Non-visa nationals

Although you are called a non-visa national, this does not actually mean that you do not need permission to enter the UK (referred to as 'Leave to Enter'). This means that you do not need to apply for a visa in advance of travelling (referred to as 'Entry Clearance').

You have the option of either route if you are coming to the UK for 6 months or less. Below we describe both routes. You will need to consider the best option for your situation before travelling.

Join the queue at passport control to speak to a Border Force officer.  Avoid using the eGates as these are only suitable for people entering as tourists not for students. 

You will need to present your passport, university offer letter and ATAS certificate (if applicable).  You may also need to show proof of your finances, so we recommend that you carry a recent original bank statement or other proof of funding in your hand luggage. 

You should explain clearly that you wish to enter as a Short-Term Study student rather than a standard visitor.   

Your passport will be stamped with a date stamp and the Border Force Officer may add in pen ‘Study/Student or STS’ to indicate the type of permission. 

Disadvantages of 'Leave to Enter'

The stamp is your visa and it is considered to be for single entry. If you leave the UK and then return, you will need to request a new Short-Term Study stamp, so you will need your documents ready to show again. You may also be questioned about your departure plans. 

The rules state that you cannot make 'frequent or successive' visits to the UK. Multiple entries with entry stamp visas risk refusal if considered too frequent. In a worst-case scenario, you could be denied entry to the UK and sent back to your home country immediately. Student experience suggests that it is acceptable to have a weekend or short holiday home, or to Europe, if you leave and return before the end date of your course. 

Our recommendation is that you obtain a Short-Term Study visa in advance of travelling, or a Tier 4 visa, if you intend to travel in and out more than once, or wish to minimise the risk of refusal. 

Travelling via the Republic of Ireland e.g. Dublin

You may want to consider applying for a Short-Term Study visa in advance (Entry Clearance) 

This is because the Republic of Ireland is part of the Common Travel Area with the UK (note that Northern Ireland is separate and is a part of the UK).  If you enter the UK via Ireland, you will receive an Irish immigration entry stamp and you are unlikely to go through immigration control again between Ireland and the UK. 

Your Irish entry stamp is valid only for 3 months, and you may need to leave the UK and re-enter at a UK port if you need more time for your studies.

This is the same process as for visa nationals and you will be issued a 6 month, multiple entry visa in your passport. You will need to apply and be granted this visa before you travel to the UK. For full details see the Home Office website.

Application form

Unless you are from North Korea, you start by submitting your application form online and paying the application fee of £97.

We have put together a step-by-step guide to help you answer the questions on the form.


If you are having trouble viewing our guide, download it here: STS EC form guide 2018

Once your application form has been submitted, you will usually need to attend an appointment at a UK Visa Application Centre to submit your original documents and enrol your biometric information. It will then take about 2-8 weeks for your visa application to be processed, depending on where you are applying. For current processing times please see the Home Office website.

Document list

Current passport You need a page in your passport that is blank on both sides.
University of Exeter official letter e.g. offer letter, student status letter or College office letter
ATAS certificate

An Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate is only required for certain subject areas, including Computer Science, Physics, Medicine, Biosciences and Engineering, but all Masters and PhD students should check whether or not the requirement applies to them. It will be stated on your offer letter.

Further information about the scheme is available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website. 

You must apply for your ATAS certificate at least 4-6 weeks before you plan to apply for your visa. The certificate will be emailed to you and must be printed and included with your visa application. 

Accommodation details

e.g. University accommodation details or tenancy agreement.

If you are staying with a friend or family member then you should include a letter from them which confirms this.

Enrolment letter

From your home university which confirms your course details. If you are a PhD student studying overseas then your research in the UK should be directly relevant or related to your course of study.

Details of onward or return flights  

These flights do not need to be booked or paid for, it is just to show that you are aware that you should return at the end of your studies.

Evidence of ties to your home country 

This could be details of family, property or other assets that would mean that you are more likely to return home.

Evidence of sufficient money

You must show that you can support yourself during your stay in the UK. Funds should cover course fees (if any), accommodation, flights and daily living expenses (food, drink, clothing). Suitable examples are 2 – 6 months of bank statements or student loan letters.

If you are being supported by a third party, for example parents, then you will also need a letter of from them giving details of the financial support available to you.

Under 18 years old?

If you are under 18 years old and travelling on your own or with someone who is not your parent/guardian, then you will need a letter from your parent/guardian which includes their contact details and gives consent for you to travel to the UK. You will also need evidence that you have somewhere suitable to live in the UK.

Currently in employment?

If you are in full-time permanent employment overseas then we would recommend that you include a letter from your employer which includes your employer’s consent and confirmation that you intend to return to work after your visit. You will also need to include 3-6 months of payslips.

More information 

For more detailed personalised advice please do contact us.  You can also read through the UKCISA website which provides detail, including information about the 6 month limit and other conditions related to this visa.