[Archived] Special visitor, student visitor: VAT09

Published 9 December 2013

1. VAT9.1 What is a student visitor?

From 1 October 2013, General, family and business visitors are permitted to undertake up to 30 days of study where it is incidental to the main purpose of their visit. The 30 days can be taken as a single period or a number of smaller periods over the six months allowed to visitors. Unless the course is recreational (purely for leisure purposes) it must be provided by an institution that meets the relevant requirements (see VAT9.2 below for requirements).

If a visitor’s main purpose is to undertake a short period of study which will be completed within their stay, they should apply as a student visitor. A student visitor can only be in the UK for a maximum of 6 months and can switch courses within the Immigration Rules. A new temporary concession was introduced on 10 January 2011 which allows students of English language courses lasting more than six months but no more than eleven months to apply. See VAT 9.10 below for further details.

A student visitor is someone who intends to do a course of less than 6 months and who does not intend to take part-time employment or undertake a paid or unpaid work placement as part of their course.

A student visitor can also undertake a period of research in the UK which is part of or relevant to an overseas course equivalent to UK degree level. They must have been accepted to undertake the research at a UK recognised body or a body in receipt of funding as a higher education institute (see the link on this guidance page).

They must provide confirmation from their overseas provider to show that the research relates to their ongoing studies. Where an applicant intends to undertake any other type of research, the application must be refused. Student visitors cannot be employed as sponsored researchers. Where this is the intention the applicant must apply under either the relevant Tier 5 Government authorised exchange scheme or under Tier 2 of the points-based system.

Those studying overseas for UK qualifications (distance learners who do not qualify as students) who occasionally need to visit the UK for classes or revision sessions can be considered under the Student Visitor category, that is, although the course of study might be longer than 6 months, each period of study is less than six months.

General, family or business visitors who hold long term visas can also come to the UK specifically to study for up to 30 days if they are studying abroad (this includes long distance learning courses) as long as the main reason for holding the visa is still to visit the UK on business, for a holiday or to see family. If the primary purpose of the visit changes to study, entry clearance as a student visitor must be obtained.

Note: The UK Border Agency will not give extensions of stay to student visitors. Any period spent as a student visitor is counted as a period spent as a visitor.

2. VAT9.2 What are the requirements for student visitor?

A student visitor will need to show that he or she meets the main requirements of the general visitor rules and must also show that he / she has been accepted on a course of study at an educational establishment that is recognised by the UK Border Agency. The full requirements of the student visitor category are found under paragraphs 56K of the Immigration Rules.

The institution where the applicant intends to study must either be:

  • the holder of a Sponsor Licence for Tier 4 of the points-based system:

Register of sponsors licensed under the points-based system

*Or accredited by a UK Border Agency approved accreditation body.

The lists of institutions accredited by the UK Border Agency (Accreditation UK, BAC, ASIC and ABLS) can be found at the following websites:

Accreditation UK - a British Council scheme which offers an accreditation service for English language schools;

The British Accreditation Council (BAC) - which offers a more general accreditation service to cover a wide range of different educational establishments and their courses; The Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC) - which also offers a general accreditation service to cover a wide range of different educational establishments and their courses; and The Accreditation Body for Language Services (ABLS) - which provides an accreditation service to a diverse range of English language providers.

  • Or an overseas Higher Education Institution offering only part of their programmes in the United Kingdom , holding their own national accreditation and offering programmes that are of an equivalent level to a United Kingdom degree.

  • Or the holder of a valid and satisfactory full inspection report, review or audit by one of the following bodies: Bridge Schools Inspectorate; the Education and Training Inspectorate; Estyn; Education Scotland; the Independent Schools Inspectorate; Office for Standards in Education; the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education; the Schools Inspection Service or the Education and Training Inspectorate Northern Ireland. In order to meet the requirements of being an overseas Higher Education Institution offering programmes at an equivalent of a UK degree, the institution should be recognised by NARIC. ECOs should therefore check the PBS calculator to ensure that the institution is an accredited overseas institution.

Because they are visitors, student visitors are not granted leave in line with the duration of their course, but rather leave granted is in line with being a visitor and should normally be for six months.

3. VAT9.3 Is entry clearance mandatory?

Only for visa nationals. Non-visa nationals do not require an entry clearance in this category, but should consider applying for one if they have previously been refused entry at a UK port.

4. VAT9.4 What if an applicant starts a course of study in another visit category?

If the applicant did not have permission to study in the UK as a general or business visitor or did have permission in those categories but studies for more than 30 days, this would constitute a breach of conditions.

5. VAT9.5 What are the requirements for student visitors under the age of 18?

There are no separate provisions for children under 18 years of age to seek entry to the UK as a child student visitor. To enable such students to obtain leave to enter the UK to undertake a short course of study and ensure that existing child protection measures continue to apply (as provided under the Child Visitor category), an additional requirement has been included in the child visitor provisions so that, if children under the age of 18 are to attend a course of study, the course must be provided by a recognised organisation. The institution where the child intends to study, will have to be outside the maintained sector and either:

  1. the holder of a Sponsor Licence for Tier 4 of the points-based system, or
  2. accredited by a UK Border Agency approved accreditation body, or
  3. an independent fee paying school registered with the Department for Children Schools and Families

A child visitor who intends to take part in an exchange visit as opposed to a doing a course of study must meet the requirements of paragraph 46A (viii) - see VAT03.

Children should therefore apply under the Child Visitor Rules paragraph 46A (see VAT03 Special Visitor: Child visitor)

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5.1 VAT9.6 Does a student visitor have to study a set number of daytime hours per week?

