UK life Coming to the UK Checklist
Becoming a student in the UK doesn’t have to be complicated, but you will need to be organised. Here’s a brief summary of what you will need to think about.
Record your progress
Why not print out this page and make it your own personal checklist by ticking off the tasks as you do them?
Do your research
Adequately researching the different programmes on offer and the institutions you could attend is extremely important before you apply. You can visit institution websites, education or career fairs in your home country and possibly talk with students or representatives from UK institutions. Sometimes, institutions can put you in touch with someone from your country already studying on your chosen course. Most institutions will have an office specifically dealing with international students, which you can contact if you have any questions.
Make your application
Applications for pre-degree courses (such as GCSEs, A-levels and post-A-level programmes) and postgraduate courses are normally made directly to the institutions to which you are applying. Make sure you are fully aware of the application deadlines and requirements, and that you give yourself sufficient time to make your application. Depending on the course, you may need to allow extra time to collect references from past tutors or examples of your academic work. You can often download application forms directly from institution websites, or some may have a complete online application service.
Applications for undergraduate and some postgraduate programmes should be made online through the UCAS website.
Many scholarships for UK study have early deadlines, so it is a good idea to research what funding may be available as early as possible.
Find out about funding
It’s important to think about funding as soon as possible in the process, as you will need to prove that you have enough money to cover your course fees and monthly living costs, and are able to support yourself for the entire duration of your stay without use of public funds before gaining clearance to enter the UK. It is very difficult to arrange extra funding once you reach the UK, so you need to make most of your financial arrangements in advance.
Many scholarships have early deadlines, but some need to know that you have definitely been offered a place at a UK institution before you can apply.
Make sure you fulfil all visa/entry entrance requirements
Having the correct student visa or satisfying the entry requirements is vital, as you won’t be allowed to enter the UK for your studies otherwise. Take the following important steps:
- Make sure you have a valid travel document or passport for travel to the UK.
- Find out whether you are a ‘visa national’ and need a visa before you can enter the UK. If you are, find out which category of student visa is most suitable for your plans. Also check that you are able to accumulate the points necessary to be able to apply for a student visa under the points-based system. You will also need to have documentation to prove this when applying. If you can and have the proof, then ensure that you apply for your student visa in good time. Please note that you will be expected to provide ‘biometric’ information (scans of all ten of your fingers and a full-face digital photograph) as part of the visa application process (with a very small number of exemptions). You will also have to pay an application fee, so make sure you have the money to do this.
- Since April 2012, if you are not a national of a European Economic Area country, you can only be accepted for a UK student visa if you are applying to a university or college rated ‘Highly Trusted’ by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). You can download a PDF of the Register of Tier 4 sponsors (approved education providers) from the UKBA website (you’ll find the download under ’related documents on the right-hand side of the page). You will need to make sure that the institution where you intend to study has been licensed by the UK immigration authorities to teach people who come to the UK to study. If it isn’t, then it will not be possible to gain entry into the UK.
- Obtain clearance to enter the UK if necessary.
Fuller information about all aspects of visas and entry clearance can be found in the student visas section.
Arrange your accommodation
Finding a place to stay before you come to the UK will make your arrival easier. There are two main types of accommodation you can look for: university/college-owned accommodation; and privately owned accommodation. Whatever your choice, you’ll find that UK institutions have an international students’ officer who will be able to help you find accommodation. Many institutions guarantee accommodation to overseas undergraduate students in their first year of study.
Visa/entry clearance documentation
Ensure that you have the necessary documentation for entry into the UK, specifically a passport or valid travel document and a UK biometric visa or entry clearance (if necessary) and any supporting documentation – see below. The UK Border Agency will check your fingerprints, if you have a biometric UK visa or entry clearance, to ensure that you are the same the person who applied for visa/entry clearance.
Find out about setting up a UK bank account and international money transfers
Setting up a bank account in the UK can be difficult for individuals from abroad, although this is becoming less so.
One option for international students is to open what is called a ‘basic bank account’, which is available at a number of UK banks. It can be used to pay in and take out money, but you will not be able get credit from it. Most UK banks will not ask you to pay in money to open an account. What you will need, though, is documentation proving that you are in the UK as a student and that you are studying at the institution you say you are before the bank will consider opening such an account for you (you can find more information on the UKCISA website).
