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UK entry requirements for European students 

Do I need a visa to study in the UK?

If you are a national of a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland, then you can enter the UK as a student without a visa. At the UK border, you may be asked to provide documentation that you have been accepted onto a course and you will need your passport.

The EEA consists of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Although Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not members of the European Union (EU), their citizens have the same rights as EU citizens to enter, live in and work in the UK.

Bulgarian and Romanian nationals may need to apply for permission from the UK Border Agency before they can work in the UK.

Do I have a right to live and work in the UK?

European Community law gives EEA nationals a right to live and work in the UK. This is called a right of residence.

You have an initial right of residence in the UK for three months if you are an EEA national. If you are an EEA national and you want to live in the UK for more than three months, you must be a ’qualified person’. A qualified person means an EEA national who is in the UK as:

  • a student
  • a jobseeker
  • a worker
  • a self-employed person
  • a self-sufficient person (someone who can support themselves financially).

As an EEA student, you will not need a work permit to work in the UK, and you will be able to work during or after finishing your studies. (Bulgarian and Romanian nationals may need to apply for permission before they can work in the UK.)

What if I am a student from Bulgaria or Romania?

As a Bulgarian or Romanian national, you have the same rights to be able to move and live freely as citizens of other EU member states; you will not be required to seek permission under the UK Immigration Rules to reside legally in the UK. As a student, you are one of the groups able to remain legally resident in any EU member state for as long as you wish.

However, as a Bulgarian or Romanian student in the UK, you will be subject to the same restrictions on working while studying as non-EU international students who have a visa allowing them to work: no more than 20 hours’ work a week during term time and unlimited full-time work during academic holiday periods, with exceptions (for example, students studying at below first-degree level or on a foundation degree course are only able to work ten hours a week during term time).

Remember, though, that if you want to work, you will have to get a registration certificate that confirms that you are a student with a right to work in the UK and gives you the authority to do so within the restrictions outlined above.

To be eligible for a registration certificate, you will have to be able to prove that you are studying at an approved educational institution (on the UK Border Agency’s Register of Sponsors) and that you are able to support yourself without becoming a burden on UK state funds during your studies.

If you do not want to work, then you will not need to get a registration certificate.

Likewise, if you want to work more than 20 hours a week during term time (other than as part of a vocational course), then you will have to apply for an accession worker card like any other Bulgarian or Romanian national wishing to work in the UK.

Finally, once you have finished your studies in the UK and if you successfully meet the criteria, you may be able to qualify as a highly skilled individual, with no restrictions on your taking employment in the UK. The criteria are spelled out more fully on the UK Border Agency website.

Much more detailed information, including how to apply and which forms you will need to fill in (which can be downloaded), can be found on the UK Border Agency website. The UKCISA website also has useful advice.

What if I am a student from a country that is not in the EEA?

If you are from areas of Europe that are not in the EEA (ie Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, or Turkey), then read our information and advice about visas and working in the UK for non-EEA nationals. Likewise, if you are from outside Europe, go to that section as well.

The UK Government has announced new visa regulations with the aim of preventing bogus institutions from recruiting international students. Since April 2012, non-EEA students who need a visa to study in the UK can only be accepted for a UK student visa if they are applying to a university or college rated ’Highly Trusted’ by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Find out more from the UKBA website.

As an EEA student, can my family members join me in the UK?

Yes. If you have the right to live in the UK, your family members can join you.

As a student, under European Community law, your family members include the following:

  • your husband, wife or civil partner
  • children of you, your husband, wife or civil partner who are dependent upon you.

Any other relatives must demonstrate they are dependent on you before they will be considered for entry to the UK, as they do not have an automatic right to live here.

You can visit the UKBA website for comprehensive information about travelling to the UK to study.


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