Immigration and visas

Visitor route: Study of up to 6 months

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The Standard Visitor Immigration Rules allow study at an accredited institution for up to 6 months. The Home Office 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 (maximum of 6 calendar months). These rules also apply to EEA/Swiss nationals who do not have settlement rights.

You will be required to provide an acceptance letter from the institution or institutions with details of the course(s) you wish to study to apply for entry as a Standard Visitor.


Visitors to the UK cannot work, bring dependants and cannot apply for further permission to stay in the UK for a longer period to study or work. Find out more about what you can do as a Visitor to the UK by reading the UKCISA guidance.

If you are coming to study for more than 6 months or, will be undertaking a work placement as part of your course or, will be studying a pre-sessional English course you should be able to apply under the Student route, if you are eligible for our immigration sponsorship and are issued with a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies).

Visit the government website to find out if you need a visa to study in the UK and, if so, what visa to apply for.

Please be aware that those travelling from red list countries can’t come to the UK as a visitor so you’ll need to contact Admissions to see if you would be eligible for a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) to apply for a Student visa instead.

What to do before you arrange travel

At least 3 months before you are due to start your studies in the UK as a visitor, we recommend you read the UKCISA guidance and government website to find out all you need to know about applying for entry as a Standard Visitor overseas or, at the UK border if you are eligible, and gather all the documents you need. Also:

Find out if you are a visa national:

  • If you are a visa national, you must apply for entry clearance overseas and will need to be have the entry clearance vignette (sticker) placed in your passport before you can travel to the UK. We do not recommend booking travel until you have been granted your visa.
  • If you are not a visa national, you will be able to apply for entry at the UK border when you arrive.

Check your course end date, you will need to make sure you do not enter the UK more than 6 months before that date. If you are applying for entry clearance overseas make sure your intended date of travel is not more than 6 months before the course end date.

Contact the relevant team, to request a supporting letter from the University, read the ‘What else you will need’ section below to find out who to contact and how.

As well as the information below, please read our Coming to the UK page for more information about travelling to and arriving in the UK.

Applying for entry clearance overseas

We recommend you apply at least 2 months before you are due to start your studies, you may have to travel to another country for your biometric appointment and it can take at least 15 working days to receive an outcome from the date of your appointment. You may be able to book a priority service to receive a quicker outcome.

You should complete your application to enter as a Standard Visitor online. Make sure your intended date of travel is no more than 6 months before your course end date.

Applying for entry at the UK Border – non-visa nationals

If you are a visa national, you must obtain entry clearance before you travel.

If you are not a visa national, you can apply for entry overseas before you travel or upon arrival at the UK border. If you decide to apply for entry at the UK border, you must ensure you carry all the documents you require to prove you are a genuine visitor in your hand luggage, including evidence that you meet the requirements to study as a Standard Visitor.

Applying for entry to the UK at the border

If you are a national of the EU, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland or the USA and have a biometric passport, you can use the ePassport gates at the port of entry. 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 will not get a stamp in your passport so it is very important you keep your travel ticket as proof of the date you entered the UK. You will need this for various reasons, including your right to study check.

You will need to leave the UK within 6 months of the date you entered.

Travelling via the Republic of Ireland (Common Travel Area)

If you are not on the visa national list, you can apply for entry to the UK at the border. However, if you travel via the Republic of Ireland (for instance Dublin) you will not pass through UK immigration and will not be able to seek entry for up to 6 months as a Standard Visitor to study. Instead, you will have permission to stay in the UK for up to 3 months only, to study for longer than 3 months you will have to leave and re-enter the UK (not via the Common Travel Area) as a Standard Visitor. Further information is available from UKCISA.

If your course is for longer than 3 calendar months, we recommend that you either, book a flight that does not come via the Republic of Ireland or; that you apply for entry clearance overseas prior to travelling to the UK.

If you have already booked a non-refundable flight or, have already entered the UK via the Republic of Ireland contact our International Services team for advice via the online enquiry form for current students.

