If you are travelling outside the UK during your studies you must be aware of visa requirements. Here you can find out information on the visa you will require and advice on re-entering the UK. Be particularly careful not to lose your Biometric Residence Permit while you are away from the UK.
If you want to travel to Europe during your stay in the UK, you may be required to apply for a Schengen visa before you travel.
The Schengen visa allows visitors to obtain one visa to visit a number of designated countries within the EEA. To find out if you require a Schengen visa, visit the UK embassy website of the country you wish to visit.
There are 26 member countries in the Schengen visa scheme:
The UK is not a Schengen territory and the visa cannot be used to enter this country.
Types of Schengen visa
- The Airport transit visa allows you to transit through the international transit area of an airport in a Schengen member state, but not to exit this area before flying to your next destination.
- The transit visa enables you to pass through the territory of one or more Schengen member states on your way to another country outside of the Schengen space.
- The short stay or travel visa allows a visit of up to three months in any six month period. This is the visa that most students wanting to travel within the Schengen space as tourists or conference attendees will require.
You can also submit an application for multiple entry visas. This allows you to travel more than once into the Schengen space during a three month period.
Schengen visa charges
There is a charge for obtaining a Schengen visa which will vary depending on which country is issuing it. You should apply either to the embassy of the country you plan to spend most time in or the country you will go to first.
Each embassy produces its own application form for the visa and you will need to contact the appropriate authority by telephoning their enquiry number to ask them to send a form out to you. Some embassies' forms are available from their website. Be careful to find the official embassy website rather than an agency website.
Other Schengen visa requirements
- Each embassy has its own policy on how much leave (ie permission) to enter or remain in the UK applicants need to have beyond the term of their proposed trip. For example, you may be required to have a passport which is valid for at least three months longer than the proposed visa.
- You may need to spend time waiting for the national authorities to process your passport renewal, it is therefore advisable to apply early.
- Depending on your nationality, embassies may also require you to make your application in person.
Re-entering the UK after your trip
If you have a still-current Student visa Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) and your circumstances haven’t changed since it was issued, you should be able to use it to re-enter the UK.
When your visa was issued you would have been issued with a 30 (or 90) day entry visa (vignette) stuck into your passport along with instructions to collect your BRP after arrival in the UK. Do not attempt to travel without your BRP as you will need to show this with your passport on return to the UK. You do not have to apply for a new vignette to re-enter the UK, unless you have misplaced your BRP whilst travelling.
On arrival, have with you in your hand luggage your CAS number on paper and a certificate of enrolment which you can print from Student Self-Service. Although your visa should be enough for re-entry to the UK, these could help if there is any concern about your status.
Border control will not usually let you show them documents on a phone, tablet or laptop. Be cautious about making trips outside the UK after you have completed study or when your visa is close to expiry. Border Control staff have the power to refuse entry if they consider there has been a significant change of circumstance since your visa was granted. Be prepared to explain for example that although you have finished your course, your purpose for returning is not incompatible with the reason your visa was granted, and that you do not plan to remain beyond your visa’s expiry date unless you are eligible and have applied for another visa. If you plan to apply for another visa, make sure you are eligible and ready to do so from within the UK and you are able to explain this. If you still have matters to attend to related to your course, for example a graduation ceremony before your visa expiry date, or you need to pack up belongings before leaving the UK, you could mention this and if you have already made travel arrangements this can help as evidence of your intention to leave.
If your visa was granted under the Tier 4 pilot for Masters students your visa end date should be six months after your course end date rather than the usual two or four months. You can travel and return to the UK during this period. Border Control staff may be unfamiliar with the Pilot as this scheme has now ended, so be prepared to explain if you are asked that you are coming back to make use of your ‘wrapping up period’ after having been granted six months extra owing to the pilot scheme.
If you have completed early, or withdrawn or suspended from your course, this is likely to have been reported to the Home Office who will curtail (cut short) your visa. Even though your permission still appears to be valid you will not be permitted to re-enter the UK with a visa which has been or is in the process of being curtailed. The University would have emailed you using contact details on your student record before any report was made to the Home Office to let you know this was happening and to explain the consequences. The Home Office will inform you directly of the new, shorter, end date of your visa and you will not receive a new BRP.
If you are using Short-Term Student status to study, there is a difference between having a visa in this capacity and having the status conferred by a stamp on arrival. If you have a Short-Term Student visa in your passport, this should be multi entry so you can use it to re-enter the UK during its period of validity. If you did not need to apply for a visa but were stamped in as a short-term student, this status will lapse when you leave the UK and when you return you will need to qualify again as a short term student, so have with you a recent 'short-term student visa' letter from your college or course organiser, and evidence of your finances. The short term student visa route will be absorbed into the visitor route from 1st December 2020, so all applications that would have fallen under the short term visa route will need to be made under the visitor category.
It is advisable to purchase comprehensive medical cover and insurance before you travel. You should also check if there are any health care arrangements between your home country and the country you wish to visit.
Taking care of your Biometric Residence Permit
Whenever you are in unfamiliar surroundings take particular care of your belongings including your passport and Biometric Residence Permit. BRPs can get lost or stolen. If this happens, please look at our guidance for what to do.