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Do you need a visa?
Many people coming to the UK need a visa. This is not a very interesting topic, but it’s an important one so please read these notes carefully. It’s important to understand the rules.
We have tried to make these notes as clear as possible, but some parts of the visa system are quite complicated and sometimes change at short notice. Please check these notes immediately before you make an application. If you can’t understand anything, please contact us.
This note is concerned only with adults, as we do not have any courses for children. A ‘adult’ is anyone aged 18 or over.
If you are a citizen of a country in the European Union or the European Economic Area, or of Switzerland, you do not need a visa to enter the UK. If you are from one of these countries this note does not apply to you and you can stop reading now.
If you come from anywhere else you will need a visa. Some visas are ones that you have to apply for in advance; sometimes you may be able to get one when you arrive. Whichever it is, they are all technically visas.
Two factors influence your visa:
- Your passport. The rules vary according to your nationality.
- What you want to do. There are different visas for different purposes.
When you book a course you will need to tell us which type of visa you want. These notes will help you to understand the system and decide what to do.
How this page is organised
Overview: the process of applying for a visa
A: Geography: different visa status for different nationalities
For visa purposes, the world is divided into 3 areas:
A 1. EU/EEA/Switzerland
If you are a citizen of one of these countries you can come and go as you please. You can ignore all these notes about visas. This is true even if you also hold a non-European passport. For example if you are Brazilian but also have an Italian passport, you can use your Italian passport to enter the UK without visa formalities.
A 2. Visa nationals (VN)
If you are a VN, you need a visa to enter the UK for any reason, and must get it before you leave home (this is called ‘pre-entry clearance’).
A 3. Non-visa nationals (NVN)
If you are a NVN you need a visa, but can get a 6 month Short Term Study Visa on arrival. See B1, below, for more about this. If you want a longer visa, you must get it before you leave home.
B: The different types of visa
These are the main types of visa you need to know about:
B 1. Short Term Study Visa (STSV)
This is the normal visa used to study English. It lasts 6 months. It’s available for people at any level of English.
If you are a NVN you can get this free on arrival in the UK. You must book a course before you come to the UK and bring your course acceptance papers, including a STSV support letter, to show at immigration when you arrive.
If you are a VN you must apply at home. You must provide Biometric Data and pay the appropriate fee (£89). Biometric Data means fingerprints and photograph (known as ‘biometric information’) taken at a visa application centre. You will probably have to prove that you have a good reason for learning English and persuade the Entry Clearance Officer that you will return home after the course. In some cases, depending on your nationality, you may find this difficult
If you get a STSV before you leave home it will be a piece of paper stuck into your passport. If you are a NVN and get a STSV on arrival it will just be an entry stamp. This is still a visa.
You cannot extend this visa. After a maximum of 6 months, you must go home. If you are a non-visa national and you leave the country and re-enter, you may get a new one (this is not supposed to happen, but it often does).
If you are using an agent in your own country they will help you with the visa application. If you are applying personally, you can find the form you need by clicking here.
You are not allowed to work if you have a STSV.
B 2. Short Term Study Visa (11 months) (STSV11)
This is a special visa available if your course will last for more than 6 months. A STSV11 lasts 11 months and is available for people at any level of English.
It is only possible to get an STSV11 if the original course you book lasts for more than 6 months. You cannot get a STSV, then decide to stay longer and convert a STSV to a STSV11 in the UK.
An STSV11 is only valid for studying English. You can change school and course, but you cannot stop studying English and start studying something else.
You cannot extend an STSV11. When it expires, you must go home.
Whatever your nationality, you must get your STSV11 at home before you come to the UK. You must have a visa support letter from us and show that you have enough money to pay for your course and to live on. You must provide Biometric Data and pay the appropriate fee (£170). You will probably have to prove that you have a good reason for learning English and persuade the Entry Clearance Officer that you will return home after the course. In some cases, depending on your nationality, you may find this difficult.
If you get a STSV11 you will just get a stamp in your passport and must get a Biometric Residence Permit when you arrive in the UK.
If you are using an agent in your own country they will help you with the visa application. If you are applying personally, you can do that here.
You are not allowed to work if you have a STSV11.
