British immigration requirements

The British Government welcomes people from overseas who wish to study and train in the United Kingdom.


This article explains: the UK Immigration Rules for overseas students; when an entry clearance is needed; what is an entry clearance; which nationals must have an entry clearance; how to apply for an entry clearance. This is only a brief guide and does not cover all the rules for immigration entry.

What is an entry clearance?

A United Kingdom entry clearance is a visa or an entry certificate which you apply for before you travel to the United Kingdom. Even when you hold an entry clearance you will still need to pass through immigration control at the United Kingdom port of entry, eg Heathrow or Gatwick. But if you are holding an entry clearance you will not be refused permission to entry the United Kingdom unless there has been some change in your circumstances or you gave false information or did not disclose important facts when you obtained the entry clearance. Holders of entry clearances may also be refused on medical grounds, if they have a criminal record, if they are subject to a deportation order or if there are other exceptional reasons why they should not be admitted.

When you arrive in the United Kingdom, you may be questioned by an Immigration Officer so take all relevant documents in your hand luggage.

Do I need an entry clearance?

If you are a national of one of the countries listed on the right or if you are stateless or hold a non-national travel document or a passport issued by an authority not recognised by the UK you must have a valid UK visa on each occasion you enter the UK, unless you qualify for exemption. It is not possible to switch from visitor to student status once in the UK. You must therefore have the correct visa before you travel.

Other nationals do not have to have prior entry clearance to study in the UK. However, you will have to satisfy the immigration officer on arrival in the UK that you qualify for entry. If you are in any doubt about your eligibility you are advised to apply for an entry clearance before you travel.

The Rules

You must be able to support and accommodate yourself and any dependants and pay for your studies without working in the UK and without recourse to public funds. It is acceptable for support and accommodation and the cost of your studies to be provided by relatives or friends in the UK. It is not necessary to have finalised your arrangements but you must intend to study at a university, a college of further education, independent school or other genuine private educational institution. You must also be able to follow your intended course.

Your course of study should occupy the whole or a substantial part of your time (as a general rule at least 15 hours a week organised day-time study of a single subject or of directly related subjects leading to a particular qualification). You must intend to leave the UK when your studies are completed.

How to apply for a student entry clearance.

If you wish to apply for an entry clearance you should fill in form IM2A (and related forms if applicable) which you can get free of charge from the nearest British Mission offering an entry clearance service. You should check with the Mission whether or not they are able to process student applications, if they cannot they will advise you where to apply.

Your application form may be submitted by hand or by post together with:

  • your passport*
  • two recent passport-sized photographs
  • the entry clearance fee which is non-refundable
  • any relevant diplomas or educational certificates which you hold
  • a letter from the University, College or School confirming your acceptance for the course of study in the UK and a statement of charges for the course
  • evidence of Government sponsorship (if appropriate).

* In certain countries it may be inadvisable to send your passport through the post.

Fees must be paid in local currency (ie the currency of the country in which the British Mission is located). You should not send cash through the post, but bank drafts, postal or money orders payable to the Mission may be enclosed. The entry clearance officer may then be able to decide your application without further enquiries. However, you might have to attend an interview. In addition to the documents listed above you may be asked for:

  • evidence of funds to pay for your stay and your course of studies in the UK or
  • a letter from your host or sponsor in the UK to say that s/he will support and accommodate you during your course of studies, together with evidence that s/he can do so.

You should not buy a ticket or pay all or part of the cost of a course of studies if delay or refusal of your application will result in financial loss. The entry clearance officer may ask you for other documents: production of those listed above does not guarantee that entry clearance will be issued. If in doubt, you can obtain advice from the nearest British Mission.

While every care has been taken in preparing this information it is intended only for general guidance, and may, in certain circumstances, have been overtaken by events. Her Majesty’s Government cannot accep liability for any loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained in this article. Applicants should always clarify their position with The British Mission before travelling.

UK Visas required for nationals of:

  • Afghanistan
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bangladesh
  • Bahrain
  • Belarus
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Burkina
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Cape Verde
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • China
  • Comoros
  • Congo
  • Cuba
  • Djibouti
  • Dominican Republic
  • Egypt
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Fiji
  • Gabon
  • The Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Ivory Coast
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Kirgizstan
  • Korea (North)
  • Kuwait
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Macedonia
  • Malagasy
  • Madagascar
  • Maldives
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Moldova
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Rwanda
  • Sao Tome & Principe
  • Saudia Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Surinam
  • Syria
  • Taiwan
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Togo
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Yugoslavia
  • Zaire
  • Zambia

Information supplied by: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Migration and Visa Division, London

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