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From 1st October 2013, it will be possible to study English in the UK with a Visitor Visa (VV) or a Business Visitor Visa (BVV) provided that your course lasts no longer than 6 weeks (30 days).   You must study at an accredited institution (The London School of English meets this requirement). For more information, please visit the UKBA website.

The London School of English is accepted as a Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) for Tier 4 of the UK government’s Points Based System.  

It has also successfully completed an Educational Oversight inspection conducted by the Independent Schools Inspectorate and was rated as ‘exceeds expectations’ in all sections (click here to read the ISI report).

Do you need a visa?

This note is designed to give an overview of the UK visa system in general, and to explain recent changes.  The regulations can change quickly, so we cannot guarantee that the information shown here will always be completely up to date.  It is therefore intended for guidance only.  You may like to check with your local Embassy or Consulate to see if there have been any changes.

This note is concerned only with adults, as we do not have any courses for children.

Summary
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 none of this note applies to you and you can stop reading now.
If you come from anywhere else you will need a visa. There are two sorts of visa you can use for study: A General Student Visa and a Student Visitor Visa. The rules which apply to them are different. When you book a course you will need to tell us which one you want, so you need to understand the differences. These notes will help you to understand the system and decide what to do.
From 1st October 2013, it will be possible to study English in the UK with a Visitor Visa (VV) or a Business Visitor Visa (BVV) provided that your course lasts no longer than 6 weeks (30 days). You must study at an accredited institution (The London School of English meets this requirement). If you want to study for longer than 6 weeks you will still need a Student Visitor Visa (SVV). Note that it is possible to have more than one type of visa at the same time so if you already have a VV or BVV you can apply for a Student Visitor Visa (SVV) as well. This is useful if you have a multi-entry VV or BVV that is valid for many years. If you get a SVV as well as a VV or BVV you will need to make it clear when you arrive which visa you are entering the country with, so that the immigration officer stamps the right visa.
Note that you cannot hold a second visa if you have a Tier 4 General Student Visa (GSV). If you apply for a Tier 4 visa, any visitor visa (SVV, BVV) will become invalid.

Overview: the process of applying for a visa

1.  Decide if you are a Visa National or a Non-visa National (see Section A)

2.  Decide which type of visa you want (see Section B):

3.  Make your application for your course, telling us which type of visa you want (see Section C)

4.  Use the documents we send you to apply for your visa (see Section C)


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.  

Please click here to view a list of these countries.

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’).

Please click here to view a list of VN countries.

A 3. Non-visa nationals (NVN)

If you are a NVN you need a visa, but can get a 6 month Student Visitor Visa on arrival.  See B1, below, for more about this. If you want a General Student Visa, or an Extended Student Visitor Visa, you must get it before you leave home.

Please click here to view a list of NVN countries.

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B: The different types of visa

There are three main types of visa which concern us:

See also:

B 1. Student Visitor Visa (SVV)

A SVV is a type of visitor visa – it is not part of the Points Based System. It is not what people usually mean when they talk about a ‘student visa’ but in fact it is the visa used by most people who study in the UK for less than 6 months.

Summary
A SVV has no level requirement, cannot be extended, and cannot last longer than 6 months (for courses longer than 6 months you can apply for an Extended Student Visitor Visa - ESVV - see 1.5 below). Visa nationals must get it before they leave home for a fee of £83. Non-visa nationals can get it free on arrival.
AdvantagesDisadvantages
- No restriction on level
- No restriction on where you study
- The standard 6 month SVV is free on arrival for non-visa nationals, although if you want an Extended Student Visitor Visa, valid for 11 months, you must get that before you leave home.
- It lasts a maximum 6 months (or 11 months, for an Extended Student Visitor Visa)
- It cannot be extended
- For visa nationals, applications must be examined and passed by a visa officer (for an extended Student Visitor Visa all applications must be assessed by a visa officer)

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1.1 What is a SVV?

A SVV is not a sort of student visa - it is a sort of visitor's visa. A SVV lasts a maximum of 6 months (although an Extended Student Visitor Visa lasts 11 months), and cannot be renewed.

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1.2 Getting a SVV

If you are a visa national you will need to get your SVV before you leave your country. See 1.3.

If you are a non-visa national you can get a 6 month SVV free when you arrive in the UK.  You will just have to produce your acceptance certificate from us.  This usually works fine.  If you want an Extended Student Visitor Visa, valid for 11 months, you must get this before you leave home, even if you are a non-visa national. 

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1.3 Applying in your own country

If you are a visa national you must always apply for your SVV before you leave home.  You must have a visa support letter from us and show that you have enough money to pay your course and live on. You will have to do biometrics and pay the appropriate fee (£83 as at April 2013).  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 are a non-visa national you do not need to apply for an ordinary SVV before you come to the UK.  You can just get it free on arrival (see 1.4 below).  If you want to be 100% certain you can get it in advance in your own country but in this case you will need to provide biometrics and will need to pay for it (although it’s cheaper than a GSV).

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

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1.4 Getting a SVV on arrival

This is only possible if you are a non-visa national.  You must:

 

- book a course before you come to the UK
- bring your course acceptance papers, including a SVV support letter, to show at immigration when you arrive
- ask for a Student Visitor Visa at immigration.

