Studying in the UK:
Tips for international

The UK is a popular destination for international students, with a wide choice of world-class universities offering globally recognised degree programmes. In 2019/20, there were 538,615 international students studying in the UK, and 176,101 sponsored study (Tier 4) student visas were granted in the year ending September 2020.

International students contribute billions to the UK economy each year in tuition fees alone. A recent study showed that a single cohort of international students will also contribute around £3.2 billion to the UK economy over 10 years through income tax and National Insurance payments. Furthermore, international graduates who find work in the UK after their studies typically do so in sectors with acute skills shortages, meaning they do not fill roles that would typically be held by domestic graduates.

In a bid to capitalise on these clear economic and social benefits, the government has set a target of increasing the number of international students in higher education in the UK to 600,000 by 2030. To help improve the UK’s appeal as a top global study destination, the Home Office has recently introduced a number of key immigration reforms which aim to make it easier for students to come to the UK to study and find work after they graduate.

If you are an international student set to begin your course at a UK university this academic year, there are certain steps you should take to ensure your arrival at the border and subsequent stay is smooth and straightforward.

Ensure your student visa is in place

Under the UK’s points-based immigration system, most foreign nationals wishing to study in the UK must apply for a visa. In October 2020, the Tier 4 (General) student visa was replaced by the Student visa. This new and improved immigration route is open to both EU and non-EU nationals who have been offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor.

The earliest you can apply for a Student visa is six months before you start your course if you are applying from outside the UK, or three months before you start your course if you are applying from inside the UK.

If you are 18 or over and your course is at degree level, you can usually stay in the UK for up to five years on a Student visa. If you wish to remain in the UK after your Student visa expires, you may be able to extend it if you are eligible, or switch to a Graduate visa to stay in the UK and work, or look for work, for at least two years after you graduate.

Smith Stone Walters can offer personalised advice and practical support to help you apply for your Student visa.

Register with the police

Under UK immigration rules, certain foreign nationals are required to register with the police shortly after arriving in the UK or after getting permission to stay for longer in the UK. You will usually need to register if you are aged 16 years or over and your visa is for longer than six months. The full list of nationalities that usually need to register can be found on the website here.

If you need to register, you must go to the police within seven days of arriving in the UK, or within seven days of receiving your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) if you applied for your visa from within the UK.

After registering, you will be issued with a Police Registration Certificate (PRC), a document which proves you have complied with the requirements of your UK visa. You must keep your PRC for the duration of your stay in the UK, and must inform the police of any changes to your circumstances, such as a change of address or if you have been granted a new visa.

Keep up a good attendance rate

As a sponsored student, you are required to show that you are ‘academically engaged’ with your studies throughout the period of leave you have been granted. The university or educational institution sponsoring you will keep a record of your absences, and is legally required to tell the Home Office if you have permanently withdrawn or deferred your studies for a period of more than 60 days.

You must show that you are engaged with your studies by attending all scheduled study activities such as lectures, examinations and meetings with your tutor or supervisor, and by submitting all assessed work. If you are found to be not engaging with your studies, your sponsor may need to withdraw sponsorship and your student visa will be curtailed.

Make the most of the UK’s top tourist attractions

Although it’s important to attend your required lectures and keep on top of your coursework, your time in the UK doesn’t have to be all work and no play.

The UK is a global tourist hotspot, attracting tens of millions of overseas visitors each year. In fact, tourism is the fastest growing industry in Britain, with the sector forecast to be worth over £257 billion by 2025.

It’s easy to see why so many tourists choose the UK as a holiday destination. In London alone, there are over 170 museums, many of which are free to enter, alongside an abundance of galleries, historical buildings and green parks to explore. Check out Time Out London for the lowdown on events, attractions and the latest offers.

However, if your university is located outside of the capital, there are a multitude of attractions in all corners of the UK that are well worth visiting.  The National Trust is a membership organisation that looks after heritage and conservation sites in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Becoming a member will grant you free entry to over 500 National Trust attractions around the UK. There is also a discounted membership price for young people aged 18 – 25.

Open up European travel with a Schengen visa

With so many places to visit when you’re not busy studying, you may not feel the need to leave the UK. However, if you think you will want to visit other destinations in Europe during your stay, you should check whether you need to apply for a Schengen visa before you go.

A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa which allows its holder to enter, freely travel within and leave the Schengen zone from any of the 26 Schengen member countries. Obtaining a Schengen visa is the best way for visa-required nationals to travel across multiple European countries on a single permit.

Smith Stone Walters can help assess your eligibility for a Schengen visa and provide assistance with the application process.

Immigration support for international students

If you have any queries regarding UK immigration or need some assistance with your student or graduate visa application, Smith Stone Walters would be happy to help.

To speak to a member of our team, please contact us today.

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