No direct flights and TB tests: It’s still hard for international students to get to the UK

student visa uk
People walk on Southbank in central London on August 24, 2020. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

Though UK’s borders have remained open to international students, other obstacles remain for those planning to attend university in person. From UK student visa applications and disrupted travel plans, getting ready for the September 2020 term in person is proving to be a pretty stressful process.

Shivreena Sidhu is heading to the UK to start her LLM in Corporate and Commercial Law at the University College London this fall. Her master’s will be taught via hybrid learning, a mix of online lectures and face-to-face tutorials in small groups. She has to be in the UK physically for her studies but the road is paved with “so much uncertainty,” she tells Study International.

Sidhu says, “Last week, I finally managed to apply for a student visa appointment which took ages after submitting all my documents. I should be receiving the appointment soon for the final step in getting my student visa, but it’s still stressful as my course will begin in just a month and I still have to book my flight.”

Malaysia is on the safe countries list, which means those flying from the country do not need to quarantine on arrival in the UK. There is a catch, however. Sidhu will have to take a direct flight from Malaysia; only British Airways and Malaysian Airlines — both on limited flight schedules — offer them. She said, “It’s going to be a hassle trying to secure flights to reach the UK in time to settle in before my course begins.”

Sidhu’s experience reflects the plight of international students around the world dealing with the disruptions of COVID-19 on their university plans. Many are waiting anxiously for their student visa applications to get approved. As visa processing centres reopen after lockdowns, huge backlogs are making the previously straightforward process longer for students like Sidhu.

student visa uk

People enjoy the view of the River Thames from Millennium Bridge in central London on Aug. 24, 2020. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

According to The PIE News, students planning to head to the UK are facing various problems with the processing of their study visas, government restrictions on travel, availability of flights and difficulties getting tuberculosis appointments (a requirement to enter the UK). Director of Education at British Council Maddalaine Ansell told The PIE News, “The British Council is looking into all the challenges to inward mobility presented by COVID-19 to support the UK education sector and to ensure the UK retains its highly competitive position as the second most popular study destination.”

For those still facing troubles applying for their student visas and worried they won’t be able to enter the UK in time, universities are prepared to make concessions. A spokesperson from the University College London told The PIE that the university has adopted a flexible approach which allows students to enrol online and commence their studies from their home country in case of any delay in their visa applications.

The University of Nottingham also aims to be as flexible as possible for those who are experiencing flight delays or other travel restrictions. A spokesperson said, “Students can request to commence their studies remotely where necessary. Our welcome information for international students can be found on our website.”

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