September will see the start of a new academic year, which means that August is a popular month for the arrival in the UK of foreign students ready to begin their courses. It is an exciting time for any new arrival, with a new home to explore and a fresh set of challenges to negotiate as study begins. Unfortunately, it is easy for students to make mistakes in their first few weeks, missing deadlines or forgetting requirements which can have a major impact on their long-term plans. With that in mind, these are our top tips for students arriving for UK study. (This list relates specifically to students sponsored under Tier 4 of the Points Based System.)
1. Make sure you enrol on time – or tell your sponsor if you can’t
All students will have been issued with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (or ‘CAS’) before making their UK visa application, and that will have confirmed the deadline by which enrolment with their sponsor must be completed. Sometimes meeting that deadline just isn’t possible; you might have been delayed in travelling to the UK, or have fallen ill, for example. If you are unable to enrol by the deadline on your CAS, tell your sponsor as soon as you can. They will need to update their record for you, and tell the Home Office about the delay. If you fail to keep in touch with your sponsor, there is a chance that your sponsorship could be withdrawn, so it is in everybody’s interests to keep them informed.
2. Check whether you need to register with the police – and if you do, don’t miss the deadline
Not everyone needs to register with the police, and if you do this should have been confirmed when you received your visa. Check your documents carefully, and if in doubt, ask for guidance from your sponsor or a legal adviser. There is a deadline to complete registration, and you should make sure you do it within 7 days of arrival in the UK. You will also need to update your registration certificate if your UK address changes, and you should keep your certificate safe for the duration of your UK residence.
3. Speak to your sponsor if you want to change course – and secure permission before you start something new
If you decide to change your course, or to move to a different sponsor, you may require permission from the Home Office before you do this. Speak with your current or new sponsor as soon as possible, and seek further advice if you are unsure what to do. In some circumstances, it may be possible to change course without needing to apply for permission, but in many cases (especially if you move to a new sponsor), this isn’t possible and you must apply to the Home Office first.
4. Be careful about employment and extra studies
All students are limited as to what activity they may complete in the UK outside their main course of study. Some students are not permitted to work, for example, whereas others may only work for a limited number of hours during term-time. Check your documents carefully to ensure that you understand the restrictions. If you break the rules by working too much, you could be removed from the UK. Extra study is permitted, but only where this is supplemental to your main course and doesn’t interfere with your usual studies. Be careful to discuss your status fully with your sponsor before starting any extra course.
5. Plan for the future
Many students remain in the UK after their course is complete, either to undertake further studies or perhaps to gain some work experience. Plan for what you want to do, and make sure you understand how to achieve it. Not all students are permitted to switch to a new course whilst remaining in the UK, and in almost all cases you must show ‘academic progression’ to go on to further study (for example, completing an undergraduate degree and then proceeding to post-graduate studies). Speak to your sponsor early and take advice if you need it.
If you would like to talk to one of our experts about your status in the UK as a student, please call our Manchester office on 0161 234 6800 or Liverpool on 0151 305 9600 to arrange an appointment.