In this section, we provide answers to some of the questions you are asking us, or links to elsewhere in our website where we discuss these things.
Please be aware that some education providers will have their own policies which might differ from our answers. We try to explain what the Home Office (UKVI) has published on its website, but you may need to contact the Home Office's Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre.
You can also see information provided by other bodies, including Universities UK, the Office for Students, the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish governments, and the National Union of Students, in the next layer of this page, Information and support for international students.
We will try to keep this information as current as possible. Where we provide a link to the original source, please check it there before contacting us because it might have been updated since we linked to it.
All countries in the UK are subject to different levels of restrictions which have changed many times since March 2020. The authorities have given these restrictions a lot of names, including 'firebreak', 'circuit breaker' and 'lockdown'. They all mean that you have to limit what you do according to the regulations and guidelines in force where you live, with the intention of reducing the spread of the infection.
If you do not understand all the restrictions, you are not alone. The BBC has a helpful summary of what is in place in your area, wherever you live and study in the UK: Lockdown rules: What are the Covid regulations where you live?
And always ask your university, college or school, students' union and other students if you need help or are anxious about what any of these rules mean for you. For other sources of help, see General support for international students.
Returning to the UK on existing immigration permission
You should be able to enter the UK with your existing immigration permission when travel is possible. This principle applies to Students, as well as to dependants and others. If you are a dependant, the student in your family must still have valid student permission, whether they are inside or outside the UK.
Returning to the UK if your existing immigration permission has expired
Advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents (for "If you're outside the UK") states what you can do if you’re outside the UK and your leave has expired before you are able to return to the UK. The government has launched a Covid Visa Concession Scheme (CVCS) for those:
"[who] left the UK with valid leave before 17 March 2020 and you intended to return to the UK and make an application for Indefinite or Further Permission to Stay, but you were unable to do so before your leave expired because of travel restrictions related to coronavirus (COVID-19)".
You complete an online form for this process, and its instructions further state the following:
"[...] you will be able to return to the UK under the Covid Visa Concession Scheme and make an application for Leave to Remain or Indefinite Leave to Remain.
"If your leave has not yet expired, and provided you are eligible, we will invite you to start the application process from your current location abroad and will update your immigration record to show that your existing leave has been extended for a limited period to allow you to return to the UK and complete the application.
"If we determine you are eligible, we will authorise your chosen airline or other international carrier to permit you to board a flight or other transport to the UK. We will also notify you if you are not eligible and advise you on next steps."
This concession will be available until 31 March 2021.
Guidance issued for, or relevant specifically to, students and institutions
Department for Education (DfE) in England guidance: Students returning to and starting higher education in Spring Term 2021 (revised on 8 March 2021)
UKCISA news item, on further information published by DfE on 3 March: Students travelling to England: know before you travel (published 4 March 2021)
Scottish Government 'Temporary Lockdown Guidance' in its Coronavirus (COVID-19): universities, colleges and student accommodation providers (18 January 2021)
UniversitiesUK guidance publication, aimed at education providers: Self-isolation for students arriving in the UK (published December 2020). This publication gives you some idea of how your institution might support you, especially during self-isolation.
Pre-travel Covid-19 testing and self-isolation on arrival in the UK
If you are travelling to England or Scotland from outside of the Common Travel Area then until further notice you are required to provide a negative Covid-19 test result before you are allowed to commence travel. Having a negative test result will not remove the requirement to also then self-isolate ('quarantine') on arrival.
Every person is subject to self-isolation ('quarantine') rules after arrival in the UK. Upon arrival in the UK, you will have to provide details of your location in the UK. There are exemptions from the need to self-isolate but students, as a group, are not exempt.
Up until 18 January, people who were well and had come from any country that was listed at Coronavirus (COVID-19) travel corridors did not have to self-isolate. The links between these countries and the UK were known as 'travel corridors' and they changed very regularly at short notice. Travel corridors may well start to be reintroduced again but not for the foreseeable future.
If you travel to England you can choose to use the Test to Release scheme. This involves signing up before travel to the UK to take a private test after arrival. If the test shows that you are not infected, you may end your self-isolation when you receive the results.