Another option is go through your own bank in your own country. It’s often helpful to consult your local bank about arrangements for banking in the UK and how to transfer money to a UK bank account. A reference letter from your bank can also help when opening a bank account in the UK. Advice is also available from the international office at your institution. Transferring large sums of money can be expensive, so research your options.
Find out about insurance
Occasionally your home insurance policy will cover your belongings while they are in the UK, but this is rare. You may wish to take out travel insurance to cover your goods and yourself during the journey to the UK. The best deals are usually available through insurance brokers, but insurance is also available through travel agents, so ask about this when you buy your plane ticket. You may also like to organise personal possessions insurance for any valuable goods (such as cameras or laptops) you will be bringing with you.
Finally, if you are not eligible for free UK National Health Service treatment (see below), then you should also ensure that you have adequate medical insurance able to cover the costs of treatment should you fall ill.
Airline allowance too small for everything you want to bring with you? If so, you can always send your bags separately to and from the UK using a luggage forwarding company like Sendmybag.com.
Book your flight
Check the airport nearest to your educational institution, as it may be a regional airport rather than a major one. It may be easier for you to arrive at a regional airport rather than a major airport and continue your journey by train or coach.
Check how much baggage you are allowed to carry on your flight and make sure that you don’t exceed it. Charges for excess baggage tend to be high.
The best time to arrive in the UK is likely to be during normal UK working hours (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), as this is when banks and shops are all open and frequent transport services will be running.
Plan your travel to your accommodation
Your institution may arrange to collect you from the airport. If not, they’ll be able to advise you on the best ways to reach the institution and/or your accommodation.
Check your National Health Service entitlement
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) provides subsidised and universal medical treatment to which you, as an international student, will generally be entitled if you are on a course that lasts six months or more and you are studying in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or if you are on a course of any length in Scotland. Details of NHS entitlement change from time to time, so you should check with the British Mission/Embassy/High Commission/Consulate-General in your own country for details. If you do not meet the requirements, then you will have to ensure that you are covered by a medical insurance policy before you leave.
If you are on medication prescribed by your own doctor, get a letter from them in English explaining exactly what they are and why you take them. This will allow you to bring a small supply into the UK and means you’ll have a record to show your UK doctor, so you can continue receiving treatment.
Consider working while studying
Subject to restrictions, it is possible for international students to work while studying in the UK. See the working during study section for more about what you will be allowed to do.
What to bring with you
Cash and credit cards
It’s a good idea to bring a small amount of pounds sterling with you to cover travel from the airport to your accommodation and other initial expenses. You will find that travellers’ cheques and credit cards are also useful. Note that, if you are from outside the EU, you will have to declare any cash worth €10,000 or more (or its equivalent) to Customs officers when coming to the UK.
In your hand luggage
Important items to include in your hand luggage are:
- your passport, visa or entry clearance, and tickets
- your confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) from your institution
- documentary evidence of your ability to support yourself
- documentary evidence that you intend to leave the UK at the end of your course
- medical documentation including vaccination certificates if necessary
- insurance papers
- address and contact details of your institution
- confirmation of accommodation and how to get there
- a list of important items included in your main luggage in case it gets lost and you need to make an insurance claim.
In your main luggage
Choose a suitcase or backpack which you can carry easily and try not to pack too much – you will be able to buy most things in the UK! Important items to pack include:
- photocopies of all the documentation carried in your hand luggage
- notes of the numbers of your travellers’ cheques
- a small amount of spare cash.
There are certain things you are not allowed to bring into the UK. Some, such as firearms, are obvious, others, such as certain foods, less so. A complete list can be obtained from the HM Revenue & Customs website.
Check that any electrical equipment is compatible with the UK standards – you may need an adaptor or voltage converter. If you are intending to bring audio or computer equipment with you, you should also bring a receipt showing where and when it was bought. The receipt will help prove to Customs officials that the items are for personal use and not being imported for sale. Personal items are exempt from customs duty.
Get ready for your UK study experience
When you’ve put a tick next to all the stages on your print-out of this checklist, you’ll be ready to embark on your UK study experience!