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Documents and Visa to Study in UK

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When you arrive in the UK, you must show certain documents and declare your intentions to study as a student to the immigration officer. You will need:

  • a valid passport

  • a visa (if you are a visa national)

  • a letter from the DCSF-registered institution that confirms you have been accepted unconditionally for a full-time course

  • evidence that you have enough money to pay for your course.

It may take some time to get all of these documents, so you should start as early as possible by checking the website of the Visa Application Centre or the UK Border Agency - Visa Services website guidance for students.

This will enable you to find out what documents you will need, how to get them and where to get them from. Guidance information for international students is available from UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs).


Visit the UK Border Agency Visa Services website for the most recent guidance and information about the UK’s visa requirements.

Several changes have been made since 31st March 2009, which affect the Student Category regarding visas and entry clearance. You can read more  information on these changes at the Visa Services guidance page for students.

There are 3 different student categories for visas:

  • European students (European Economic Area)

  • Visa National Students

  • Non-visa national students

You can check your category using the links below, then follow the advice given for your category.

If your home country is not listed in the EEA or in the visa-national list, you fall into the non-visa national category.

If you are a visa national, you can find out how to apply by visiting the UK Border Agency - Visa Services website.


All visa applicants are required to submit their biometric details. For more information about this programme, click here.

What happens if I am not a visa national?

If you are not a visa national, you do not need a visa to come into the UK, but you may need an entry clearance. You may also want to contact the Visa Application Centre (VAC) in the country where you live, or where no VAC is in operation, the British Embassy or High Commission, to confirm that you will be able to come to the UK as a student. You can read more information on the UKCISA immigration page.

Identity cards for foreign nationals

Those who apply for student visa extensions from 25th November 2008 onwards will find themselves subject to longer processing times. This is because a new stage is being introduced into the process of issuing a student visa extension. Instead of being issued with an extension in the form of a sticker in their passport, students and their dependants will be issued with an extension in the form of a separate card called an 'Identity Card for Foreign Nationals'.

What is an Identity Card for Foreign Nationals?

Identity cards for foreign nationals are the first part of the National Identity Scheme and will be rolled out so all new entrants and those extending their leave to remain in the UK will have a card within 3 years.

The card will provide information that will help public agencies, employers and educational establishments more easily understand the migrant’s entitlements.

To create the identity card, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) will collect fingerprints and a facial image, otherwise known as biometrics.

Why do I have to apply for one?

Taking an image of a person’s face and fingerprints and then locking them to that person’s details on a national register provides a very safe and secure way of identifying that person and helps to combat illegal working and reduce illegal immigration to the UK.

The card will provide a convenient, extremely secure and widely accepted way for any foreign national to prove their immigration status.

What does the document look like?

It is the shape of a credit card and shows the cardholder’s photo on the front, together with personal details and information about their immigration status.

It shows whether the cardholder is allowed to do any work and if they are required to register with the police. The card includes a microchip which contains two of the cardholder’s fingerprints, and the photo on the front is a digital photo.

How do I apply for an identity card?

If you need to apply for an identity card, you will have to enrol your biometrics (fingerprints and photograph) with the UK Border agency, as mentioned above. You can do this at a range of enrolment centres around the UK, and you can make an appointment either by telephone or online.

You can read more about enrolling your biometrics and booking an appointment on the UK Border Agency website. Check out the menus on the left hand side of the page for more related info.

Will I have to carry my identity card with me at all times?

The card does not need to be carried at all times. However, the card will need to be produced for specified immigration purposes, such as re-entering the UK from travelling abroad.

How much does it cost?

The fee for an application for a foreign national identity card is £30, although this fee is set only until 2010. It is expected that most people will pay more when large scale issuing of cards begins in 2011 or 2012.

How long will my identity card be valid for?

Identity cards will be valid for the duration of the person’s limited leave, or for a maximum of 10 years.

How long will the process take?

There are likely to be some 'teething problems' as this new system is introduced, so you should expect to experience delays and inconvenience as a result. You should not make plans to travel until the card has been issued and you have it in your hands. You should not rely on target turnaround times as an estimate of how long you will have to wait as these are likely to be unreliable.

What should I do if my personal details change?

Anyone holding an ID card will be required to notify the UKBA of changes to the personal data it holds. Draft legislation sets out fines payable by anyone who fails to comply. The personal details which must be kept up to date include name, address, nationality and gender.

What happens if I lose my identity card?

If you lose your ID card then you can apply for a replacement card at a cost of £30. Biometrics would have to be given again. If the card is lost abroad, then you should contact the nearest Entry Clearance Office. They may be able to issue a one-way vignette (a sticker in your passport) to allow you to travel back to the UK where you can then apply for a replacement card.

Fines will apply if cardholders fail to report their cards lost or stolen, and will be enforceable by the civil courts.

What are the advantages of having an identity card?

An identity card will make it easier to:

  • provide proof of your right to live in the UK

  • prove your identity safely and quickly where and whenever this is required

  • get a job as potential employers can use the card to check future employees’ identity and employment status quickly and easily.

Where can I read more information?

Further information about the cards, including pictures of what they will look like, is available on the UK Border Agency website.

The UK Border Agency has issued a document headed 'Identity Cards for Foreign Nationals – useful information'. You can find a link to it under the explanation about identity cards that appears in the student area of the UKCISA website.


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