Skip to main content

Visitor visas for short courses

Visitor visas

All students coming to the UK for study will need a visa. This includes EU/EEA and Swiss nationals without a status under the EU Settlement Scheme and other 'non-visa' nationals. The difference for non-visa nationals (including EU citizens) is that if you qualify for a Visitor visa, you can request it on entry to the UK rather than needing to apply in advance.

The Visitor visa is a 6 month maximum visa that can be used for short periods of study in the UK. This visa cannot be extended and work is prohibited (with the exception of students on medical electives). From 1 December 2020, the Visitor visa has replaced the Short-term study visa incorporating most of its rules. 

This page relates only to applying for a Visitor visa for the purposes of short-term study, not for visiting the UK as a tourist. Information about inviting your friends and family to visit you in the UK, or applying for a Visitor visa to attend graduation after your Student/Tier 4 visa has expired, is in a separate section of our website: Travel visas.


A Visitor visa is suitable for short-term study if you are:

  • attending 1 semester on a Study Abroad course.  A Student visa is also an option, and is essential if you are planning to work during your studies or are considering 2 semesters of study.
  • based overseas but need to visit the UK occasionally for short periods of study. For example, those coming to the UK for a period of research or electives as part of their studies overseas.
  • a current PhD student on Distance Learning.  Note: you can spend a total of no more than 56 days in the UK in any 6 month period.
  • attending an exam in the UK then returning home. For example, current students coming to the UK for a resit exam or to attend their PhD viva voce examination. A Student visa is also an option.
  • attending the International Summer School
  Standard Visitor visa  Student visa

Entry Clearance: £95

Permission to Enter: free (non-visa nationals only)

Entry Clearance: £348

Entry Clearance: multiple entry

Permission to Enter: single entry (non-visa nationals only)

Multiple entry

6 months

1 week either side of official course dates
Extensions Cannot be extended Restricted

No restrictions.

You can study any short course in any combination as long as you finish within 6 months.

Restricted. You are usually restricted to one course.
Work Work not permitted Restricted to 20 hours per week during term time for degree-level courses and above

Volunteering permitted

Voluntary work not permitted

Volunteering permitted

Voluntary work hours included in the restricted hours mentioned above


For more details on working and volunteering, see our dedicated page Working in the UK.

The application process is different depending on whether you are a considered a ‘visa national’ or a ‘non-visa national’. The information below will help you determine which category you fall into, how to make your application, and the different options or risks associated with it. 

  Visa nationals Non-visa nationals
Definition You are a visa national if you are a citizen of a country on the Visa National list You are a ‘non-visa national’ if you are the citizen of a country not on the Visa National list.
Applying for your visa You must apply for and be granted your Visitor visa in advance  You can apply for your Visitor visa in advance or request entry as a Visitor at the airport. Most Non-visa nationals apply for their visa at the airport, but there are risks to this. You should look at both options. 

How to apply

Choose the correct category below for in-depth information on the different application routes: