Immigration and visas

Coming to the UK

Two students debating

Before you travel, make sure you are prepared for your arrival and know what to expect. You must have valid UK immigration permission in place and carry all required documents in your hand luggage. The Home Office recommend that travel is only booked once you have been granted your visa.


We recommend you read the guidance from the following sources to help you prepare:

Travelling to the UK during COVID-19 has meant there are additional considerations and requirements that you will need to be aware of, please read the following additional guidance:

You can sign-up for news and announcements from the Government website so you can keep up-to-date.

When can I come to the UK?

You must make sure you have valid UK immigration permission that allows you to study your course with us and must bring the correct documentation you will require to prove it.

If you have a Student visa:

When you have been granted your Student visa you must check it and arrange for any corrections to be made before you travel. Your visa will have a valid from date, you can travel to the UK from the date it is valid. If you have made an application for a Student visa but do not have the outcome, you must not travel to the UK.

If your course has already started, you must only travel to the UK if you have completed your online registration and can arrive by the latest accept date on your CAS. If you requested to start your course remotely overseas this academic year (2021/2022) and it was agreed, you must be able to arrive in the UK to study in person by the 6 April 2022 or, the date your department stipulated if it is earlier. Read the section below if you can’t arrive in time to start your course.

If you have been issued with an entry clearance vignette (sticker) that is valid for 90 days - you must arrive in the UK during its validity, you must not attempt to enter the UK before the date it is valid from or after the date it expires. If you can’t arrive by the day the vignette expires, provided you are able to arrive in time to start your course, you will need to apply for a new entry clearance vignette from overseas. You will have a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) to collect as soon as you arrive in the UK and will have chosen a collection location when you applied for your visa. If you are required to self-isolate, you can collect your BRP once that period has passed. Read our BRP page for more information.

If you have been issued with an entry clearance vignette (sticker) that is valid for more than 90 days - you should be studying a course, or part of a longer course, of up to 6 months duration only and should arrive by the course start date. If you are studying with us for more than 6 months and your entry clearance vignette is for longer than 6 months this will have been issued incorrectly and you should contact our International Services team for advice attaching a copy of the vignette.

If you have been issued with digital immigration status and do not have a physical document (an entry clearance vignette/BRP) - Digital immigration status is only issued to some nationals with certain types of visa, this includes some EEA/Swiss nationals issued with a Student visa. You must not travel to the UK before the date your visa is valid from as you would be entered as a visitor and cannot study a full-time course that is longer than 6 months in duration. If you have a Student visa and have digital immigration status, you will not be issued with a BRP.

Read our Student route outcome information to find out more about the length of immigration permission and conditions you should have been given and what to do if anything is incorrect.

If you have a pending EU Settlement Scheme application:

If you are awaiting the outcome of an EU Settlement application, please do not travel if you do not have a Certificate of Application or you are granted settled or pre-settled status.

If you were living in the UK by 23:00 31 December 2020 and applied to the EUSS by 30 June 2021 - you are advised not to travel outside the UK/into the UK until you are in possession of a Certificate of Application, confirming you have made a valid in-time application to the scheme. If travel before then is necessary, you may experience delays at the border whilst your application is confirmed. In such cases, where it can be confirmed that the pending application has been made by an EEA citizen or their family member, who was resident in the UK by the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, they will be granted entry into the UK. Whilst your application is pending you are covered by The Citizens’ Rights (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. If you do not have a Certificate of Application, we will need your consent to contact the Home Office for confirmation of your right to study.

If you were living in the UK by 23:00 31 December 2020 and applied to the EUSS after the 30 June 2021 deadline – you must not travel outside the UK/into the UK until you are in possession of a Certificate of Application, confirming you have made a valid application to the scheme. You may also be asked to provide evidence that you were resident in the UK by the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020 in order to be granted entry into the UK. if you apply/applied after the deadline of the 30th June 2021, you are not covered by The Citizens’ Rights (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. This means you require a Certificate of Application to travel and prove any rights you may have in the UK whilst your application is pending. You will not be able to study with us in the UK if you do not have a Certificate of Application or proof of your settled/pre-settled status.

What if I can't travel into the UK for the start of my course?

If you are starting a new Essex course or continuing your Essex course in 2021/2022 and can't arrange travel to the UK due to COVID-19, you should be able to request to study remotely from overseas once you are registered. Please ensure you explain the reasons you are unable to travel clearly in your request, this will be considered by your department and in some circumstances by our International Services team. If it is agreed, please ensure that when you travel to the UK you are registered and have been engaged with all aspects of your course. Read our Student Directory for more information, if you have a CAS or a Student visa there are additional considerations for you. Please note that the Home Office COVID-19 concessions only allow remote study until 30 June 2022 however your department may require you to be on campus before that date. Read our information on Studying remotely - the rules and processes for 2021/22 for further guidance.

