Passport stamps

Visitor visa

For overseas students studying less than 6 months

Who is the Standard Visitor visa for?

This visa can be issued to undertake various activities in the UK – tourism and leisure, academic visits, some short-term study, or to receive medical treatment. The activities permitted depend on the reason for which it was issued.

This page focuses on Visitor visas issued for the purpose of studies, meaning you'll be able to:  

  • Study a short course no longer than 6 months
  • Complete a study-abroad course in the UK as part of an overseas course
  • Undertake a short period of research (6 months or less)
  • Undertake examination re-sits or retake a module (6 months or less)
  • Attend a viva as part of a postgraduate course
  • Attend a graduation ceremony

If the length of your course is more than 6 months, you'll need to apply for a Student visa (or a Short-term study visa if you've chosen an English language course of up to 11 months). You can't arrive in the UK on a Visitor visa to study a course whose length is over 6 months. You might be refused entry at the border or, if you do enter the UK, you might need to leave the country and apply for the correct visa before being allowed to commence your course.

The total amount of time you can spend in the UK under the Visitor visa is 6 months – your course must be completed within this time.

Requirements and restrictions

Under the Visitor visa, you can't:

  • Work or take part in any work placement
  • Undertake any business activities
  • Extend the visa or switch to another visa while in the UK
  • Bring dependants with you
  • Use this visa for frequent or successive visits to the UK

You can study more than one course, provided that: 

  • Each course meets the visa requirements
  • The course is completed within 6 months, before your visa expires
  • Your offer letter confirms all courses, including dates
  • Additional courses taken after your visa is granted must be completed within 30 days of your initial course completion date 

Visa nationals and non-nationals

Not everyone needs to apply for this visa in advance. This depends on whether you're from a ‘visa national’ or a ‘non-visa national’ country – you can find out which category your country falls into on the UKVI visa check website or via the visa nationals list.

If your country of nationality is listed on the visa nationals list, you must apply for, and obtain, a visa before travelling to the UK. You'll apply as a visa national.

If your country is not listed on the visa nationals list, you may need to get an ETA or obtain a visa at your port of entry – for example, the airport. This means you'll need to have all the required documents with you and apply as a non-visa national.

Applying for a Visitor visa

Apply for your visa

Before applying for a Visitor visa, you need to have your course offer letter (also known as an acceptance letter, or visa letter) to hand. How you apply depends on whether you're a visa national or a non-visa national – please follow the advice relevant to you.

1) Apply as a visa national

If you're a visa national, you're required to apply for and obtain the Visitor visa before you travel to the UK:

  • Apply using the online visa application form on the UKVI website
  • Choose your language and select a country to attend a biometric appointment 
  • Answer questions about yourself, your course, immigration and finances*
  • Pay for your visa application – the current fee is £115

*You must be 100% honest when answering these questions – please also make sure the information matches the details on your offer or visa letter issued by Regent's, if applying to start a new course.

Once you submit your application you'll need to attend a biometrics appointment – which gathers your biometric information (fingerprints, facial ID) and verifies your documents.

2) Apply as a non-visa national

Most non-visa nationals don't have to apply for a visa before they travel to the UK. Instead, they can apply for it on arrival at the UK border. 

On arrival, please do not enter via the e-gate system – instead, go through the border control queue to allow the Border Control Officer to stamp your passport. Make sure to tell them the purpose of your visit – the stamp you receive won't state the type of visa, but you'll still be deemed to be in the UK on a Visitor visa.

You'll need to keep all your documents on you (in your hand luggage) to present to the Border Control Officer if requested.

3) Apply for an ETA

If you're a Qatar national, you'll need to apply for an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) before you travel to the UK.

For nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, an ETA will be mandatory for travel after 22.02.2024.

  • Apply using the UK ETA app or online at least three days before travel
  • Scan your passport, take a photo of yourself and answer questions about your address, job, criminal history and other nationalities*
  • Pay for your application: £10

*You must be clear and honest when answering these questions.

Once you submit your application, you should get a decision within three working days by email. An ETA will be linked to the passport you applied with, and will be valid for two years or until your passport expires, whichever sooner. 

If you've lost your passport or renewed it, you'll need to apply for a new ETA.

If your ETA application is refused, you'll need to apply for a Visitor visa.

