Returning or arriving in the UK

This page provides information for new, continuing and existing students on a Student Visa returning or arriving in the UK.


Evidence of Your Visa (All Students)

In all cases you must only travel after the ‘valid from’ date of your visa to ensure that you enter the UK in the correct visa category.

Some students who are ‘non-visa nationals’ can travel to the UK without a visa and enter as a Visitor for six months. See here for more information on if this applies to you. This will be your status if you travel to the UK before the ‘valid from’ date of your visa. It is not possible to enter the UK in this way if you are a ‘visa national’.

If you do enter the UK in this way as a Visitor, it is not possible to then switch to a Student visa by then submitting a Student visa application inside the UK. It is also not possible to submit a Student visa application in your home country, travel to the UK whilst the visa application is pending and complete the visa application process inside the UK. In both these circumstances, you would need to return to your home country to obtain the Student visa before returning to the UK after its ‘valid from’ date.

The type of evidence you have of your visa will depend on your circumstances.

If you applied for your Student visa outside the UK, see here for information on what type of evidence you should get.

If you applied for your Student visa inside the UK, see here for information on what type of evidence you should get.

You must ensure you carry this evidence with you as you pass through the UK border.

  • You must carry your passport. This will also contain your travel vignette (visa) if you applied for your most recent visa outside the UK, and if you have not been granted a digital status from that visa application
  • If you have a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), you must carry it
  • If you applied for your most recent visa inside the UK, and you have been granted both digital status and a BRP you must carry your BRP. You may not be allowed to re-enter the UK just on the basis of the digital status
  • If you have only received a digital status for your most recent visa, you can use this as your evidence to enter the UK. You should generate a share code before you travel and also print a copy of your status or have it saved on your device to show Border Force Officers if needed
  • You should also carry a copy of the decision letter or email that was sent to you from the Home Office. The letter/email should confirm when your visa was granted, the visa expiry date and whether or not you were expected to collect a BRP.

If you enter the UK from the Republic of Ireland, you will not pass through UK immigration control. You must keep evidence your boarding pass or flight ticket, so you have evidence of the date you entered the UK.

New students arriving in the UK

Where you are a new student arriving in the UK on a Student Visa, you must carry the following documents in paper form in your hand luggage:

  • Evidence of your finances
  • Evidence of your accommodation
  • Unconditional offer letter and CAS statement

Continuing or existing students returning to the UK

Before returning to the UK, you should check your email account in case the Home Office have cancelled/postponed your leave. If so, you are strongly advised not to travel.

Continuing students returning from a trip abroad

Where you are a continuing student returning to the UK after a trip abroad, you should not encounter problems if your visa is still valid and you have not left the UK for a continuous period of more than two years.

  • Immigration Officers may ask you some questions to ensure your circumstances have not changed since your visa was granted.
  • You should request a Certificate of Student Status from SSiD to carry in your hand luggage to show that you are still a registered student at the university.

Students whose visas have been cancelled and shortened

Where the Home Office have shortened your visa and there is six months or less remaining on your visa, it will no longer be valid if you leave the UK. You must apply for a new visa to return to the UK.

Students returning for graduation

Where you wish to return to the UK for graduation after completing your course and your visa is still valid, you should carry evidence in your hand luggage clearly stating your purpose for returning to the UK (eg your graduation invitation letter (student login required)) or apply for a Standard Visitor Visa.

Students with a Visitor or Short-Term Student visa

Where you have a Visitor or Short-Term Student Visa that was granted at your port of entry to the UK, your visa will not be valid once you leave the UK. You will need to obtain a new visa to be readmitted.


eGates are an automated self-service option that should give you a quicker and easier way to cross the border.

You are eligible to use eGates if:

You have a biometric passport (ie your passport has a chip); and if you're a national of one of the following countries:

  •  All EU countries
  •  EEA countries (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein) and Switzerland
  •  Australia
  •  Canada
  •  Japan
  •  New Zealand
  •  Singapore
  •  South Korea
  •  United States of America

You should not attempt to use eGates if you are travelling with any dependents who are under 10 years old.

If you use an e-Gate, you must keep evidence of your travel to the UK.

You will not get a stamp in your passport if you enter the UK using an eGate. You will need evidence of the date you entered the UK in order to register on your course, and you may also need a record of this for other reasons in the future. You should ensure that you keep a copy of your boarding card, flight ticket or booking confirmation for this purpose.

UKVI guides

These guides from UKVI contain information and advice for students who are travelling to the UK.

UKVI guide to faster travel through the UK border