Immigration & Visas
Students from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, who are not already living in the UK, may need a visa to enter and study at UAL.
The EEA consists of the European Union (EU) countries, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
What is a visa?
A visa provides permission to enter, or stay, in the UK and is given when you make a successful visa application.
Applications made from outside the UK
If your visa is provided after making an application from outside the UK, this is known as 'Entry Clearance' or 'Leave to Enter'. Your visa would be in the form of a vignette (sticker) covering one page in your passport.
When you arrive in the UK, the visa vignette in your passport will be stamped with the date, location and details of the border officer who looks at your passport.
If you apply for a Tier 4 (General) visa and your permission to be in the UK is for more than 6 months, your visa vignette would be valid for only 30 days. You would use this to enter the UK and would subsequently collect a visa in the form of a card called a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) which lasts for the full duration of your course.
Applications made from inside the UK
If your visa is provided after making an application from inside the UK, this is known as 'Leave to Remain'. Your visa would be in the form of a card called a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP).
When you receive your visa, check that all of the details displayed on it are correct, e.g. your personal details and the type, duration and conditions of the visa.
Types of visa
There are two types of visa for students who wish to be in the UK with the main purpose of studying at UAL:
- Tier 4 (General) visa
- Short-term Study visa
The type you need depends on your circumstances and the course you plan to study. You can check which type of visa you may need using the UK Government’s visa checking tool.
More information on both types of visa can be found in the sections below.
Tier 4 (General) visa
This is for students aged 16 years or over who are coming to UAL to study:
- A full-time degree or degree-level course (e.g. BA, MA, PhD);
- A further education course (e.g. Foundation Diploma);
- A pre-sessional course;
- An English language course (at level B2 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).
- You can apply for this type of visa from a country in which you are legally resident (e.g. your home country), or from within the UK if you are eligible.
- You must meet the English language requirements.
- You must meet the financial requirements.
Key conditions and restrictions
- There is a limit on the amount of time you can spend in the UK on this type of visa. If you apply for a Tier 4 (General) visa which would lead to you spending time in the UK above the limit, your visa application will be refused.
- You should be given permission to work a limited number of hours.
- You may be required to register with the police on arrival in the UK.
- You may be able to bring dependants (family members) with you if you are studying a course at NQF level 7 or above (e.g. Masters).
- You may be able to apply to extend this type of visa whilst inside the UK, depending on your circumstances.
- The University is obliged to report to the UK Government if an individual does not enrol onto, or does not attend, the course for which their visa was granted.
When and how to apply
Information on the application process can be found in our guides in the section below.
You can apply for a Tier 4 (General) visa up to three months before the start date of your course, but only once you have received your Confirmation of Acceptance to Study (CAS) from UAL.
It can take several weeks for a Tier 4 (General) visa application to be processed – check visa processing times for the country in which you are applying.
If you are currently in the UK and need to extend your Tier 4 (General) visa, you must submit your application before your current visa expires. Not all students can extend this type of visa whilst they are in the UK – check the eligibility criteria in our guides.
Tier 4 (General) visa - application guides
Click the links below to download visa application guides, which will help you to apply for a Tier 4 (General) visa.
Students applying for a visa from inside the UK*:
- Understanding the application process and requirements (PDF 451KB)
- Guide to the online application form (PDF 3,948KB)
Students applying for a visa from outside the UK:
- Understanding the application process and requirements (452KB)
- Guide to the application form (PDF 2,870KB)
*Students returning from placement year
If you are a current UAL student whose Tier 4 visa expires after your placement year, and need to apply to extend your visa for the final year of your course, you will not be able to apply in the UK. You must return to your home country and apply for your Tier 4 visa from there. This is because of recent changes made by the UK Government to the rules about academic progression.
Short-term Study visa
This is for students who come to the UK for the main purpose of studying a short course. At UAL, this could include:
- A short course of six months or less, in which case a six-month visa would be issued;
- Repeating part of a year on an accredited course (e.g. BA, MA), in which case a six-month visa would be issued;
- An English course of 11 months or less, in which case an 11-month visa would be issued.
- Not all students need to apply for this type of visa before travelling to the UK. Whether you need to apply before you travel depends on your nationality.
- You will need to show that you have enough money to pay your course fee and for living costs without using public funds or taking employment in the UK.
Key conditions and restrictions
- You cannot do any kind of work, work placement or work experience, regardless of whether this is paid or unpaid.
- You cannot extend your visa.
- You cannot switch to a different type of visa whilst in the UK.
When and how do I apply?
You should check visa processing times for the country in which you are applying to get an indication of how far in advance you need to apply.
The UK immigration rules can be complex, but there is a lot of help available:
- UAL’s Student Advice Service has advisers specially trained on immigration issues and can help you whether you are applying from outside or inside the UK.
- The UAL recruitment representative and British Council office in your home country can offer advice about applying from there.
- The UK Government and UKCISA websites have the most up-to-date visa information. Immigration rules are constantly changing, so you should keep checking these sites for updates.