Short-term study visa

What is a short-term study visa?

This information is for you if you are currently outside the UK and you want to come to study in the UK as a 'short-term student' because either:

  • you are not eligible to apply for a Tier 4 student visa
  • or you have chosen not to apply for a Tier 4 student visa as you meet the requirements for a 'short-term student' visa.

This information explains what you need to do to get immigration permission in order to come to study in the UK as a 'short-term student'.

Who can come to the UK as a short-term student?

The ordinary 'short-term student' category will allow you to come to the UK if you are 16 years or older, and want to enter:

  • for up to six months to study a short course. For example, exchange students, distance learners, students coming to re-sit an exam, re-take a module or undertake a viva if they are a postgraduate student,
  • for up to 11 months to study an English language course,
  • if you are enrolled on a course abroad that is at least equivalent to the level of a UK bachelor's degree, you can enter for up to six months to do research, or to receive tuition on how to conduct research, at a UK institution,
  • to undertake medical electives relevant to a course of medicine, veterinary medicine and science, or dentistry that you are doing abroad.

What are the restrictions of a short-term study visa?

With a short-term visa you will be unable to:

  • extend this visa
  • study at a state school
  • work (including work placement or work experience) or carry out any business
  • switch from this visa to another whilst in the UK
  • bring family members (‘dependants’) with you – they must apply separately
  • get public funds
  • study in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive periods as a short-term student.

Even though your Short Term Study visa may be granted for six months, students must leave the UK within 30 days of the end of their studies in the UK or at the end of the six month period of leave granted, whichever is the earliest. For example if you are coming to the UK to do a resit on 20 August, you must leave within 30 days after the resit or whenever your leave expires whichever is soonest. Failure to do this may risk future visa applications to the UK.

Read page 11 of the Home Office guidance carefully for a warning about not using the route for extended periods through frequent or successive use of the route.

This visa should not be used if you are an academic visitor. You will need a Standard Visitor visa instead.

Different rules apply to distance learners (see section below).

Are you visiting the UK to attend a VIVA?

Note: this is only relevant to postgraduate students in certain sensitive technology-related fields

If you are entering the UK for to attend your VIVA, some new rules are coming into force at some point in 2018 which mean you may have to apply for new ATAS clearance as part of your Short term Study visa application.

Check if you need an ATAS certificate as part of your visa application


Are you visiting the UK as a distance learner?

If you wish to use short-term study to complete a distance learning course in the UK, you must meet all of the following criteria. You must:

  • be studying for the majority of your time outside of the UK for a UK qualification by distance learning
  • be on a course that is longer than six months
  • only enter the UK for limited periods, totalling no more than 56 days in the UK in any six month period. Study completed during visits can include induction weeks, short periods of intensive face-to-face learning and exams or assessments.

Are you visiting the UK to do up to six months research?

If you are coming to the UK to complete a short period of research you must check the following:

  • Your course at your home institution must be equivalent to a UK degree or above on UK NARIC
  • The research in the UK must form part of, or be relevant to, the your course at your home institution
  • When applying for your visa you must provide confirmation of your course, and that the research relates to it, from your home institution.

If you are entering the UK for to attend your VIVA, some new rules are coming into force at some point in 2018 which mean you may have to apply for new ATAS clearance as part of your short-term study visa application.

Check if you need an ATAS certificate as part of your visa application


Are you coming to the UK on an 11 month English language course?

Even though your short-term study visa may be granted for 11 months, students must leave the UK within 30 days of the end of their course or at the end of the 11 month period of leave granted, whichever is the earliest. For example if you are coming to the UK to do an English language course which finishes on the 20 August, you must leave within 30 days after course finishes or whenever your leave expires whichever is soonest. Failure to do this may risk future visa applications to the UK.

Are you visiting the UK to do medical electives?

If you need to visit the UK for up to six months to do electives relevant to a course of medicine, veterinary medicine and science, or dentistry that you are doing abroad (the course abroad must be equivalent to at least bachelor’s level in the UK). You must have been accepted by a UK recognised body or a publicly-funded Higher Education Institution to undertake the electives. The electives must be unpaid and involve no treatment of patients.

You must be able to:

  • Show that the overseas degree course is equivalent to a UK degree on UK NARIC
  • Prove that the elective in the UK is part of, or is relevant to, the course
  • Provide confirmation of the course, and that the research relates to it, from their overseas education provider.