These periods of self-isolation means that if you intend to come to the UK for study, you must take into account these extra days of not being able to attend classes, see other people or leave your accommodation except for very limited reasons. There is no end date yet for these measures.
It is very important that you contact your education provider before you decide to travel to the UK. This is so that you can check what support you will receive during these first days, including accommodation, food, online facilities for induction, orientation, meeting tutors and other students and many other matters. Universities, colleges and schools will help you during this time, so it's vital that they know what you plan to do and where you will be staying.
Full details about pre-travel testing, safe travel, and self-isolation (quarantine) are in government guidance issued by the four UK countries.
Guidance that was issued regarding travel over Christmas
UK governments previously issued information for students about what was happening over the Christmas holidays. Most of the information was aimed at all students and involved a move early in December to online learning, along with Covid-19 testing and travel arranged in stages. Although the key message was to enable and encourage travel home, this was not obligatory and will not have been possible for everyone. Some of our members shared their plans for Support and information for international students over Christmas. Government guidance for students was also published:
It is very important that you let your education provider know where you are. If you need help with your mental health, with feeling lonely, with your finances. or with your study, make sure you tell your institution so that it can offer you the support you need. Don't worry that other students might also need help; everyone is important, and we know that international students lack sources of financial and emotional support that might be available to other students.
If you cannot contact your education provider by telephone, make use of email, web forms and all other forms of communication on offer.
Universities, colleges and schools are facing a lot of complications at the moment, and their decisions can affect certain students more than others. Your institution might be able to make special arrangements for you if you explain to them in detail how their decisions will affect you. Even if they are not able to make the changes you want, it is important that you let them know about any practical disadvantages you will have and ask for explanations and, if necessary, alternative sources of help. We cannot ask education providers to make changes for individuals, but they might not have realised the impact their plans will have for you. They may be able to help in some way, including by speaking to the Home Office on your behalf.
This situation is very hard for you. It is also difficult for education providers who are concerned about supporting all their students, and their ability to recruit international students in the future, so please be aware of that when discussing your situation with them. In our messages to our member institutions, we will reinforce the key Home Office message, which is that no one, including students and sponsors, will be penalised for trying to deal reasonably with a situation beyond their control.
Covid-19: Guidance for Student sponsors, migrants and for Short-term students states that distance learning in the UK, and in other countries, is currently acceptable for all students who have already started a course, even if you have Student immigration permission.
You can also be sponsored to start a course that is delivered through distance learning or a mix of face-to-face-learning and distance learning ('blended' learning) as long as the intention is to move to only face-to-face delivery when possible. This concession will remain in place until the end of the 2020-2021 academic year.
Student sponsors will monitor your engagement with online learning and should let you know how they will do that. If you are unable to access online learning, exams or assessment, please raise that directly with your education provider in case it can help you or make alternative arrangements.
Students outside the UK who do not have UK immigration permission are allowed to undertake distance learning. This has always been the case, because you only require immigration permission if you intend to be in the UK. If you are hoping to enter the UK to continue study, you have to consider whether you will be able to get to a visa application centre that is open and you can travel to the UK. Delays in processing applications might mean that you are unable to come to the UK to continue your course and your course provider should ensure that you can, if necessary, complete your course by distance learning - check that this is the case, especially if your course is not very long.
If you have made a Student permission application in the UK but have not yet received a decision, you can start your new course if your Student sponsor has Student sponsor status, you start the course described on your confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS), and you made your Student permission application before your current or most recent immigration permission expired. This includes holders of short-term student leave, and not just those who already have Student immigration permission. For details of this provision, see Covid-19: Guidance for Student sponsors, migrants and for Short-term students.
UCAS has issued guidance for people who want to apply to study at undergraduate level, including links to the main English language test providers' information about their arrangements during this time, and amended application deadlines.
Information about the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is updated on a regular basis. For information about BMAT test sessions, see the Admissions Testing website.
For details of the Coronavirus concessions put in place for testing English language ability, see English language ability and Coronavirus (Covid-19)
Government advice is that you should not travel unless it is essential, with some exempt destinations. 'Essential' is not defined, but it is clear that you should avoid travel as far as possible, particularly during times of tighter restrictions and lockdown. You must not travel if you have symptoms of the illness or have been in contact with people who may be infected.
