From 9.00 am on 1 December 2020, the Short-term study visa route is now only limited to those wishing to study on English language courses for a period of between six to eleven months. Please see the Short-term student visa page for further details of this route.

As a visitor, you are now permitted to undertake the following types of study under this route:

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Undertake a short course of study for six months or less

  • Visitors aged 16 years or above at the date of your application, must have obtained an Academic Technology Approval Scheme clearance certificate (ATAS) if your course of study will be at postgraduate level. Your course must also be listed in Appendix ATAS of the Immigration Rules. An ATAS certificate is valid for a period of six months and the earliest that you can apply for an ATAS certificate is up to nine months before the start date of your course. As obtaining an ATAS certificate can take some time to process, it is advisable to apply for your certificate in good time before your application as a visitor. You will need to be in receipt of your certificate in order to submit this with your visitor visa application or permission to enter application at the UK border. Nationals from the EU, EEA, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA are exempt from obtaining ATAS clearance.

  • The visitor guidance states that 'study' refers to one or more consecutive courses or one or more courses taken at the same time, which must be completed within the duration of your visit. 

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Undertake a period of research or receive research tuition

  • You must be aged at least 16 years of age or above at the date of application;
  • You must be enrolled on a course of study abroad equivalent to at least degree level study in the UK;
  • You must be studying at a UK higher education provider;
  • Your UK course provider must confirm that:
  1. The research or research tuition that you will be conducting in the UK, is relevant to the course of study that you are enrolled on overseas; and
  2. You will not be employed at the UK institution.

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Undertake electives

  • You must be aged at least 16 years of age or above at the date of application;
  • You must be enrolled on a course of study abroad equivalent to at least degree level study in the UK;
  • You must have been accepted by a higher education provider in the UK;
  • Your main course of studies overseas must be in the subjects of either medicine, veterinary medicine and science or dentistry;
  • The UK higher education provider where you will be carrying out the electives, must confirm that the electives will be unpaid and not involve the treatment of any patients;
  • Obtain an ATAS certificate if required. See Undertake a short course of study for six months or less.

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Study abroad programme

If you are studying a course overseas and you wish to complete a study abroad programme of less than six months, this can be done as a visitor. The study abroad programme in the UK must make up part of your overseas course.

If you are required to obtain an ATAS certificate as set out in Appendix ATAS, you must obtain this to submit with either your visa or permission to enter application - see Undertake a short course of study for six months or less for the ATAS requirements.

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Sit an entrance exam

As a visitor, you are permitted to undertake an entrance exam.

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Re-sit an exam or retake a module

If for example you have a Student route visa and you are required to re-sit an exam or retake a module, if your attendance in the UK is no longer required your Student sponsor will normally report this to the Home Office. The Home Office will then cancel your visa reducing your remaining stay in the UK to a period of sixty days. This will mean that you are required to return overseas within this sixty day period. Should you need to return to the UK in order to re-sit your exam or to retake your module, you are permitted to do this as a visitor. You should note however that as you will not be permitted to switch into the Student route (see Prohibited activities) as a visitor, you will be required to return overseas in order to apply for entry clearance for a new Student route visa if you successfully pass your exam or module. See Applying for a Student route visa outside the UK.

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Take an oral (viva) examination

The viva must be part of a PhD qualification at a UK institution.

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Distance learning

If you wish to study for a UK qualification overseas by distance learning, there may be some occasions where you are required to come to the UK as part of your course. For example you may need to attend induction weeks or sit exams and assessments. If this is the case, you will be permitted to do so as a visitor. This may require multiple trips over the course of your studies where you may be required to obtain a new visitor visa or permission to enter for six months on each occasion. Although this will be permitted in order to complete a course by distance learning, you should not do this in order to pursue a longer course of studies that would normally require entry clearance under the Student route.

The provision for distance learning applies to studies and a qualification that will be obtained by distance learning. It does not apply to those studying by distance learning only as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic who would ordinarily be required to apply under the Student route.

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Educational exchanges and recreational courses

As a visitor, you are permitted to take part in educational exchanges or visits to the UK if the purpose of your visit is for leisure or tourism. The institution however must be a state funded school, academy or an independent school. You must be in full-time education in your home country to take part in such an exchange and any accompanying teachers or adults must be employed overseas.

You are also permitted to attend recreational courses (not English language training) for a maximum period of 30 days if the purpose of your visit is for leisure or tourism. The institution offering the recreational course must not be a state funded school or academy. Unlike those wishing to study for a period of 6 months, those wishing to attend a recreational course are not required to provide an acceptance letter from the relevant institution.

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Additional requirements for child visitors

If you are below the age of 18 at the time of your application, and wish to study under any of the provisions outlined above as a visitor, there are some additional requirements that you will need to meet as below:

  • Suitable arrangements must have been put in place for your travel to the UK, reception in the UK and care while you are in the UK; and
  • If you will be travelling unaccompanied without your parent or legal guardian who is responsible for your care, they must consent to these arrangements;
  • If you are travelling unaccompanied with an entry clearance visa, your visa must also state that you are unaccompanied;
  • If you are travelling with an entry clearance visa and are accompanied by an adult, your entry clearance visa must state that you will be accompanied and it must identify the adult that will be accompanying you.

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