If you haven’t thought about your summer school visa yet, it’s time you did! Visas can sometimes be a little daunting and confusing, so to save you from any hair-pulling, we’ve put together a short guide to everything you need to know about applying for a summer school visa this 2023, answering your essential questions including; do I need a summer school visa? What if I’m from the EU? What if I’m already studying in the UK? How do I apply for a visa and what do I need?
First thing’s first: it’s your responsibility to organise your own visa and you need to do it with plenty of time to spare before travelling to avoid any hiccups that could cause a delay. Luckily, most summer school providers will be more than happy to give you advice. Timing is everything: make sure you receive confirmation of your visa before you book your flights or tell everyone you’ve ever met that you’re going to Oxbridge! And don’t forget to check you’ve got at least six months left on your passport before it expires; otherwise, you’ll need a new passport before you can do anything (oops)!
Visas for Summer Schools in the UK
‘Do I need a summer school visa for the UK?’
The short answer is, it depends on your nationality. The most watertight way to check whether or not you need a visa for your UK summer school is to visit www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa. You’ll fall into one of two categories:
1. Non-visa Nationals
People from certain countries can visit the UK for up to six months without needing a visa. You don’t need to apply for anything in advance; you just turn up and use the eGates to enter the UK. It’s still a good idea to have your documentation in order, including your summer school acceptance letter – just in case it’s requested.
You’ll be in this category if you’re a national from the EU, EEA, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea or the USA. This page explains more.
2. Visa Nationals
People from certain countries are considered ‘visa nationals’ and will need to apply for a visa before travelling to the UK. The complete list of countries that fall within this category are listed here. You’ll need to apply for a ‘Standard Visa’ (for study purposes), which you can do online here.
You’ll need your summer school acceptance letter which should also confirm the length of the course (i.e. that it isn’t longer than six months). You can apply in any country (apart from the UK), you’ll need to attend an appointment at a visa centre in your home country, and it usually takes around three weeks (but check – processing times vary and can take a lot longer at certain times of the year and during strikes). Standard applications cost £100; if you need your visa quickly, you can apply for a priority service for an additional fee. For the very organised out there – note that the earliest you can apply is three months before you travel!
Applying for a Standard Visa: Key Things to Know
1. You can’t switch to a different visa once you’re in the UK, and you can’t extend it; you must leave the UK before the visa expires.
2. You’re not allowed to work in the UK whilst on a Standard Visa (paid or unpaid).
3. You’re not covered by the NHS so you’ll need to make sure you have adequate medical insurance to cover your stay in the UK.
4. You can’t bring dependents (children or spouse) with you.
‘What if I’m already studying in the UK?’
If you’re already studying in the UK and hold a valid ‘Tier 4’ visa sponsored by a UK university, it might be possible that your summer school would be considered ‘supplementary study’, meaning you wouldn’t need an additional visa. You’ll need to check this under the terms of your Tier 4 visa.
Visas for Summer Schools in the USA
If you have a place confirmed at a summer school in the USA (hello Ivy League!) you may be able to enter the United States using their ‘visa waiver’ programme. Find out if you qualify by using the online Visa Wizard on the US travel website. Choose the ‘study or exchange’ option, and then ‘recreational program’.
Visas for Summer Schools in France
To check whether or not you need a visa to attend a summer school programme in France, check out the French government’s travel website here.
Visas for Summer Schools in Spain
For summer school visas for Spain, check out the Schengen (EU) visa information website here.
Top Visa Tips!
Before applying for your summer school visa, read these top tips!
1. Read the visa application instructions on the appropriate government website thoroughly (don’t accidentally use an expensive and unnecessary third party agency – use the links we’ve provided!) and make sure you’ve got your documentation to hand before starting the process.
2. Make sure you have at least six months’ validity on your passport.
3. Don’t book your flights, transfers or confirm any accommodation until after your visa has been granted.
4. Request an acceptance letter from your summer school provider that confirms your place on your course and states the length of the course.
5. For adult students, you should be able to demonstrate that you have a good reason to return home after your course finishes; e.g. for work.
6. You might need to prove that you have enough money to support yourself during your stay (including living expenses and travel).
7. You might be asked for details of your travel and accommodation plans: have these details to hand at immigration, just in case.
Good luck and have an amazing summer!