You might want to leave because you are worried about the situation in the UK. Please check travel advice for the UK country in which you are living, as well as the country you want to travel to, before you make a decision.
In England, see National lockdown: Stay at Home - International travel which includes reference to the fact that, from 8 March 2021, if you are travelling outside of the UK from England you must complete a government travel declaration form.
Additionally, see our news item DfE advise international students on travel over Easter (17 March 2021) in which we publish DfE's position on the arrangements international students can be making for the Easter break.
In Scotland, see Coronavirus (COVID-19): student home visits.
For general information about travelling abroad at the moment, see Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice. Although it is aimed at British citizens, most of it is relevant to everyone who is resident in the UK. It also provides an overview of what's happening in other countries at the same link; choose the country you want to travel to and then select 'Coronavirus'. Country-specific information appears under the box near the top of the page
Many countries have different travel restrictions and rules about self-isolation and quarantine. Check with the country you want to travel to and if information is confusing or does not sound right, try to find out what the embassy says. Some countries might make exceptions to travel bans for nationals and residents - check if you can register for alerts about repatriation with your country's embassy or high commission in the UK.
Universities, colleges and schools in the UK often have links with embassies and may be able to help you. Unfortunately, we do not have those contacts. Some countries require evidence that you have not tested positive for COVID-19 before you can board a plane to travel there. The NHS does not provide free tests for travel so you will need to pay for a test privately.
Money Saving Expert provides advice about the options available to you if your flight is cancelled or you need to cancel travel, also insurance and refunds.
If you have to leave the UK earlier than expected, for any reason, you must tell your education provider. It is very important that they know what you are doing. This not just because of their duties towards the Home Office - they also need to know whether you are well or need help in any way.
Impact on sponsorship
Your student sponsor should not report your departure to the Home Office if your reason for leaving is connected with Coronavirus (COVID-19) and you let them know that you intend to return to the UK at some point in the future to continue your study. See Covid-19: Guidance for Student sponsors, migrants and for Short-term students.
This means that you will be able to return to the UK to resume study, as long as you are able to travel back before your immigration permission expires.
If you think or know that your student sponsor has reported you to the the Home Office, you can ask them in writing to withdraw the report. If they withdraw their report, you will be able to return to the UK on your existing immigration permission and so they will be acting in line with the latest Home Office guidance.
If your reason for leaving the UK early is not connected with the pandemic or you do not intend to return to the UK for study, you should expect your sponsor to withdraw sponsorship from you and your immigration permission will usually be cut short (curtailed) so do not attempt to re-enter the UK using your current permission.
Waiting for a decision on an immigration application
Try to avoid leaving before you receive a decision as you will usually be treated as withdrawing your application. This can make it difficult for you to return to the UK. Talk to an international student adviser at your institution before you leave the UK and/or contact the Home Office.
Biometric residence permits
When you apply in the UK, your BRP is sent directly to you. If you leave the UK after you were granted an extension but before you receive your biometric residence permit (BRP), you can ask your education provider or someone else who is still in the UK to forward it to you.
If the courier cannot deliver your BRP, the Home Office may cancel it. This means you will need to apply for a replacement BRP visa in order to re-enter the UK, followed by a new BRP once you are back in the UK - see Passport, visa and BRP problems. Ask your sponsor for information about what happened to your BRP. Alternatively, you can contact the Home Office.
Post offices and education providers hold entry clearance BRPs for a period of at least 90 days. If you will not be able to return to the UK during the validity of your visa in order to collect your BRP, you need to report this to the Home Office, along with information about when you intend to return to the UK, if you know: gov.uk/biometric-residence-permits/collect. If you had arranged to collect your BRP from your education provider, make sure you let them know and ask them if they can keep it for you.
Your immigration health surcharge will not be refunded. You should check the terms of your education and accommodation contracts and ask the providers in case you can obtain a full or partial refund if you leave the UK earlier than planned. For information about this, and sources of help with negotiations, see our information on financial hardship and accommodation below.
