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Advice and Counselling Service

Travelling and re-entering the UK

This page provides guidance about leaving and re-entering the UK and the documents you should carry in your hand luggage, depending on when you are travelling. There is also guidance on applying for a Schengen visa for those who need a visa to travel in Europe, and visas for returning to the UK for your graduation ceremony.

Leaving and re-entering the UK

There are some important questions to consider before you travel..... 

  • Do you need a visa for the country you are visiting or transiting through?  Check directly with the country's Embassy 
  • Have you collected your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) already?  If you arrive in the UK with a 90-day visa vignette (sticker), you then have 10 days to collect your BRP. If you want to travel outside the UK shortly after you first arrive, collect your BRP first.  If you cannot collect your BRP and you need to travel in an emergency, contact us for advice. 
  • Is your current application for Student immigration permission pending, but you need to travel in an emergency? If you travel, you will cancel your pending application. Contact us for advice for advice.

*If your current Student immigration permission has been curtailed, please check the section 'Can I travel and return to the UK after I have been reported to the Home Office?' on our Immigration Reporting and Curtailmentpage. 

When and why are you re-entering the UK? Read the relevant section below:

During your course

With Student permission, you can leave and re-enter the UK as often as you wish before the end date of your course. On re-entering, you may need to show the Border Force Officer evidence of your reasons for returning, so you should carry all the following in your hand luggage: 

  • Your passport, and your BRP if you have one 
  • An up-to-date Queen Mary Student Status letter showing that your course is continuing.   
  • If you are traveling during term-time, ask your Academic School to provide you with written confirmation that your absence is authorised. Direct staff in your school to Immigration Compliance’s guidance on absence, which includes a template letter. 
  • Documents relating to your finances, demonstrating that you have sufficient funds to live in the UK e.g. bank statements. 

The UKCISA website has useful information about what happens at immigration and customs on entering the UK. 

Visitor immigration permission issued on arrival in the UK ends when you leave the Common Travel Area (this area comprises Ireland, the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey). When you return to the UK, you will need to apply again for entry. You should carry evidence that you are still studying in the UK in your hand luggage , and that you will leave the UK at the end of your studies. It would be a good idea to carry, for example, an up-to-date Queen Mary Student Status letter and evidence of your finances for example recent bank statements, and a return ticket to your home country, if you have one.  

A Visitor visa which you applied for before travelling to the UK allows multiple re-entries. You may be required to show that you are still studying. In your hand luggage carry an up-to-date Queen Mary Student Status letter, and evidence of your finances, for example, recent bank statements. 

For a resit

After a course studied as a Visitor

If you leave the UK after your studies, for example to travel to Europe, you may be questioned about your intentions if you try to return to the UK as a Visitor, even if you are planning to study another course. If the Border Force Officer believes that you are making the UK your home through successive visits, then you could be refused entry to the UK.  

You will need to make a new application for Visitor permission before you travel to the UK, unless you are a non-visa national, in which case you can request permission as a Visitor again on arrival. If you are a non-visa national and request Visitor permission at the port of entry to the UK, it would be a good idea to carry evidence in your hand luggage to show your intentions in the UK, for example, proof that you have sufficient funds to stay in the UK, evidence of where you will be staying, your itinerary in the UK and your return travel tickets to your home country.  

If you are intending to enter as a Visitor, you must satisfy the requirement of ‘a genuine intention to visit’. Visitors must not live in the UK through extended periods of frequent or successive visits. This is particularly relevant, as you will have just spent a period in the UK studying.  

After your course, before graduation

Students can travel outside, and re-enter, the UK whilst they hold valid permission as a Student, including during the period after they have completed their course and still hold permission as a Student.  

Border Force Officials may still want to be satisfied that you are entering for study related reasons and will leave the UK before your visa expires, or that you will submit an in-time application to extend your permission in the UK.  

We advise you carry the printed order confirmation from 'Your Graduation' to confirm the date of your graduation ceremony so the Border Force Officer can see that you have a study-related reason to re-enter the UK. 

You will receive the order confirmation from 'Your Graduation' once you have booked the ceremony. You can also show your results, by downloading and printing a copy of your Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR). This will demonstrate to the Border Force Officer the course that you have been undertaking, and your results for the course. Find out how to access your HEAR on the Student Enquiry Centre website.  

If your Student permission expires before your graduation, you can choose to request entry with Visitor permission instead. We have guidance about applying for a Visitor visa to return for your graduation ceremony below. However, you must not enter as a Visitor if, after graduation, you intend to extend your stay under the Student Route, or switch to another immigration category.  

To make a  Student application for a new course at Queen Mary

Generally, it is most straightforward to enter the UK with the Student immigration permission issued specifically for your new course at Queen Mary.  