What else you will need

The following types of Essex students should be able to study with us as a Standard Visitor and will need to provide evidence of their studies to apply. Read the information in the relevant category below to find out more.

Essex Abroad (study abroad)

A Standard Visitor can study at an accredited institution on a study-abroad programme in the UK as part of an overseas course, for a period of up to 6 calendar months.

A letter will be provided to you by Essex Abroad, this will confirm your course details, tuition fees and University accommodation. If you make payments to the University for tuition fees or accommodation you may need to provide the receipts when you apply for entry as a Standard Visitor.

If you will be studying at Essex for more than 6 calendar months, you will not be eligible to apply under this route but should be able to apply under the Student route. Contact Essex Abroad to find out if you are eligible for our sponsorship.

Once you’ve started your studies with us, if you would like to continue studying for longer than 6 calendar months, please contact Essex Abroad in the first instance to ask if this is possible. Please be aware that you would not be able to apply for further immigration permission from inside the UK to study for longer and would have to return home to make an application for a Student route visa from overseas.

Visiting Research Student

A Standard Visitor can come to the UK for research tuition or to complete a period of research for up to 6 calendar months. Please be aware that:

  • You must be aged at least 16 years of age or above at the date of application and;
  • You must be enrolled on a course of study abroad equivalent to at least degree level study in the UK and;
  • You must be studying at a UK higher education provider and;
  • Your overseas institution must issue you with a letter to 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, either as a sponsored researcher under Appendix Tier 5 (Temporary Worker) Government Authorised Exchange Scheme Worker, or otherwise.

If you are planning to study a postgraduate qualification in certain subjects with us, you may need to obtain an ATAS certificate and if so, will need it before you can apply for entry clearance and before we will issue you with a supporting letter. Our Admissions team will let you know if you require ATAS clearance when you apply. Visit our ATAS page and the government website for more information about ATAS requirements and to apply.

Request a letter to support your Standard Visitor application from our Graduate Admissions team.

Distance Learner

If you are coming to Essex for a maximum of 6 calendar months as part of your distance learning course, you should be able to do so as a Standard Visitor.

If you are studying a postgraduate qualification in certain subjects with us, you may need to obtain an ATAS certificate and if so, will need it before you can apply for entry clearance and before we’ll issue you with a supporting letter. Visit our ATAS page and the government website for more information about ATAS requirements and to apply.

Request a letter to support your Standard Visitor application from our International Services team. Once we have received all the information we require, we will aim to send you the pdf letter via email within 5 working days, it can take longer during peak periods.

Essex Summer Schools

If you are coming to Essex for one of our summer schools, you should be able to do so as a Standard Visitor. Request a letter to support your visitor application from your summer school.

Resitting exams or retaking modules in person

If you are returning for less than 6 calendar months and this is your final year, you should be able to apply to come to the UK as a Standard Visitor. Please be aware visitors would not be eligible to apply for immigration permission to stay in the UK under the new Graduate route.

Request a letter to support your visitor application from our International Services team. Once we have received all the information we require, we will aim to send you the pdf letter via email within 5 working days, it can take longer during peak periods.

If you are returning to resist exams or retake modules and will continue the same course in the next academic year, you should be able to apply under the Student route, if you are eligible for a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies). However, please be aware that our sponsorship is not guaranteed.

PhD students attending viva and/or finishing thesis

If you need to return to the UK for up to 6 calendar months to take your viva examination, you should be able to come to the UK as a Standard Visitor. Please be aware visitors would not be eligible to apply for immigration permission to stay longer in the UK under the new Graduate route.

If you are studying a postgraduate qualification in certain subjects with us, you may need to obtain an ATAS certificate and if so, will need it before you can apply for entry clearance and before we’ll issue you with a supporting letter. Visit our ATAS page and the government website for more information about ATAS requirements and to apply.

Request a letter to support your visitor application from the International Services team. Once we have received all the information we require, we will aim to send you the pdf letter via email within 5 working days, it can take longer during peak periods.

You may be able to apply under the Student route, if you are eligible for a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies). However, please be aware that our sponsorship is not guaranteed.