No. The course of study does not need to meet the requirement that it is a full-time course, or that it must consist of a minimum of 15 hours daytime study per week. For a student visitor the course of study may begin after 6pm in the evening, for example, evening classes, or can take place at the weekend. Also, there is no requirement for the course or period of study to lead to a qualification.

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5.2 VAT9.7 What is the visa endorsement?

C:VISIT-STUDENT LTE 6 months Code 3 (over 18 year olds)

*For Child visitors undertaking a course see VAT03

6. VAT9.8 How much leave should be given?

The maximum period allowed for a Student Visitor is 6 months. This is because they are essentially visitors. Student visitors (applicants using VAF1) are not granted leave in line with the duration of their course, but rather leave granted is in line with being a visitor and should normally be for six months.

If less than 6 months leave is to be granted, ECOs must seek ECM authority and the reasons for the leave curtailment should be noted on PROVISO. (See section on visa validity in Visitors: General).

In all cases, including where the original grant of leave was for less than 6 months, the applicant should be advised that the Immigration Rules do not make provision for an extension to be granted after entry.

7. VAT9.9 Do student visitors have full rights of appeal?

No. They will have a limited right of appeal.

8. VAT9.10 Student Visitor - English language concession

Student visitors seeking entry into the UK to undertake a course in English Language should normally seek to apply to enter under paragraph 56K of the Immigration rules which restricts courses to a maximum of 6 months. With effect from 10 January 2011 for a limited period the Secretary of State will delegate authority to grant leave outside the rules for those applicants genuinely seeking entry as a student visitor to undertake a course in English language only, that is longer than 6 months but no more than 11 months.

Where an applicant for English Language courses satisfies all other requirements of the Student Visitor Category under paragraph 56K, but cannot satisfy subsection (i) because they seek entry for a period exceeding 6 months, leave outside the rules may be granted where the course is over 6 months but not more than 11 months.

For the purposes of this concession an ‘English Language course’ is defined as a course where a student is learning English as a Foreign Language. Mixed courses with only a portion of time spent learning English will not be appropriate for a grant of leave outside the rules under this concession.

Entry clearance is mandatory for those applying under the concession, so all applicants, including non-visa nationals must obtain prior entry clearance if they wish to enter the UK under this route.

Police registration will be required in accordance with paragraphs 325-326 for nationals of those countries listed in Appendix 2 of the Immigration Rules.

Applications should be made using VAF1D form. When applying online, applicants must use the ‘(General) student visitor, to study English language’ route on Visa4UK.

This new Visa4UK category has been mapped to the CAT D Student endorsement on Proviso and therefore the Student endorsement should automatically print on the CAT D vignette. If an application is not made online, ECOs must ensure they choose the category D Student endorsement.

The application will be considered exceptionally outside the Immigration Rules in accordance with the above criteria. Ministers have agreed that authority to grant entry clearance for Leave Outside the Rules (LOTR) for this concession may be exercised by Entry Clearance Officers. Such applications do not need to be referred to Referred Casework Unit.

8.1 Endorsement:

D: STUDENT LTE 11 months code 3 Additional endorsement field: ‘Visit - Study English Language Only’

When granting a visa, ECOs must use the Category D student endorsement. The length of leave to be granted must be 11 months. ECOs must type into the additional endorsement field the wording ‘Visit - Study English Language Only’

8.2 Right of Appeal:

The applicant should be served with a GV51 LRA in all cases where the ECO has decided to refuse the application. This category does not attract a Full Right of Appeal either under the Immigration Rules or the concession.

Although the applicant may be seeking leave to enter for a period greater than six months *Section 88 (2)(c) prohibits a Full Right of Appeal being lodged against the ECO decision where the applicant ‘is seeking to be in the United Kingdom for a period greater than that permitted in his case by immigration rules.

There may be instances of an applicant incorrectly lodging an appeal against the decision to refuse the application. Posts cannot refuse to accept these appeals. If on receipt of a student visitor appeal it is evident that: a) the applicant is seeking to appeal against the ECO’s decision, or b) the applicant has provided no grounds of appeal, the matter should be referred to the Immigration and Asylum Chamber (IAC) as a preliminary issue. A student visitor preliminary issue proforma has been devised for this purpose and can be found in the Entry Clearance Toolkit.

8.3 Suggested refusal wording:

‘You have applied for Entry Clearance as a student visitor under a Ministerial Concession outside the Immigration Rules. In order to be eligible for this concession you must satisfy Paragraph 56K (ii-x) of the immigration rules and the criteria of the concession…’

*Fails to satisfy Paragraph 56K (ii-x) of the immigration rules:

  • ‘… but I am not satisfied that you intend to leave the United Kingdom at the end of your proposed stay as a student visitor.’ ‘… but I am not satisfied that you do not intend to take employment in the United Kingdom’ ‘… but I am not satisfied that you do not intend to produce goods or services within the United Kingdom.’ ‘… but I am not satisfied that you will maintain and accommodate yourself out of resources available to you without taking recourse to public funds or taking employment.’ ‘… but I am not satisfied that you do not intend to study at a maintained school.’ ‘… but I am not satisfied that you intend to study at an educational institution which is recognised by the UK Border Agency.’ [See VAT9.2] ‘… but I am not satisfied that you are over 18 years of age.’

*Fails to satisfy the criteria of the concession:

‘… but I am not satisfied that you are genuinely seeking entry as a student visitor for a period not exceeding 11 months.’ ‘… but I am not satisfied that you propose to attend a course in English as a foreign language only.’