In most Coronavirus-related situations, your Student sponsor should not report you to the Home Office or withdraw sponsorship.
The Home Office Advice for Worker, Temporary Worker and Student sponsors sets out the situations when sponsors should report you (these are few) and when they do not need to report you.
On the subject of when a student sponsor must report you or withdraw sponsorship, the guidance says:
“If a student has permanently withdrawn from their studies or deferred their studies for a period exceeding 60 days, [the student sponsor] must report this as usual”
“If a student stops engaging with their distance learning for more than 30 days, whether overseas or in the UK, [the student sponsor] must withdraw sponsorship”.
Student sponsors do not need to report you or withdraw sponsorship when:
- you are changing to distance learning in, or outside of, the UK; and/or
- you are studying by distance learning, you have entry clearance, and you have not yet been able to travel to the UK.
Education providers need to know that you are safe and well, and that you are engaging with your studies. This is difficult for them if you are not physically present in classes or lectures. Student sponsors may monitor your engagement with your distance learning studies, and they should inform you of the requirements you must meet. Make sure that you always inform your student sponsor if you are not able to study, or to do assessments or take exams, even if you are studying online in a distance learning arrangement.
You may not have been able to make an immigration application yet, either because your course start date has changed or you have not been able to travel to the UK. If your sponsor has assigned a confirmation of acceptance of studies (CAS) you will still be able to apply for immigration permission and the Home Office may still grant your application. The Home Office says applications will be considered on a “case-by-case basis”.
What have we updated? We last updated this section on 18 January 2020. Home Office guidance was updated on 6 January 2020 to remove the exception from reporting students who are absent for over 60 days and to add confirmation that there is no requirement to report students studying remotely.
Usually, if you stay in the UK without immigration permission when you are required to hold it ("overstaying"), you will encounter many problems. These include: not being allowed to study, to work, to rent private property, to open and hold a bank account, to drive, to have access to free NHS treatment; and having future immigration applications refused automatically. However, in the case of periods in the UK without immigration permission caused by Coronavirus, Advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents states that:
"If your visa or leave expired between 24 January 2020 and 31 August 2020 there will be no future adverse immigration consequences if you didn’t make an application to regularise your stay during this period. However, if you have not applied to regularise your stay or submitted a request for an exceptional assurance you must make arrangements to leave the UK".
You are not regarded as an overstayer during the period waiting for an exceptional assurance decision or when you are granted it. However, although the Home Office says that it will not regard you as an overstayer, it also says that you have not been granted immigration permission under these scheme. Make sure that you keep any evidence of your reasons for being in the UK after your immigration permission expired, for example, screen shots or other notifications of cancelled flights, information about entry restrictions for the country you need to travel to, correspondence from the Coronavirus Immigration Help team. This is particularly important if you need to make an immigration application in the future, when you would usually have to declare any periods when you were in the UK without immigration permission, and may need evidence of what caused it.
You will not be regarded as being "in breach of immigration laws" (and thus likely to have your application refused) if you overstayed at any time and for any period between 24 January and 31 August 2020. This means that, whether or not you applied under the free extension scheme or for exceptional assurance between these dates, you will be able to apply for immigration permission in the UK, if you meet all other relevant requirements, and will not be subject to entry clearance bans.
You will be an overstayer if you are in the UK and your permission expires before you make an immigration application or you do not request exceptional assurance.
What have we changed? We last updated this section on 14 December 2020 to update information to deal with the extension of exceptional assurance for those with permission expiring between 1 December 2020 and 31 January 2021. This was not added to Home Office guidance until 10 December 2020
If you meet all requirements of the Immigration Rules, including the requirement to be able to make your application whilst in the UK, you can apply in the usual way. Make sure you apply before your current permission expires.
The Home Office provides a couple of exceptions that might help you if you cannot meet all the requirements of an immigration route and you cannot leave the UK. If you want to stay in the UK for study, talk to your university, college or school before you make an application.
