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UK visas
Visa (c) R.T.Allen
  Points-based system
  Tier 4: Students
  Tier 5: Youth Mobility Scheme
  Tier 1: Post Study Work
  Further information
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Croydon (go to the Home Office building in Croydon)  


This page gives some basic information about visas and immigration rules for the UK, concentrating on the rules which are relevant to international students. Rules change frequently: please refer to the official websites and check the latest requirements.

Note that if you are an EEA (European Economic Area) or Swiss national you will not need a visa to come to the UK. Nationals of Switzerland have the same rights as EEA nationals.

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Immigration is the process of entering the UK to stay, either for a short time or permanently.
A UK visa is a sticker placed in a passport at a UK visa office (outside the UK). The visa gives you permission to enter the UK (known as entry clearance). A visa will state the reason for your visit to the UK and how long you can stay.
An Entry Clearance Officer works at a UK visa office (outside the UK): he/she decides decides if a visa applicant qualifies for a UK visa.
An Immigration Officer works at an airport or other entry point in the UK: he/she decides decides if an arriving passenger qualifies for entry into the UK.
A visa national is a person who needs to obtain entry clearance before travelling to the UK.
A non-visa national is a person who does not require a visa for travel to the UK which is short-term (for 6 months or less).
If you are refused leave to enter, you are not given permission to come into the UK

A British embassy represents the UK in a foreign country (the ambassador is the most important person at the embassy).
A British consulate takes care of British people who are living abroad and supports British business.
A British High Commission represents the UK in a country which is part of the Commonwealth.
A UK diplomatic mission is a British embassy, High Commission or consulate. Many of these offer a visa service.

The Home Office is the government department which looks after the rights and laws of people living in the UK.
The UKBA (UK Border Agency) is the part of the Home Office which is responsible for immigration.
The FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) is the UK government department which is responsible for international relations.

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A points-based system (PBS) has been introduced for UK immigration. Points are awarded to reflect the applicant's ability, experience, savings, age and other relevant factors.

The visa system has five sections, known as tiers:
Tier 1 - for highly skilled people without a job offer (e.g. scientists or entrepreneurs)
Tier 2 - for skilled workers with a job offer (e.g. nurses, teachers, engineers)
Tier 3 - for low skilled workers filling specific temporary labour shortages (e.g. construction workers for a particular project)
Tier 4 - for students
Tier 5 - for "youth mobility" schemes (e.g. working holiday makers, au pairs) and temporary workers (e.g. musicians coming to play a concert)

Visa applicants are usually required to create a biometric identity card, which includes a photograph of your face and an electronic scan of your ten fingerprints.

The formal statement of the current UK immigration rules are here:

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Adult students who are applying to come to the UK can use the following link on the UK Border Agency website:

UKCISA produce a series of helpful guidance notes for international students:

The rules and application forms may change at any time, so make sure that you check details on official websites or seek advice if necessary.
You should read the guidance notes carefully when completing your application form.

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Young people who are nationals of certain countries can apply for a visa as part of the Youth Mobility Scheme. In May 2012 these countries were: Australia, New Zealand, Monaco, Taiwan, Canada and Japan
(more countries may participate in the scheme at a later date).
You must be over 18 and under 31 on the date of application.
Each country has an annual limit to the number of youth mobility scheme places - visas will not be issued after this limit has been reached.
Visas will generally be for 2 years and cannot be extended.
Applicants need to show that they have at least a minimum amount of money in their personal bank account at the date of application.
Most types of work or study in the UK are permitted (including voluntary work or working as an au pair).
For full details, see:

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Further information or advice about UK visas is available from these sources:
- The UK Visas website provides information on visa requirements and how to apply for a visa before coming to the UK:
- The Home Office's UK Border Agency (UKBA) website provides immigration information for people already in the UK:
- The UKCISA website provides information for international students (and has an advice helpline):
- Your school, college or university may have an international student adviser who may be able to help you, and may have immigration-related information on its website.
- If you are in the UK your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to provide advice if you have an immigration-related problem:
- You can contact an UK immigration adviser, who may charge you a fee. Advisers need to be registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC). A list of registered members is at:
- The Immigration Advisory Services (IAS):

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