Visitor and short-term student visas

Students wanting to study in the UK for six months or less can apply for a Short-Term Student visa.


COVID-19 update

The information on this webpage is affected by new temporary guidance that has been released by UKVI in light of the situation with COVID-19. See below for a summary of how this affects usual procedures: 

UKVI Temporary Guidance During COVID-19

Visitor visas and study (New Rules From 1 December 2020)

For most students, the Short-Term Student Visa category has been discontinued from 1 December 2020. The extended Short-Term Student Visa for those studying English Language courses of 6-11 months is still in place.

If you’re studying in the UK for 6 months or less, please see the following:

  • If you’re a visa national, you will need to submit a visa application overseas and obtain a visa in order to come to the UK as a visitor:
  • See UK Government Immigration Rules
  • If you’re a non-visa national, you will be able to travel to the UK without a visa and enter the UK as a visitor for the purpose of study of up to 6 months.
  • In this case, you should carry evidence of your course of study and ATAS certificate (if necessary) in your hand luggage, as well as information about your finances to demonstrate that you can support yourself during the course and afford the cost of your return or onward journey from the UK.
  • If you’re a EU/EEA national and you entered the UK before 23:00 on 31 December 2020, you will have entered the UK on the same basis as before the UK left the EU. You will not have entered the UK as a visitor, and we would advise you to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible, and no later than 30 June 2021.
  • EU Students and Brexit
  • If you’re a national of a country that can use e-gates to enter the UK (Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, United States, all EU/EEA countries and Switzerland) there will no longer be any need to specifically ask to see a Border Force Officer when you enter the UK.


You can study using a visitor visa where you are undertaking any of the following at The University of Sheffield:

  • A short course, or courses, that will be completed within 6 months
  • To conduct research (PhD), or be taught research - such as a Masters degree:
    • you must be aged 16 years or over; and
    • enrolled on a course of study overseas equivalent to at least degree level in the UK; and
    • your overseas course provider must confirm that the research or research tuition is relevant to your course overseas & that you will not be employed at the University of Sheffield.
  • Elective(s) linked to your medicine, veterinary medicine and science, or dentistry course overseas
    • you must be aged 16 years or over; and
    • electives must be unpaid and involve no treatment of patients; and
    • your course overseas equivalent to at least degree level study in the UK
  • Study-abroad programme of less than 6 months (as part of an overseas course)
  • Sit an entrance exam
  • Re-sit an examination or retake a module
  • Viva as part of a PhD qualification
  • Distance learning

For Distance Learning Courses

You must be studying outside of the UK for a University of Sheffield qualification by distance learning.

You can come to the UK for short periods of time for activities such as induction weeks, intensive face-to-face learning, one-to-one progress checks or to sit exams or assessments.

You must not use frequent or repeat visits to pursue a longer course.

A course can be both distance learning and part-time. However a part-time course of more than 6 months in length cannot be studied using the visitor route unless it’s distance learning (i.e any periods making the course more than 6 months are completed overseas).

Studying part of a course that is more than 6 months

Distance learning courses, re-sitting exams, retaking modules and taking a viva are the only instances where you can use the Visitor visa for a period of study that is part of a course at the University that is longer than 6 months overall.

Otherwise, if your course is more than 6 months, you will need to apply for, and obtain a Student Visa in your home country before coming to the UK.

Apply for a student visa 

How to apply (if required)

1) If you’re a visa national you will need to obtain a visa before travelling to the UK.

Visa national information

2) Prepare supporting documents

Evidence of course

  • If you’re not studying a distance learning course and you’re a new student, you can use the unconditional offer letter that you have received from the University. If you’re a continuing student at the University, please contact International Student Support to request a visa letter: contact International Student Support
  • If you’re studying a distance learning course, and making your first visit to the UK for this course, please contact Admissions to request a visa letter
  • If you’re studying a distance learning course, and making a second or subsequent visit to the UK for this course, please request a visa letter from International Student Support
  • Where you wish to apply for more than one course, this must be outlined in your visa letter.

Evidence of Finances

  • Evidence of finances to show that you can support yourself during the course and afford the cost of your return or onward journey from the UK

ATAS (if applicable)

  • Where your course requires Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) clearance, you must include your ATAS certificate with your visa application. You will not be able to add another course after receiving entry clearance.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

New students can request a visa letter from Admissions.

Continuing students can request a visa letter from:

International Student Support

3) Submit your application

  • Once you’ve prepared your supporting documents you can apply for your short-term student visa online.

Apply for a visitor visa online


Where you are on a Visitor visa you can’t:

  • extend your stay in the UK
  • work in the UK (including paid/unpaid internships or work placements)
  • apply with dependants (dependants must apply separately as Visitors)
  • claim most benefits, tax credits or housing assistance provided by the government

As long as you leave the UK before any Visitor Visa you have expires, there is no specified maximum period that you can spend in the UK with a Visitor visa, such as ‘6 months in 12 months’. 

However, UKVI will check whether you’re making frequent or successive visits to the UK and can refuse a Visitor Visa application if they assess that you’re seeking to remain in the UK for extended periods or making the UK your home.

Travelling outside the UK

  • Where you applied for entry clearance as a Visitor, your visa will outline whether it is a single or multi-entry visa.
  • Where your visa can be used for multiple-entry, you can travel within and outside the Common Travel Area (UK, Isle of Man, the Channel Islands and the Republic of Ireland) and return to the UK on an unlimited number of occasions during the validity of the visa.
  • Where you are a non-visa national and applied for your visa at the UK port of entry, your visa will no longer be valid if you leave the Common Travel Area.
  • To re-enter the UK you will need to apply for a visa either when you arrive at the UK port of entry or beforehand.

Short-term student visa (For English courses of 6-11 months only)

Where you are studying an English course that is 6-11 months in length, you can find information on how to apply for a Short-Term Student Visa below:

UKVI Information on short-term student visa

Medical Insurance

Where you are coming to the UK with a Visitor Visa (including non-visa nationals who seek entry to the UK as a visitor at the port of entry to the UK), you cannot pay the Immigration Health Surcharge. 

This means that you will not have access to free healthcare under the NHS. You should ensure that you have private medical insurance in place from the beginning of your stay in the UK.

Where you have a Short-Term Student visa to study English for 6-11 months you will pay Immigration Health Surcharge on your visa application which gives you access to the NHS.

This does not cover any dependants you may have with you in the UK.

See also

UKVI information on who can use e-gates

Contact International Student Support

UKVI Visitor Visa Guidance (PDF, 739KB)