Where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country
If you cannot meet the requirement to be able to make your Student route application in the UK because you don't have the correct current (or most recent) leave, and you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country, the Home Office provides for you to make such an application in the UK at the moment. This is set out in Advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents. This provision might help you if you:
- need to apply to remain in the UK, including starting a new job or course of study, and
- are not usually able to make your application in the UK, but instead would be expected to leave the UK and apply for entry clearance (visa)
You will need to meet all other requirements of the immigration category in which you want to stay in the UK.
The people who are prevented from applying in the UK for Student permission because of their current immigration permission are people on immigration bail and holders of the following types of permission:
- short-term student
- parent of a child student
- seasonal worker
- domestic worker in a private household
- permission outside the Immigration Rules
If you are not able to leave the UK, or make an immigration application before your current permission expires, you can contact the Home Office Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre to explain that you need more time in the UK for reasons related to Coronavirus. 'Exceptional assurance' has been offered by the Home Office since 2020, and the scheme has been extended as the pandemic situation has continued. For further details of the exceptional assurance provision, see Exceptional assurance.
Special provisions for people applying as a Student or Child student
If you meet all the requirements of the Student or Child Student route, you do not need to read this information - you can just make your application. For details of the requirements, see Making a Student route application in the UK and speak with your institution.
If you do not meet all the requirements to extend your stay in this route, or to change from a different immigration category into this route (often called ‘switching’), a number of concessions have been put in place that may be able to assist you. For details of the specific concessions, see the information about the following Student Route requirements which benefit from these concessions:
Attending UKVCAS appointments
For details of the Covid-19 arrangements made for students attending UKVCAS appointments, see Coronavirus (Covid-19): Sopra Steria update on UKVCAS appointments.
Applications outside the UK
Our guide to Passport, visa and BRP problems includes guidance on the current special arrangements for collecting your BRP after you travel to the UK, or if your travel to the UK is delayed and your vignette expires.
Applications inside the UK
When you apply in the UK, your BRP is sent directly to you by courier. If you leave the UK before you receive it, see our information above on Leaving the UK earlier than expected.
Free extension scheme
You were not sent an updated biometric residence permit if you applied under the free extension scheme, and the same applies to the 'grace period' (to 31 August) and 'exceptional assurance'. The Home Office should have a record of your situation, but if you are worried about this, you can ask the Home Office's Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre.
Many UK police forces have suspended police registration. Check the website of your police force or ask your student sponsor for updates. You will not be penalised for not attending or making an appointment if you are, or someone you live with is, ill or if the service is not operating. This includes people who have left the UK without registering, and who will need to re-enter in the future.
You will be expected to register when your local police force resumes service.
Home Office guidance states that from 20 March 2020 you are not required to register with the police or report a change of circumstances if social distancing measures prevent this. Registration and updating will resume once police services re-open - see Covid-19: Guidance for Student sponsors, migrants and short-term students.
What have we changed? We last updated this section on 26 October 2020 to reword it; some police registration services had resumed operations since this section was last updated
Our guide to Applying for a Student route visa outside the UK now includes all relevant special arrangements related to the Coronavirus pandemic.
For other types of visa application, speak to your education provider and see Advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents.
Our information at Brexit - EU Settlement Scheme includes any relevant information related to the Coronavirus pandemic, including about absences from the UK. You can also find details of how to apply under the scheme in the UK or abroad.
If you use public transport in the UK, you must wear a face covering. Public transport includes trains, buses, trams, coaches, ferries, underground, planes, cable cars. In England, gov.uk has published the following information:
See What do 'lockdown', 'tiers' and 'protection levels' mean? for information about restrictions on movement in your area.
Full details about travel in the UK are in government guidance issued by the four UK countries:
For information about free testing, treatment, and vaccination for Covid-19, in your part of the UK see our Health and healthcare page. Look for the ‘Treatment that is free for everyone’ section in either England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland.
For information concerning the provisions made for those in student accommodation, see Coronavirus (Covid-19): guidance for students living in university or college halls of residence.
For information concerning the provisions made for those in private accommodation, see Coronavirus (Covid-19): guidance for students living in private accommodation
Sources of information
Save the Student has helpful information about a range of potential accommodation problems.
Universities UK has put together a series of frequently asked questions, with answers, about accommodation matters. The Office for Students has published a briefing note on student accommodation, including examples of good practice, advice and links to relevant information.