Alternatively, you may decide that you would rather not study with us this academic year. If you are due to start a new course, please contact the Admissions adviser named on your offer letter. If you are continuing a taught course please read the information within our Student Directory to find out more about taking a break or, if you are a PhD student contact your supervisor/department.

Arriving at the UK border

When you arrive at the UK border you will need various documents, including:

  • Your passport, that should be valid for the duration of your stay in the UK. If your visa/entry clearance is a sticker in an old passport you must bring both passports. If you do not have your old passport you will need to transfer your visa to a new passport before you can travel.
  • Your immigration documents that are valid for entry to study on the date you arrive.
  • The supporting documents you required in order to apply for your immigration permission.
  • Documents required for entry to England due to COVID-19.
  • If you are a non-visa national seeking entry at the border to study for up to 6 months as a Standard Visitor, you must bring documents that show you meet all the requirements and read our guidance below.

If you are an EEA of Swiss national:

Please be aware that it will not be possible to use an EEA or Swiss national identity card to enter the UK from the 1 October 2021, unless you have obtained settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, in this case you may be able to use a valid identity card or passport which is registered on your UK Visas and Immigration account. Read the government website for more information.

If you are arriving in the UK to study on or after 1 January 2021 you will require immigration permission, unless you have settlement rights.

If you have a Student visa:

When you arrive at the border you will be directed to immigration and may be asked several questions by the border official. You should answer clearly and be ready to show any documentation they ask for.

Please be aware that the Home Office have the right to refuse you entry if they are not satisfied you meet the Immigration Rules. You may be interviewed and will need to be able to converse in English without the need of an interpreter.

If you are a national of the EU, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland or the USA

If you have a biometric passport, you should be able to use the ePassport gates upon arrival at the border. If you are directed to see a border official, they are unlikely to stamp your passport. Read the government website for more information about entering the UK and their “Guide to faster travel through the UK border”, which includes information about using the ePassport gates.

You must keep evidence of your travel into the UK, such as your airline ticket or boarding pass. You will need this for various reasons, including to complete your right to study checks.

If you arrive in the UK before your Student visa starts you would automatically be entered as a visitor to the UK and will need to leave the Common Travel Area (CTA) and re-enter the UK via the ePassport gates before you can start your studies.

If you travel into the UK via the Common Travel Area i.e. Dublin, different conditions apply but you will still need to leave the CTA and re-enter if your course finishes more than 3 calendar months from the date your entered the CTA. Contact our International Services team now if you have already booked a non-refundable flight or have already entered the UK via the Republic of Ireland.

Entering as a visitor to study

If you are a non-visa national coming to the UK to study a course of up to 6 months duration, you may be able to seek entry upon arrival at the UK border to study as a visitor. If you are a national of a country that is allowed to use the ePassport gates at the UK border and you don’t hold another form of UK immigration permission, you will be entering as a visitor. If you are a visa national, you must apply for entry clearance overseas before you travel.

Visitors can study during their visit but there are restrictions on the type of study you can undertake, so it’s important you check what visa you will require before you arrange your travel. Read our Visitor route information and the UKCISA guidance.

Please be aware that those travelling from red list countries will not be able to do so as a visitor. You can contact Admissions to see if you would be eligible for a CAS to apply for a Student visa instead, and should read our Student route application information to find out more.

Problems at the border

If there is a problem when you try to enter the UK and UK Border Force need to contact the University, they can do so as follows:

  • Send an 'urgent' email to the International Services team. This is the quickest way to contact us.
  • If the Border Force officer insists on telephoning the University, they will need to contact our Student Services Hub during opening hours by calling +44 (0)1206 874000 (for all campuses), in the first instance. Our SSH advisers will not be able to answer queries from UK Border Force or the Home Office but can pass the details onto the International Services team immediately.

The SSH telephone lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm in term time and 10am to 4pm in vacations, except for public holidays and during the University Christmas closure period.

The International Services team office hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, except for public holidays and during the University Christmas closure period. If we are contacted outside these hours, we will deal with the enquiry the next working day.

Before a response can be sent, our International Services team will need to verify that the contact has come from UK Border Force and check University records, in some cases it may be necessary to liaise with other departments. We will always prioritise these enquiries and respond to UK Border Force as soon as we have all the information required.

If you are allowed to enter the UK but restrictions or conditions have been imposed by UK Border Force, you should email the International Services team immediately for urgent advice.