UK student visa: Dos and don’ts every international student should know

UK student visa requirements
You’ll want to know what are some of the UK student visa requirements so you can abide by the rules to avoid getting into any serious trouble. Source: Olga Maltseva / AFP

Are you a UK bound international student? The UK is a bastion of higher education; it is home to some of the world’s top universities and its post-study work options are a major allure for many. In light of that, you’ll want to know what are some of the UK student visa requirements so you can abide by the rules to avoid getting into any serious trouble.

Here are some of the things that you can and cannot do while in the UK.

uk student visa requirements

Even with a UK student visa, there are loads of opportunities and ways you can earn money, from working in a cafe to being a tutor. Source: Atta Kenare / AFP

UK student visa requirements: Dos

Register with a GP and apply for a National Insurance number

One of the first things you’ll need to do upon arriving in the UK is to register with a General Practioner (GP) to ensure you can get the necessary healthcare when you’re feeling ill. You can find a GP through the National Health Service’s (NHS) — the UK’s state care health system — search tool. Ideally, you’ll want to pick one that’s closest to you.

You’ll also have to apply for a National Insurance (NI) number if you’re planning to work while in the UK. Do note that they are free. “If you have a BRP, you might have a National Insurance number already — it will be printed on the back of your BRP if you do,” notes the government.

Get a bank account

You probably can’t escape opening a bank account as a student in the UK. It’ll come in handy for your daily financial transactions as well as for employers to bank in your salary if you decide to work part-time. You’ll need a valid visa and a student ID to open a bank account in the UK.

Get a part-time job

Once you’ve applied for an NI number and a bank account, you can find a part-time job to earn some cash. Even with a UK student visa, there are loads of opportunities and ways you can earn money, from working in a cafe to being a tutor. A part-time job is a perfect opportunity to learn things that cannot be taught in the classroom and gain professional experience abroad.

Sort out public transportation

Another important consideration for international students is getting around once in the UK. If you’re studying in London, you might want to apply for the 18+ Student Oyster photocard, which will help you save 30% on adult-rate Travelcards and Bus & Tram Pass season tickets. You’ll need to be enrolled at a school, college or university registered on the Transport for London (TfL) scheme or on a mandatory work placement in London.

The 18+ Student Oyster photocard is a handy pass for discounted travel, especially on a student budget. Source: Daniel Leal/AFP

UK student visa requirements: Don’ts

Overstay your student visa

Staying longer than you’re allowed to under your UK student visa requirements is a criminal offence. You could be banned from entering the UK for at least 12 months if you overstay by more than 30 days, or risk being deported. The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) notes that overstaying will also have serious consequences for any future immigration applications that you make.

“Overstaying in the UK could also affect applications you make for entry to countries other than the UK,” it said. If you are found to have used deception in an immigration application you are likely to be barred from the UK for 10 years, they added.

Be self-employed

Under your UK student visa requirements, you are not permitted to be self-employed. There are other jobs that constitute self-employed — Gov.uk has the full list that you can peruse. You also cannot be employed as an entertainer, paid or unpaid.

Remember, a UK student visa does not mean that you can work for however many hours you want. Crossing the line of your allocated 20 hours a week during term time can get you into plenty of trouble, including the risk of deportation.

Skip classes

As much as it’s tempting to take off and travel around the UK, remember that the whole point of you owning a UK student visa is to, well… study. When you’re in a full-time course, you’ll need to attend your lessons or be studying throughout your term. If you do travel during term-time, there are serious consequences that you will face like denial of entry if you can’t give a solid reason to the UK Border Agency when you come back.

Defer, change or suspend your course

While you’re on a student visa, it’s a horrible idea to drop out and quit. Sure, things will get tough and overwhelming. There may be instances where you feel like giving up, but don’t throw in the towel. UKCISA notes that if you decide to leave your course early, you must tell your institution. “If you are returning home or going to study at a different institution, you need to let your current Student sponsor institution know so that it can notify the Home Office,” they said.