 

This only applies to the standard (6 month) SVV.  If you want an Extended Student Visitor Visa, valid for 11 months, you must get this before you leave home.

If you are a visa national you must get your visa before you leave home, whatever sort of visa you have.

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1.5 What is an Extended SVV (ESVV)?

An ESVV is very similar to a SVV but it has some important differences.  A normal SVV lasts for 6 months.   An ESVV lasts for 11 months.  To get an ESVV it is necessary to prove that your course will last for more than 6 months. You cannot convert a SVV to an ESVV, and you cannot apply for an ESVV in the UK or when you arrive.  An ESVV must always be obtained in your own country and costs £150. An ESVV is only valid for studying English. You can change school and course with an ESVV, but you cannot stop studying English and start studying something else.

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.

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1.6 What does an SVV look like?

If you get a SVV before you leave home it will look very like a GSV but will include both the word ‘visitor’ and the word ‘student’.  If you get it on arrival it will just be an entry stamp. This is still a visa. The only difference between a SVV and a Visitor Visa (see below) is that ‘VST’ will be written by hand on the stamp. Please make sure that this happens in your case.  The date of validity is based on the date of entry, so it is important to check that carefully.  If you are unable to read the date, we suggest that you ask the Immigration Officer to stamp it again. Having an incorrect visa stamp may mean that we are unable to accept you.

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1.7 How long does a SVV last?

The standard SVV lasts for 6 months.  An Extended Student Visitor Visa lasts for 11 months. (See also D.2)

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1.8 Are there any level restrictions

No.  A SVV is available for people at any level of English. It is the only study visa available if you are below intermediate level.

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1.9 Working

You are not allowed to work if you have a SVV.

B 2. General Student Visa (GSV)
Summary
A GSV is processed as part of the UK Points Based System. People typically choose this if they want to study in the UK for a longer period. It can be extended and can last longer than 6 months, but is not available for students below intermediate level and is only valid for study at the school or college named on it. It must always be obtained in advance and costs £310. It does not include the right to work.
AdvantagesDisadvantages
- Allows you to study for more than 6 months
- Allows you to extend your visa in the UK
- Only available if you have intermediate level English (*CEFR B1 - about IELTS 4), which must be proved by an official exam accepted by the visa authorities.
- You can only study at the school who accepted you and got you the visa. If you want to change school, you will need a new visa.
- You must always get this type of visa at home before you come to the UK

*For information about CEFR click here.

A visa national may find it difficult to get a GSV for a short course, and may have to apply for a SVV.

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2.1 Who should choose a GSV?

This is the right visa for you if you are coming for a longer course (although you can also study for up to 11 months on an extended student visitor visa – see 1.5). It may also be appropriate if you are going to do a short course but plan to study elsewhere afterwards.

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2.2 What must I have to get a GSV?

You need three things: 

1.     Acceptance from a school on the UKBA Sponsor register (we are, of course).  This takes the form of a Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).  A CAS is not a piece of paper – it is a reference number which we will send you, which you must quote on your visa application.  See section C for what we need to issue a CAS.  

2.     Evidence that you have enough money to pay your fees and to live while you are in the UK.  For living costs, you must show £1,020 for each month of your studies up to a maximum of 9 months. You can prove you have the money if:

o   You have cash in an account in your name (this includes joint accounts with your  name).  You must have this money in your bank account for 28 days before you apply for your visa, or

o   You have a loan in your name, or

o   You have official financial or government sponsorship.

3.     Proof that you are at a qualifying level of English (see 2.5). You do not normally need to prove that you have a good reason to study (but see 2.3, below).

When you register for a course here we will send you your CAS number, and also a CAS statement.  The CAS statement is not an official document – it just summarises what we have put on the CAS so that you can make sure that your application says the same thing.  The visa officer may ask to see the CAS statement, but this is not in fact necessary.

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.

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2.3 Applying for a GSV

You must always get a GSV in advance (this is true for both visa nationals and non-visa nationals).  You must provide fingerprints (biometric data) and must therefore attend a visa issuing post in person (the visa issuing process may take place elsewhere).

Please note that even if you have the necessary points for a GSV you may have to do an interview to talk about your visa application.  This will usually be done by Skype call when you go to do your biometrics.  We will send you some notes about this interview if you register for a course with us and we issue you with a CAS.  This process does not apply to all countries.

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.

 

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2.4 The cost

A GSV costs £310.

If you want to renew your GSV in the UK you must pay a renewal fee of £422 (for postal applications) or £822 (for same-day applications in person).

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2.5 Restrictions on who can have one

To get a GSV you must have achieved a CEFR B1 level in all four components of a SELT (Secure English Language Test). Click here for tests which can be used.

Even if you have a SELT, immigration staff may be able to refuse entry to students who cannot speak English without an interpreter.

If your level is too low for a GSV you can start with a Student Visitor Visa (SVV), study for 6 months (standard SVV) or 11 months (extended SVV), and then apply for a GSV.  By this time your level should be good enough but you must prove this with a SELT.  You must also attend regularly.  You will have to go home and apply for a GSV there.  You cannot change a SVV to a GSV in the UK.   See section B1, above, for more about a SVV.