The University of Plymouth can provide you with a short-term study visa letter to go with your visa application once the above has been confirmed.

How to apply for a short-term study visa

Should you apply before travelling or can you get one on arrival at the UK Border?

If you are a visa national (you need a visa to travel to the UK) then you need to apply in advance from outside of the UK.

If you are non-visa national (such as USA, Japan, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong), you can either:

  • apply for a short-term six months study visa online from your home country before you arrive in the UK
  • or apply to enter the UK as a short-term student when you arrive at the port of entry.

However, as non-visa national studying an English language course which will last for more than six months but a maximum of 11 months, you must apply from outside of the UK (and if you are from certain countries you will have to pass a tuberculosis screening test before you apply). Additionally, if you have previously been refused a visa, you should apply in advance from outside of the UK.

As a non-visa national short-term student, you may be eligible to use the super quick eGates when you arrive at the airport. However, if you go through the eGates, it will be assumed that you are entering the UK as a ‘visitor’ and no endorsement (stamp) will be put in your passport. If you are classed as a ‘visitor’, you will not be allowed to enrol on your course of study at the University of Plymouth if it is longer than 30 days.

To seek entry to the UK as a short term student, see a Border Force officer at passport control and avoid using the eGates. You will then get a stamp in your passport which the University will need to scan on your arrival in Plymouth.

The easiest way to find out what type of visa you need is to visit gov.uk and check if you need a UK visa.

Are you thinking of travelling to the UK via the Republic of Ireland?

If you are from a country that does not require a visa to enter the UK (a non-visa national), you will be exempt from requiring a visa to enter the UK for up to six months. However, if you travel to the UK via the Republic of Ireland you can only enter the UK for up to three months. If your course is longer than three months, you will not be able to extend your visa from within the UK. You must travel outside of the UK and re-enter the UK requesting entry to give you time to complete your course. Therefore, we strongly advise that you do not book flights via Republic of Ireland.

Do you have to apply from your home country?

Entry clearance as a short-term student can be applied for from within any country outside of the UK (it does not have to be the country where you normally live).

Where can you find the application form?

Visit gov.uk and you can fine the short-term study visa application.

How much does it cost?            

Visit gov.uk and find out more about the fees associated with the short-term study visa.

What supporting documents do you need to make an application?

You must provide documents to prove that you:

  • have been offered a place on a course in the UK at an accepted place of study. The University of Plymouth can, upon request, provide you with a short-term study visa letter to support your visa application
  • have enough money to support yourself without working or help from public funds. If relatives and friends are supporting and housing you, they will need to show bank statements and written statements to prove this. If you are funding your own visit, you will need to show a bank statement with enough funds to cover living and housing costs during your whole stay in the UK. No amount is suggested by the Home Office but Tier 4 students are currently required to show £1,015 for each month for living costs so you may wish to use this as a guide
  • can pay for your return or onward journey. If you have already booked the return flight then send a copy of the ticket in with your application, otherwise add the cost flight to your bank account balance.

If you’re under 18 you must also:

  • have made arrangements for your travel and stay in the UK
  • have permission from your parent or guardian to study in the UK.

What documents to carry in your hand luggage to show at the UK Border Control on arrival?

If you do not obtain entry clearance before you travel, you will need to produce all the documents stated above to support your application to enter the UK as a short-term student to the Border Force Officer when you arrive at the port of entry to the UK.

It is important you ask to be admitted as a short-term student (rather than as a standard visitor) and make sure they look at your short-term study visa letter from the University of Plymouth (which confirms your unconditional offer and acceptance on the course). Check that the stamp you get in your passport shows you are here as a short-term student.

Even if you obtain entry clearance as a short-term student before travelling to the UK, you should still carry all the documents that you submitted with your entry clearance application. The Border Force Officer may ask to see these documents when you arrive in the UK.

Medical insurance

If you are coming to Plymouth for up to six months, you will not be entitled to free hospital or other medical treatment so you will need private medical insurance. This is a matter for you to sort out and will not be of any relevance to your immigration application.

The situation is different if you are using the 11-month short-term student route for English language. As part of your application, you will have to pay an 'immigration health surcharge' of £150. This is mandatory and will mean you will be exempt from paying UK National Health Service hospital fees.