previously obtaining a short-term study visa from their home country will not be given a short-term study visa on arrival. This is because you will not encounter any UK Border Force officers, which means that you will not be able to apply on entry for a short-term study visa or under any other visa.

However, even though there is no record of this in your passport, you will automatically be given permission to enter and study in the UK, but for three months only from the date of entry. The conditions of entry into the UK are that you do not undertake any work (paid or unpaid) and that you leave the UK after three months.

To find out more about applying for a short-term study visa and the full list of conditions, contact our Student Support Centre.

You need to submit more documents and financial evidence to obtain a Tier 4 visa, but there are less conditions attached to your stay in the UK. For example, you can:

  • stay for the entire length of your study abroad programme whatever the duration.
  • undertake part-time work and volunteer.
  • extend your visa under some circumstances, but not into a visitor or student visitor visa.

You have to apply for a Tier 4 visa before you leave your home country.

To find out more about applying for a Tier 4 visa and the full list of conditions, visit our international pages.