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2.6 What does a GSV look like?

A GSV is a piece of paper stuck into your passport. It will have both the first date of validity and also the end date printed on it. When you enter the country the date of entry will be stamped on it, although this does not affect the dates it is valid.  A GSV has the number of the sponsoring school printed on it.  It is only valid for study at that school.  See D1 below for more about this.

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2.7 How long does a GSV last?

A GSV will be granted for the length of the course, plus some time for you to pack up and leave.  For a course of less than 6 months this extra period is only 7 days.  If you might want to take some holiday while you are in the UK it’s important to plan for this when you book.  We can then allow for this in your acceptance certificate. For a course of more than 6 months the extra time allowed is 2 months so this is not so important.

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2.8 Renewing a GSV

A GSV can be renewed, but only if you have attended regularly. It is the only sort of study visa which can be renewed, so get a GSV if you are booking for less than 6 months but think that you may want to stay for more than 6 months, or if you are doing a course with us but plan to move on to study elsewhere afterwards (or if you are going to study elsewhere, and then move to us).  But remember that you will need a new visa to change school - see D1 for more about this.

When you renew a GSV you will have to pay a renewal fee.  This is £422 (for postal applications) or £822 (for same-day applications in person) (fees as at April 2013).

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2.9 Working

A GSV for an English course does not give the right to work.

B 3. Other types of visa
Summary
From 1st October 2013, it is possible to study English in the UK with a Visitor Visa (VV) or a Business Visitor Visa (BVV) provided that your course lasts no longer than 6 weeks (30 days) and is not the main reason for your visit to the UK. You must study at an accredited institution (The London School of English meets this requirement). If you want to study for longer than 6 weeks you will still need a Student Visitor Visa (SVV). Note that it is possible to have more than one type of visa at the same time so if you already have a VV or BVV you can apply for a Student Visitor Visa (SVV) as well. This is useful if you have a multi-entry VV or BVV that is valid for many years. If you get a SVV as well as a VV or BVV you will need to make it clear when you arrive which visa you are entering the country with, so that the immigration officer stamps the right visa.

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3.1 Visitor Visa

A visitor’s visa allows someone to enter the UK for tourism, visit family etc. A non-visa national can get it on arrival. A visa national needs to get it at home. From 1st October 2013 it will be possible to study with a VV provided that your course lasts no longer than 6 weeks (30 days) and is not the main reason for your visit to the UK.   You must study at an accredited institution (The London School of English meets this requirement).


Note: If your course lasts more than 6 weeks, you should still get either a SVV, an ESVV or a GSV. 

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3.2 Business Visa

If you have a Business Visa it will, from 1st October 2013, be possible to study provided that your course lasts no longer than 6 weeks (30 days).   You must study at an accredited institution (The London School of English meets this requirement).

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3.3 Diplomatic Visa

If you have a Diplomatic Visa you can study without any problems. 


C: What you must do when you apply for a course

1.  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. 

2.  Send us a copy of your passport

We need information from it to produce the support that we will send you.

3.  For a GSV, pay your tuition fees

If you want a GSV, you must pay all your tuition fees in advance.  We cannot issue a CAS until you have done this.  If you want a SVV we do not ask for full payment in advance, but you must pay a deposit in line with our normal Terms and Conditions.

4.  For a GSV, show how you will prove your level

If you want a GSV, we need to know how you will prove your level of English.   This is not necessary for a SVV.

5.  For a SVV, send us the information needed for a SVV support letter

If you want a SVV we will need to send you a SVV support letter so we need certain information. To see what we need, please click here.

6.  For a GSV, send us the information needed for a CAS

If you want a GSV we will need to issue you a CAS so we need certain information. To see what we need, please click here.

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D: Other important details

D 1.  The ‘single sponsor’ rule

This is a very important part of the Point Based System, but an inconvenient one.

To get a General Student Visa you must have what is called a sponsor – an organisation that is responsible for you.  If you study with us, we issue a CAS and are your sponsor.  You can only have one sponsor – the organisation whose CAS was used to obtain the visa.  If you want to do an English course with us and then go to another school, or to a university, you will have to get a new visa when you transfer to the next course.  In the same way, if you want to study somewhere else and then come to us, you will need to get a new visa.

The idea of a sponsor, with study limited to the school named on the visa, only applies to a GSV.  A SVV does not have these limitations.

D 2.  Renewing your visa

If you have a GSV you can renew it in the UK. 

As long as your attendance and progress has been satisfactory, we can give you all the documents you need if you are applying to renew your visa in order to continue to study with us.

To renew your GSV you will need to pay a fee. This is £422 (for postal applications) or £822 (for same-day applications in person) (fees as at April 2013).

You cannot renew a SVV although if you are a non-visa national (see A3 above) and you leave the country and re-enter, you may get a new one (this is not supposed to happen, but it often does).  

D 3.  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. 

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Registering at The Overseas Visitors Records Office

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.    

Brandon House is open from 0900 - 1600 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, Brandon House, 180 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1LH

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