Things to Consider Before You Move In

Applying for a Student Visa

One of the most important issues you need to check is whether you need a visa to enter the UK. This very much depends on your country of origin. Generally, there is a distinction to be made between EEA/Swiss nationals and international students.

International Students
International Students

EEA and Swiss Nationals

If you are an EEA/Swiss national you usually have the right to enter and stay in the UK without a visa, no specific permission is needed to study here. You do not have to register or apply for any particular documents either. If you’re an EEA/Swiss national, you have the right to move freely and to take residence in the UK for up to three months.

Non-EEA-Students

If you’re a student whose country of origin does not belong to the EEA group, you will have to apply for a visa. This mainly applies for students from Asia, Africa, Australia, and the USA. If you’ve been accepted by a UK higher education institution, you can choose between two different types of student visa: Student visitor status and a Tier 4 visa.

For courses that do not exceed a total length of six months, you will be eligible for student visitor status. If you should attend an English language course, this period extends to a maximum of 11 months. Some students may enter the UK without entry clearance when they come as student visitors (“non-visa nationalities”, e.g. USA, Japan, and South Korea). However, the student visitor status has certain restrictions. Most importantly, you won’t be allowed to take up employment in any form; even if it is unpaid or part of your programme. Moreover, you cannot apply for an extended stay after you’ve completed your course, once you reach the end of your study you are expected to leave the UK.

Most foreign students thus apply for a Tier-4 student visa. You want to do this prior to your arrival at the UK border. If you enter the UK with a Tier 4 visa, you will have to prove that you have sufficient funds to cover both your course fees and living costs (i.e. accommodation and food). You also need to make sure that the institution of your choice has the permission to accept international students with a Tier 4 visa. Depending on your degree and personal plans, you can apply for an extended stay in the UK after completion of your course, in order to gather some practical experience in the private sector or to open a business.

You may have a family you would like to bring with you, especially if you are a mature postgraduate student attending a Master’s or PhD programme. You can then apply for a Tier 4 Family visa if you wish to bring your spouse or children to the UK. The actual procedure depends on your individual situation (degree, available funds etc.).

Find more details on visa issues and UK border legislation:

UK Border Agency – http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/
UKCISA – http://www.ukcisa.org.uk/student/index.php
UKPASS (for postgraduate students) – http://www.ukpass.ac.uk/
British Council for Education http://www.educationuk.org/

Health in the UK

All international students registered on full-time courses lasting at least 6 months (and their dependants) are entitled to use the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS provides free registration and consultation with an NHS Doctor (GP) or Nurse, free hospital treatment (if referred by a doctor) and a standard charge of £7.10 for each item of prescribed medicine.

Most universities have their own University Health Centre where you can register for the above services. You should check this with your university when you arrive in the UK.

Dental treatment can be provided under the NHS at a registered NHS dentist. However, it can be very difficult to find an NHS dentist, as most do not have space for new patients. Most dentists will offer private treatment, but this can be expensive. It is recommended that you have a full check-up and any necessary treatment before you leave for the UK.

Working in the UK

International students from non EEA countries on full-time programmes of at least degree level are currently permitted to work for a maximum of 20 hours a week during term-time. If you work more than this then you will be breaching the conditions of your visa and you may be requested to leave the UK.

Opening a UK Bank account

You should start looking for a UK bank before you leave your home country. Bank accounts typically take 7-10 working days to setup, and you can usually apply online.

To open a UK bank account you will require the following documentation:

  • Your passport and a valid visa
    EU citizens can use their National Identity Card instead of a passport
  • Your acceptance letter from your UK University
    This must be an unconditional offer of a place on your course
  • Proof of your address in the UK and probably in your home country as well.
    Proof of your UK address will probably be your accommodation contract, but check with the bank beforehand

The process of opening a bank account in the UK should take no longer than two weeks as long as you have all the required documents.