Travel restrictions & visas


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Last updated: Friday 31 July 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 31 July 2020 

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 from Friday 10 July

From Friday 10 July visitors to the UK may 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 and the lists are regularly updated with countries being added or removed. 

Travel and social distancing rules within the UK

Last updated: Friday 31 July 2020

On Friday 19 June, the UK Government changed the Covid-19 alert from level four to level three. This means the virus is 'in general circulation' and transmission is no longer high or rising exponentially.

There has been continuous gradual relaxing of restrictions although social distancing is still in place and everyone should take precautions and keep their distance from people outside their household and wear face coverings in certain situations. The Government is acting quickly where risks occur and is imposing tighter restrictions on local areas that have shown that the prevalence of Covid-19 in the community is begining to rise again.

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

The Government made some adjustments to the 'roadmap to recovery' set out on Friday 17 July, and on Friday 31 July the Government announced it has decided to slow down the reopening of higher risk settings across England and face covering guidance has been extended for settings such as museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship.

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


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 is introducing 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.

Students can temporarily apply for a Tier 4 visa from within the UK

The Home Office has made it possible for students with a short-term study visa to make a Tier 4 application from within the UK, if they are already here and unable to travel home to make the application.

They will still need to meet all the other Tier 4 visa requirements. The deadline for applying under this provision is 31 July 2020.

Students should contact the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre before applying, to check if they are eligible. Email contact is preferable, so that they have the advice in writing. 

Eligible students should apply online, despite the fact that many biometric appointment centres in the UK are currently closed. The Home Office says: 'Individuals will not be regarded as an overstayer or be subject to enforcement action if they are unable to attend a biometric appointment due to Covid-19 or if there are delays in processing your application.'

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Visas and new flexibility for students who cannot leave the UK

Last updated: Friday 31 July 2020

On Thursday 30 July the Home Office announced further provisions for international students who are unable to leave the UK due to travel restrictions relating to Covid-19. Students with a visa that was due to expire on or before 31 July will be given an extra month's grace period until 31 August 2020 before they must either leave the UK or apply for further leave to remain. Refer to the Home Office guidance for full details.

Extensions are not automatically issued. Students should complete an online form to inform the Coronavirus Immigration team that their visa has expired. They can also contact the team by email or phone 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 09:00-17:00). Calls are free of charge).

Students will need to provide:

  • full name (include any middle names)
  • date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy)
  • nationality
  • previous visa reference number
  • reason they can't go back to their home country (for example flight suspensions, border closure, self-isolation)

The Home Office has said that students unable to return home will not regarded as overstayers:

"No individual who is in the UK legally, but whose visa is due to, or has already expired, and who cannot leave because of travel restrictions related to Covid-19, will be regarded as an overstayer, or suffer any detriment in the future".