Students from certain countries studying for 6 months or longer must undertake pre-entry tuberculosis (TB) screening before they are granted a visa for the UK. For a list of countries affected, please click here.
Anyone entering the UK with a Short Term Study Visa lasting more than 6 months must pay a Health Surcharge fee, which allows them to use the National Health Service. This costs £150. Please note that this must be paid even if you also have private health insurance.
B 3. Tier 4 (General) student visa
You can study with us if you have a Tier 4 visa with another sponsor for pre-sessional study (up to a month if your visa is valid for more than 6 months and up to one week if your visa is valid for 6 months or less) or at any other time of your stay as long as you can evidence that it won’t interfere with your main course of study.
B 4. Other types of visas
Standard Visitor Visa
This visa has replaced the Visitor Visa (VV) and Business Visitor Visa (BVV)
The Standard Visitor Visa allows you to enter the UK for leisure, business, to take part in a sporting or creative event or to receive private medical treatment.
It is possible to study with a Standard Visitor Visa provided that your course lasts no longer than 6 weeks (30 days) and studying is not the main reason for your visit. If you want to study for longer than 6 weeks you will need a STSV even if you have a Standard Visitor Visa. You can get a STSV at the same time as an existing Standard Visitor Visa.
If you have a Diplomatic Visa you can study without any problems.
Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) Visa
If you are lucky enough to have one of these, you can do anything you like.
C: What you must do if you want a STSV/STSV11 visa with your course booking
C: What you must do if you want a STSV/STSV11
- Tell us what sort of visa you want. If you need a visa to enter the UK you will need support from us, so you must tell us what sort of visa you intend to apply for. Unless we know this we do not know what sort of support to send you.
- Send us a copy of your passport. We need information from it to produce the support that we will send you.
- Pay a deposit or full fees, in the normal way. We cannot issue any visa support documentation until you have done this.
- Send us the information needed for a STSV support letter. If you want a STSV we will need to send you a STSV support letter so we need certain information To see what we need, please click here.
D: Procedures when you start your course with us
Please make sure that you bring your passport or ID with you to school on the first day. If you do not need a visa, we must check this. If you do need a visa, we need to check that you have one, and take a copy of it.
E: Biometric Residence Permit
A Biometric Residence Permit is a credit-card sized plastic card which looks very similar to a driving licence.
If you have a Tier 4, a STSV11 or a YMV, and will stay for more than 6 months, you will no longer get a paper visa in your passport. You will get a vignette (rubber stamp) which will allow you to enter the country, and you will need to collect a Biometric Residence Permit after you arrive.
The vignette will be valid for 30 days from the arrival date that you gave when you applied for your visa. You must arrive in the UK during this period. If you will arrive later you will need to apply for a new vignette.
When you are granted your visa, you will be told the address of a Post Office where you can collect your BRP.
After you have collected your BRP you must show it to us as we need to make a copy for our records.
You do not need to carry your BRP all the time and it might be safest not to do so. But you need to take it with you if you leave the country as you will need to show it when you re-enter the UK.
For more about BRP see here.
Registering with the police
If you have a stamp in your passport which tells you to register your arrival in the UK you will need to visit The Overseas Visitors Records Office at Brandon House. In this case, please see here.
Brandon House is open from 09.00 - 16.00 Monday to Friday. The telephone number is 020 7230 1208.
The nearest tube station is Borough, which is on the Northern Line. When you come out of the station turn left, cross the road and Brandon House is in front of you.
From Holland Park you should take the Central line to Bank station and then change onto the Northern line to Borough. The underground journey takes about half an hour.
From Westcroft Square you should take the District line to Monument station and then walk to Bank station (this is well signposted and takes about 4 minutes). At Bank station take the Northern line to Borough. The underground journey takes about 40 minutes.
If you are studying on the Intensive General English course or English for University you should visit Brandon House after class on your first Wednesday. If you have classes all day you will need to miss some class time. Please tell your trainer why you won't be able to come to class and they will explain what work you will miss.
The Overseas Visitors Records Office, 323 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1JL
These notes have been prepared in March 2016 and are, we hope, accurate as at that date. If you need advice about any details of your own application, it is usually best to approach one of our representatives in your own country, or to contact the local British Embassy or Consulate. You can also visit the UKVI website.