If it is not logistically possible for you to apply for the new Queen Mary Student permission before travelling, you can enter on your current immigration permission if you meet all these requirements: 

  • Your current immigration permission allows you to make a Student application in the UK.  See our guidance 'Check if you can apply in the UK?'; and 
  • You have everything ready to make the new Student application in the UK as soon as possible, including meeting the 28-day maintenance requirement, if required. See our detailed guidance for full information on eligibility, evidence, and how to apply for Student permission. 

You must make the new application before your programme at Queen Mary starts, and before your current Student permission expires, whichever is sooner. 

Please note: If you have submitted an application outside the UK, you should not travel to the UK until your visa has been granted and not before the valid from date of your visa. 

In your hand luggage, we advise you carry:

  • Your printed Queen Mary CAS statement 
  • Evidence that you meet the other Student visa requirements, for example evidence of your funds. 

After graduation

It is important to understand that your Student immigration permission is not generic permission to enter the UK for any reason: it is issued specifically for you to enter the UK to start or continue your studies.  

If you travel during the post-study period, Border Force officials may want to be satisfied that you will either complete the study-related activity and leave the UK before your visa expires, or that you will submit an in-time application to extend or switch your leave in the UK. 

You should carry documentation to show to the Border Force Officer, if required, the reasons you are returning to the UK. You may have fewer study-related reasons to re-enter the UK after your graduation has taken place, so you may face more questions from a Border Force Officer. You could even be refused entry if the Border Force Officer is not satisfied with your reasons for entering the UK, although this is unlikely if you have evidence of your situation in your hand luggage.  

If you are planning to apply for another visa in the UK (such as a Student visa extension or switching to a Skilled Worker or Graduate Route visa), you should be prepared to explain this and if possible, provide evidence that you meet the requirements to apply. If you are not planning to apply for another visa, it would be advisable to have evidence of your intentions to leave the UK before your visa expires (such as evidence of flight booking, job or study offer outside the UK etc.). 

Travelling in and out of the UK before your studies

If you are planning to travel in and out of the UK prior to commencing your studies at Queen Mary, please note the following:  

Non visa nationals: 

If you are a non-visa national, you are not required to apply for and obtain a visa before you enter the UK as a Visitor.  

If you are coming to the UK as a Visitor before you start your studies and plan to leave the UK before re-entering again to start your studies, you can obtain permission to enter the UK as a Visitor if you meet the Visitor requirements. 

If you are coming to the UK to study with Student immigration permission you cannot normally hold more than one form of permission at the same time. However, exceptionally, a non-visa national is eligible to be granted leave as a Visitor before their Student permission is valid. You must then leave and re-enter the UK after the ‘valid from’ date of your visa vignette, to enter as a Student. 

Please do check which immigration permission is appropriate for your studies at Queen Mary.

Visa Nationals: 

If you are a visa national, you can enter the UK no earlier than the valid from date on your entry clearance vignette (visa) in your passport. You cannot normally hold more than one form of permission at the same time. 

In all cases, you must check to ensure that you enter the UK with the correct permission for the purpose of each entry at the border. 

Schengen Visas

The Schengen area consists of 26 countries, and the Schengen agreement allows you to travel between these countries using one visa.  

Check on the website of the Embassy of the country where you intend to apply for your visa to see if you are required to apply for a Schengen visa to travel to the Schengen area or whether you are a visa free national. 

See the UKCISA webpages for guidance about which countries are part of the Schengen area, which type of Schengen visa to apply for and the application process, including supporting documents.  

Please note that a letter of no objection is not a requirement for a Schengen visa application.  Please check the information on the official Visa Application Centre website of the country to which you will apply. 

You can download an up to date Student Status letter from your Gradintelligence account as evidence of your studies. 

There are some agencies in London that charge to help you with your application. It is not necessary to use agencies and most students apply by themselves. 

If you have completed your course, check with the relevant embassy if you can still meet the eligibility requirements. 

Coming back to the UK for your graduation ceremony

If your Student permission expires before your graduation ceremony, you can apply for Visitor permission from your home country in order to return for your ceremony. If you are a non-visa national, you can request Visitor permission on entry to the UK. You cannot extend your Student visa once you have completed your course.  

You should prepare the following documents/evidence: 

  • Your reason for travelling to the UK is to attend your graduation ceremony. You can print the order confirmation from 'Your Graduation' as evidence of your ceremony.  
  • Evidence that you have sufficient funds to stay in the UK without working. UKVI do not stipulate a set amount, so we recommend at least £1334 for every month you intend to stay in the UK. 
  • Evidence of where you will be staying in the UK e.g. a hotel booking, or a letter of invitation if you are staying with family or friends. 
  • Reasons to return to your home country/country of residence after the graduation ceremony. You could show a return ticket home or a letter from your employer or education institution showing that they expect you to return to your work or studies. 
  • If you are not a national of the country in which you are applying, your residence permit, visa, or document as evidence of your status in this country 

You can find further details about the documents you will need to provide on the government website. We recommend that you read the information on this page carefully before making your application.  

You can apply up to three months before you are due to travel to the UK. You will not be able to extend your Visitor permission or change it to any other category of permission from the UK.  

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