Visas and Immigration for study in the UK

Study on a Visitor Visa

If you are coming to the UK to study on a programme that is less than 6 months long, you may be able to apply for a Standard Visitor visa

The Standard Visit Visa can be used for short courses and single-semester exchange programmes. However, it cannot be used for programmes that are longer than 6 months.

You can also use a Standard Visitor visa to come to the UK to undertake a short period of research, if this is part of a degree that you are studying overseas.

Depending on your nationality, you may need to apply for a Visitor Visa before visiting the UK, or you may be able to enter the UK as a visitor without a visa. The Home Office website can help you check if you need a UK visa. When using the checking tool, choose your nationality, then the following options:  Study / Six months or less.

Conditions of the Standard Visitor visa

Extending a Standard Visitor Visa is in the UK is not an option. Also, you cannot switch into another visa category once you are in the UK. This means you must leave the UK on or before the visa expiry date.

You are not allowed to work in the UK if you have a Standard Visitor Visa. This includes work placements and unpaid work.


You cannot bring family members to the UK if you come on a Visitor Visa. If you are applying as a Standard Visitor and you have a spouse, partner, child or other person who wants to come with you to visit the UK, they must also apply to come to the UK in their own right as a Standard Visitor.

Pre-sessional students

We do not recommend using a Standard Visitor Visa for our pre-sessional English programmes as you cannot extend it from within the UK.

If you are a pre-sessional English student, you should apply for a Student Visa. This is the better option because usually you can then extend the Student Visa, to stay in the UK for the main degree programme you are taking after the pre-sessional English course.

Current students

If you are an existing student registered on a degree, masters or PhD programme in the UK, you can use a Standard Visitor Visa to return to the UK in order to:

  • Retake an exam
  • Repeat a course or module
  • Undertake a viva

If you need to stay in the UK longer than six months, you will need to apply for a Student Visa.

Re-sit an exam or retake a module

You can apply for a Standard Visitor Visa if you need to return to the UK to attend a resit examination or retake a module.

Please keep in mind that you cannot change from a Standard Visit visa to a Student Visa while still in the UK. This means that, even if your exam results indicate that you can continue your course, you will need to leave the UK and apply for a Student Visa from overseas to cover the remainder of your course.

Take an oral viva examination

You can apply for a Standard Visitor visa to take an oral (viva) examination. The viva must be a part of your PhD qualification at the University.

Undertake a period of research for less than six months

You can come to the UK for a short period of research at the university if you are already enrolled on an overseas course equivalent to at least degree level study in the UK.

To be eligible:

  • You must be aged at least 16 years or above on the date of application
  • You must be carrying out the research at the University of Greenwich
  • Your research must form part of, or be relevant to the course that you are studying overseas
  • You will be required to provide a letter from your overseas education provider that confirms the course you are currently studying overseas and confirms that the research you will undertake in the UK relates to this course
  • You must obtain an ATAS certificate if relevant for your course
  • You must not be employed at the University of Greenwich

Distance learning students

If you are registered on a distance learning programme in the UK, and need to enter the UK for short periods of time as part of your studies, you can use a Standard Visitor Visa. However, you must not intend to spend extended periods of time in the UK using the Standard Visitor route, i.e. you should not be hoping to regularly return to the UK on visitor visas, to carry out your distance learning.

Short Courses and Recreational Study

You can use the Visit Visa route to study a short course for six months or less. However at the University of Greenwich, we generally do not offer short courses which are less than six months, unless they are recreational courses. You will be required to provide an acceptance letter from the institution with details of the course you wish to study. You should be able to get a letter from a tutor in your faculty which shows clearly the course title and duration of study.

You can also attend recreational courses for a maximum period of 30 days if the purpose of your visit is for leisure or tourism and the course doesn't give you a qualification at the end.  You usually don't need to provide an acceptance letter from the institution as part of your Visit Visa application.

Getting a Standard Visitor Visa at the port of entry &  people who can use  E-gates

Nationals of some countries do not need to apply for a Standard Visitor Visa before travelling to the UK and can instead get a Visitor Visa on arrival to the UK border.  For those people, the choice is open to apply for the visa before travel or get visitor status at the UK border.

Additionally, if your passport allows you to enter through the E-gates, you will automatically have 'deemed visitor leave' after walking through the e-gate. If this is the case, you will not have any stamp in your passport, but you will be 'deemed' to have entered the UK as a visitor, and therefore all of the conditions / rules of the visitor visa route apply to you. If you do use e-gates to enter the UK, your passport will not be stamped and there will be no record of the date you entered the UK. You should therefore keep evidence of your date of entry to the UK (your flight ticket and boarding pass).

If your passport does not allow you to enter through the E-gates, and you are asking for a Visitor Visa to be granted at the UK border, you will need to speak to a border officer and ask them to grant you a Visitor Visa. They will ask for evidence to show your reason for entry to the UK and may ask for financial evidence or other evidence which shows that you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit.

Please also refer to our guidance on arriving at the UK border.

Access to healthcare 

International students coming into the UK on a Standard Visitor Visa will not have free access to the National Health Service (NHS). You should make sure you are covered for healthcare through personal medical insurance during your visit. Your private health insurance should be obtained before you arrive in the UK. The type of healthcare you can access will be decided by the terms and conditions of your individual private health insurance policy, so it is important that you fully understand what range of healthcare it offers.

You can visit the UKCISA website for information on how UK medical system works and private health insurance for students in the UK,

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

ATAS is a UK government scheme for international students who plan to study certain subjects in the UK.

If you are applying for a Standard Visitor visa to study in the UK on a course requiring ATAS, you will need to have an ATAS clearance certificate to show on arrival at the University. You will not require it as part of your visa application to come to the UK.

Please also refer to our information on the ATAS scheme.

Further information

In all cases, you should ensure that you have confirmed with your faculty/supervisor if needed on what you need to return to do if you are a current student or a new student intending to study for six months or less.

For detailed information about how you would be assessed as a visitor, read the Home Office staff visit guidance.

UKCISA has helpful information on studying as a Visitor.

You may also contact the International Student Advice Service for advice and guidance