Travel restrictions & visas


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Last updated: Thursday 24 September 2020

Travel restrictions and student visas

Travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic presently affect many countries worldwide including the UK with different rules and restrictions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Check the latest official guidance before planning any travel.


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Travel to the UK

Last reviewed: Friday 28 August 

People arriving to the UK from certain countries must currently self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

Arriving passengers will need to provide details of where they are staying for the first 14 days by completing the Public Health Passenger Locator Form before they travel, and showing their completed form at the UK border, either printed or on their phone. Information can be submitted up to 48 hours before arrival.

Countries exempted from self-isolation 

Visitors to the UK do not need to self-isolate if they are travelling or returning from one of the countries on the exemption list. There are different exemption lists for each nation (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland). The lists are regularly updated with countries being added or removed. 

Travel and social distancing rules within the UK

Last updated: Thursday 24 September 2020

Social distancing rules are in place in the UK. Everyone should keep their distance from people outside their household and they must wear face coverings in certain situations. 

Tighter local restrictions are being introduced when local areas have higher rates of Covid-19.

Remember - the UK includes four different nations each with different restrictions.

Always check to be sure on what you can and can't do before you travel:

Visa application centres - reopening plans

Last updated: Friday 31 July 2020

In the UK, some UK Visa and Citizenship Application Centres (UKVCAS) have reopened for existing customers. Other centres have planned dates for reopening in July and August.

  • Opened 1 June: Birmingham, Chelmsford, Croydon, Exeter, Leeds, London Mark Lane Premium Lounge, London Victoria, Manchester Fountain Street Enhanced Service Point, Manchester Premium Lounge, Sheffield, Southampton
  • Opened 22 June: Belfast, Cardiff Bay (Temporary Core), Edinburgh, Glasgow (Core), Manchester (Temporary Core) 
  • See planned opening dates for other UKVCAS centres in the UK

Overseas, some visa application centres resumed services on 1 June. Others will follow throughout June, July and August. Overseas visa application centres are operated by either TLScontact or VFS Global, depending on the location.

TLScontact centres: for applications from Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East

TLScontact have reopened/ plan to reopen the following application centres:

  • 1 June: Belarus and Ukraine
  • 4 June: Germany (Berlin, Düsseldorf and Munich)
  • 22 June: Azerbaijan (Baku), Belgium (Brussels), Egypt (Alexandria, Cairo), France (Paris), Gambia (Banjul), Jordan (Amman), Portugal (Lisbon), Serbia (Belgrade), Spain (Barcelona, Madrid), Switzerland (Geneva), Tunisia (Tunis), Turkey (Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Gaziantep, Istanbul, Izmir)
  • From 29 June: Albania (Tirana), Angola (Luanda), Armenia (Yerevan), Austria (Vienna), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo), Botswana (Gaborone), Bulgaria (Sofia), Cyprus (Nicosia – South), Czech Republic (Prague), Denmark (Copenhagen), Ethiopia (Addis Ababa), Georgia (Tbilisi), Greece (Athens), Hungary (Budapest), Iceland (Reykjavik), Ireland (Dublin), Israel (Tel Aviv), Italy (Rome), Kazakhstan (Almaty, Nur Sultan), Kenya (Mombasa, Nairobi), Kosovo (Pristina), Lebanon (Beirut), Macedonia (Skopje), Madagascar (Antananarivo), Malawi (Lilongwe), Montenegro (Podgorica), Morocco (Rabat), Mozambique (Maputo), Namibia (Windhoek), Netherlands (Amsterdam), Norway (Oslo), Occupied Palestinian Territory (Jerusalem), Poland (Warsaw), Romania (Bucharest), Russia (Ekaterinburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Rostov, St Petersburg), Rwanda (Kigali), Sweden (Stockholm), Tanzania (Dar es Salaam), Turkey (Antalya), Uganda (Kampala), Zambia (Lusaka), Zimbabwe (Harare)
  • From 27 July: Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa), Malta (Valletta), Mauritius (Port Louis), Nigeria (Abuja, Ikeja, Victoria Island)
  • From 3 August: Estonia (Tallinn), Finland (Helsinki), Latvia (Riga), Lithuania (Vilnius)
  • From 5 August: Ghana (Accra)
  • See the latest news from TLScontact on their phased reopening of centres

VFS Global centres: for applications from all other countries

VFS Global have reopened the following centres:

  • 1 June: Australia (Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney), China (Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai), Fiji (Suva), Hong Kong, Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Taiwan (Taipei), Thailand (Bangkok)
  • 22 June: Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan), Cambodia (Phnom Penh), China (Changsha, Chengdu, Fuzhou, Hangzhou, Jinan, Kunming, Nanjing, Shenyang, and Shenzhen), Japan (Tokyo and Osaka), New Zealand (Auckland), South Korea (Seoul), Thailand (Chiang Mai), Vietnam (Danang, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City)

Other VFS Global centres have reopening dates and will see a phased resumption of services:

  • 28 June: Bahrain (Manama), Kuwait (Kuwait City), Saudi Arabia (Al Khobar, Jeddah, Riyadh) and in the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai)

Please check service details by using the VFS online tool

How to apply for a visa if a VAC is closed due to coronavirus restrictions

Where a VAC is closed, applicants can apply for any type of visa online using this link and then select a VAC in any country worldwide (subject to that country's entry requirements) to submit their application and biometrics.

To find out their current status, students should contact TLS contact if based in Europe, Africa and parts of the Middle East or VFS global for all other countries.

If you have immigration queries related to coronavirus, please email the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre.


English language testing centres begin to reopen

Last reviewed: Monday 1 June 2020

Some English testing centres are also resuming services, including some SELT centres in the UK and elsewhere.

You can find further information on which centres are opening on the providers' websites:

Tier 4 visa flexibility

Last reviewed: Friday 31 July 2020

The Home Office has introduced some concessions and flexibility in relation to sponsor duties, including allowing a pragmatic approach to education oversight in most cases.

Sponsors do not need to report students who are absent due to Covid-19 related reasons although records must be maintained. Distanced learning is currently being allowed for students on Tier 4 visas.

Students who are on courses below degree level are not required to be studying for 15 hours per week although sponsors are expected to make every effort to provide the stipulated number of hours.