Documents required

  • Your passport (with one free page for your visa)
  • A formal letter confirming your acceptance onto a short course at Regent's
  • OR a formal Student Status letter if returning to re-sit an exam or retake a module
  • OR a formal invitation to your graduation ceremony
  • Details of where you intend to stay, with evidence like a hotel reservation*
  • Evidence of your intent to leave afterwards, like booked tickets*
  • Evidence that you have enough money to support yourself during your stay**
  • Official translations of any documents which are not in English or Welsh
  • Tuberculosis test results, if required (depends on your home country)

*Be careful about accommodation and travel payment before you receive your visa, just in case your application is refused.

**We advise a minimum of £1,334 per month for living costs. Evidence includes (over six months of) bank statements and recent payslips – failure to show sufficient funds is one of the most common grounds for visa refusal.

If you have any questions about the application process, contact [email protected].

Arriving in the UK

Receiving your visa

If you applied for your visa online you'll need to receive your decision email before you travel to the UK. This is usually sent within 3 weeks of your biometrics appointment. You will then need to visit a Visa Application Centre or post your passport there in order for your visa to be endorsed.

Once your receive your visa vignette, please make sure that all the details are correct – your name, your personal information and the validity dates. You need to enter the UK during the validity dates on your visa vignette.

If you spot any errors, please contact your Visa Application Centre to get them corrected before travelling to the UK. If it isn't possible to correct the error/s before travelling, then please get in touch with us as soon as possible.

At the UK border

Regardless of being a visa national or a non-visa national, please make sure not to use the e-gates on your arrival. Instead, go through the standard Border Control queue. When you speak to the Border Control Officer, make sure to tell them you're coming to the UK to study, resit exams or attend graduation.

You should keep all your documents in your hand luggage, just in case the Border Officer asks to see them.

Visa nationals

If you applied for your visa in advance, and have a visa vignette in your passport, the Border Control Officer will need to stamp it with the date of your arrival. If they don't –please ask them politely to do so, saying that you were instructed by your University.

Visa non-nationals

If you're applying for a visa at the border, you'll also need to obtain an entry stamp in your passport showing the date of your arrival. If the Border Control Officer don't stamp your passport, please ask them politely to do so, saying you were instructed by your University.

Once you're in the UK, please provide us with a copy of the stamp in your passport.

Frequently asked questions


When can I apply for a Visitor visa?

The earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel – however, if you're a non-visa national, you can apply at the UK border on arrival.

How long does it take to obtain a Visitor visa?

If you apply for your visa in advance, UK Visas and Immigration states you should get a decision within 3 weeks of attending your biometrics appointment.

How long is a Visitor visa valid for?

The length of your visa will depend on how you applied for it:

  • If you applied in advance of travelling to the UK, and you obtained a visa vignette, it'll be valid for 6 months (dates will be stated on your vignette)
  • If you applied at the UK border it'll be valid until you leave the UK: a maximum of 6 months. If you leave after 3 months and want to re-enter, you'll need to re-apply

How much does it cost to apply for a Visitor visa?

The visa application fee is £115 if you apply in advance. If you're a non-visa national and apply at the UK border, there's no fee.

Can I work on a Visitor visa?

No, you're not permitted to work in the UK. Work is strictly prohibited. This includes any paid, unpaid or voluntary work.

I'm an exchange/study abroad student – do I need a visa? 

Yes. If you're studying for one term (less than 6 months) and you're from a ‘visa national’ country you'll need to apply for a Visitor visa. If you're studying for two terms (more than 6 months) you'll need to apply for a Student visa.

I'm an exchange/study abroad student – can I extend my Visitor visa?

If you arrive for one term on a Visitor visa, and then decide to complete a second term, you won't be able to extend your visa inside the UK. You must return to your country of residence and apply for a Student visa for the second term.

I'm studying on a pre-sessional English course, can I extend my Visitor visa? 

If you complete a pre-sessional English course on a Visitor visa, you must return to your home country and apply for a Student visa before you continue to your degree course. 

There's an option to request a single Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) to cover the pre-sessional English course that allows you to apply for your new Student visa to study the degree course from within the UK. However, you must ensure that you fulfil the Student visa requirements if you want to use this option.

Can I apply for my visa at the border?

Non-visa nationals can apply for a Visitor visa at the border. However, you must have all the required documents to hand.

Do I need a CAS to apply for a Visitor visa?

No, you don't need a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) for a Visitor visa. But, you should keep your course acceptance letter to hand in case you're asked.

How much money do I need to show sufficient maintenance?

We recommend each student hold at least £1,334 per each month of their visit at the time of application.

If you have any further questions, contact us at [email protected]