Details of how distance learning may affect your ability to apply under the Graduate Route (post-study work) when it is launched in summer 2021 are in Graduate route ("post-study work").
Relevant government guidance
If you are experiencing financial hardship because of Coronavirus, see our page on Unexpected financial hardship
and, specifically, the info on Financial hardship because of Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Students and short-term students are subject to the immigration condition, 'no access to public funds'. This means that you cannot apply for certain welfare benefits and social housing. However, the UK Government has set up certain schemes, to prevent hardship for workers, which are not defined as 'public funds'. See Public Funds for information related to the Coronavirus.
Petitions and debates in Parliament
Hundreds of thousands of students have signed petitions demanding compensation for losses attributable to Coronavirus (COVID-19). Parliament has debated the matter in July and on 16 November.
In the debate on 16 November 2020, the UK Minister for Universities stated that:
"This has been an unprecedented year, so it is really important to recognise the tireless work of university lecturers, administrators and support staff over the past few months, and how students have adapted. However, I will make one message clear today: students have not been forgotten. I will continue to work across Government to ensure that universities uphold their obligations under consumer law. We must ensure that students and staff are safe and supported, and that students receive the high quality of education that they rightly expect."
Other MPs raised many matters including accommodation, access to online learning and the value of campaigns and support provided by students' unions. This debate and a lot of background information are summarised in a House of Commons Library research briefing.
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIAHE) has clear information about tuition fee refunds. Although the OIAHE deals only with complaints from students studying in England and Wales, the general principles are relevant to everyone.
The OIAHE has considered, and partially upheld, a complaint from an international student.
The student was awarded £1,000. This represents compensation for not being able to study one module of a course as a result of disruption caused by Coronavirus (COVID-19), and the institution's failure to put acceptable alternatives in place.
In the case of one module, the course leader made arrangements so that group work, support and feedback could continue online. The OIAHE did not award compensation in relation to this module.
In another module, four weeks of classes and a project were cancelled and the project was not replaced by an assessment with similar objectives. The OIAHE calculated compensation for this module on the basis of the value of the lost teaching hours and the loss of opportunity to develop research and writing skills. They reduced the full amount by 30 per cent because the institution continued to provide other services, including pastoral support and online library facilities.
The OIAHE also held that the student's education provider did not give the complaint proper consideration and recommended that it amend its complaints procedures.
Every case is decided on its facts including the way in which your education provider handles your concerns.
You must use the internal complaints procedure at your college or university before you can complain to:
What have we changed? We last updated this section on 26 November 2020
The governments of England, Wales and Scotland have confirmed that your eligibility for home fee status and student finance will not be affected if you cannot be physically present in the UK, or the relevant part of the UK, by the specified date for a Covid-related reason. For details, see our news items:
There are no other special arrangements or concessions.
Some of the questions you ask us about involve:
- delayed decisions on your application for indefinite leave or settled status
- delayed grants of British or EEA nationality, including postponed citizenship ceremonies
- not being able to get married or enter into a civil partnership as planned
Although all of these problems have been caused by Covid-19 and they are beyond your control there are, unfortunately, no government concessions that mean you will qualify for home fee status or student finance.
Course providers may exercise discretion in your favour - this has financial consequences for them so you need to discuss this with them and explain your situation in detail If they cannot help you, consider contacting your MP and ask them to raise your case with the relevant government department.
Please note that UKCISA does not decide who is a home fee payer or who is entitled to student finance.
You might need to ask about starting your course later than you want, in the hope that you will by then be eligible. However, remember that the tuition fees and student finance regulations will change for the 2021-2022 academic year. The government departments have not yet published details, although we and all other education sector organisation are urging them to do that. We will let you know when we know more through our NewsWall.
What have we changed? We last updated this section on 19 October 2020 when we added an explanation that complaints about a lack of concessions need to go to the relevant government department
Government student finance bodies have published a lot of information, including assurances that student loans and other forms of support will continue, even if you cannot attend classes and lectures. Keep up to date with information about the impact of Covid-19 on this subject area in our Scholarships and funding your studies page.