Can I Study in the UK on a Visitor Visa?

This post relates to permitted Study for Visitors and covers the following topics:

  • Study Should Not be the Main Purpose or for more than thirty (30) Days;
  • Allowed Exceptions for Long-term Visit Visa Holders;
  • Permitted Activities for Educational Exchange Visits;
  • State Education – dependant children of the Visiting Academics in the UK for 12 months;

Study Should Not be the Main Purpose of Visiting the UK

Can I Study in the UK on a Visitor Visa?

As per the Immigration Rules visitors can study for a maximum period of thirty (30) days; however, the study should not be their main purpose of visiting the UK. For instance, if a visitor is coming to the UK for holidays and for a max period of thirty (30) days can undertake an English language course. The permitted thirty (30) days may either be in one time period or multiple periods totalling not more than 30 days, for instance, a study on 30 separate days. However, there are some exceptions for Long-Term Visit Visa holders the details of which are highlighted in Section (B) of this post.

Visitors Not Allowed Frequent Visits to the UK for Study

The applicants are not allowed to make frequent or repeat visits to pursue a longer study course – especially for such a study course which does not meet the requirements of the relevant student route.

If an applicant is intending to visit the UK for undertaking a study course for more than permitted thirty (30) day period or study is the main purpose in coming to the UK then the visitor should apply under the short-term study route.

Recreational and Non-Recreational Short Courses

A bona fide Institute in the UK can offer recreational courses, for instance, horse riding or a dancing course. Courses that could lead to a formal qualification are not generally considered recreational. Requirements for this purpose do not include attendance certificates.

Can I Study English with a Tourist Visa UK?

Non-recreational short courses, such as English language courses or study that is a part of a course of study overseas, are only allowed if the provider meets the criteria of Appendix 3 of the visitor rules.

Allowed Exceptions | Long-term Visit Visa Holders

A holder of a long-term, multiple-entry, visitor visa may occasionally wish to visit the UK entirely to study for a short period up to thirty (30) days. This could include – but is not limited to – persons who are undertaking a course of study overseas (inclusive of a UK course by distance learning) and may be required to study in the United Kingdom as part of the course.

Since a person cannot hold two (2) types of leave at the same time i.e.

  • a long-term visit visa; and
  • a leave as a short-term student;

Therefore, short-term visitor visa as a short-term student cannot be simultaneously granted without cancelling the long-term visit visa, if the validity of a long-term visit visa and that of a short-term study leave are concurrent. Therefore, a long-term visit visa holder might be allowed to enter to take a course or period of study longer than 30 days. However, the course or period of study should meet the requirements of paragraph 25 of Appendix V of Immigration Rules; therefore, the course should not exceed 30 days at a stretch, unless it is a recreational course, conducted place at an accredited institution.

Moreover, the main purpose of holding a long-term visitor visa should continue to be to undertake permitted activities as a visitor. And visits must continue to be mainly for permitted activities other than study i.e. time spent studying in the United Kingdom must not exceed the time spent carrying out other permitted activities. In case if the visits are not mainly for permitted visitor activities, the visitor visa could be cancelled, and entry is likely to be refused.

If a visitor is making repeated visits to complete a longer course of study and there is a confirmation of acceptance for such a course, then it is quite apparent that the visitor’s main purpose in visiting the UK is to study. Such study should be carried out under either the short-term student route or Tier 4 of the points-based system (PBS) as a short-term student should not intend to study in the UK for extended duration through frequent or successive periods as a short-term student.

The exception does not apply to holders of single entry visitor visas and to non-visa nationals, who are applying for leave to enter as a visitor at the border. For such visitors, the study must not be the main or sole purpose of the visit.

Permitted Activities: Educational Exchange Visits

The children should be full-time students in their home country and adults accompanying the group – either their teachers or other adults – should be employed overseas.

Student Exchange Programmes and Educational Visits are generally aimed at broadening horizons and deepening intercultural understanding. Although, these visits are not limited to thirty (30) days; however, the nature of the visit for longer duration visits is scrutinised so as to assess that the proposed exchange programme does not amount to a course of study, which should be carried out under the study routes. Moreover, schools are allowed to decide the precise nature of the visit; however, evidence of a programme of cultural visits or other activities is required to be provided for assessment at the application stage.

State Education – dependant children of the Visiting Academics in the UK for twelve (12) months

The requirement that a visitor should not intend to study at a maintained school might be waived for a dependant of a visitor that has entered the United Kingdom for the purpose of accompanying his/her parent, who is a visiting academic on sabbatical leave and undertaking research for up to twelve (12) months in the UK.

Admission to maintained schools is not an immigration matter. The Department of Education has the policy responsibility for admissions to schools in England. Admissions policy elsewhere in the United Kingdom is a question for the devolved administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Therefore, the responsibility for deciding whether or not to admit a child to an individual maintained school lies with the school’s admission authority i.e. a local authority in case of a community or voluntary controlled school and school’s governing body in the event of foundation school or voluntary aided school.

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Related: UK Standard Visa Application RepresentationStandard Visitor Visa,  Documentary Evidence and Refusal Reasons