Visa and compliance update
4 November 2019

The 30-day rule: what is it and how does it apply to ELT centres and students?

In July 2018, a clarification to the immigration rules said students applying for short term study visas would be expected to leave the UK within 30 days of the end of their course, and should not extend their course beyond that date.

We have informed members and agents about this, but a roundtable talk at the English UK Annual Conference in May showed there is still plenty of uncertainty about how this applies to students and how it should be enforced.

What do the immigration rules and short-term study guidance say?

The UK Immigration Rules, Paragraph A57D(b), says an applicant for entry clearance "intends to leave the UK within 30 days of the end of their study or at the end of six months, whichever is sooner"

The short-term study guidance says applicants must intend to leave the UK:

  • either within 30 days of the end of their "declared course of study"
  • or at the end of the period of leave granted, whichever is the earliest.

What is the "declared course of study"?

This is taken to be the end date of the course(s) that the student has booked, as documented by the course confirmation/visa letter(s) submitted with the visa application form.

How can a centre know when a student should leave?

Visas are normally issued for six or 11 months, irrespective of the actual length of the course. As per the guidance, students must leave by the earliest date, either within 30 days of the end of the course, or by the end date of the visa.

For the centre to know which of the possible departure dates is the earliest, they will need to ask the student for the dates they gave on the visa application form. Students should be able to access their application form if they do not have a copy.

What can students do during the 30-day period after their course ends?

They can travel within the UK or continue studying.

What if students would like to take a course that will last longer than the 30 days?

Even if students have enough time left on their visa for a course lasting more than 30 days, you need to establish whether they had declared an intention to stay in the UK after their studies.

Staying in the UK for longer than stated on the visa application form could have an adverse effect on any future UK visa application.

What should students do to be able to extend their course for more than 30 days?

Students booking a short course (i.e. less than five months) should be told that if they want the option of taking a second or longer course, they need to state this as an intention on their application.

For example, if they have booked a six-week course, but plan to stay a further three months if they enjoy the first course, they should declare an intention to enter the UK for four and a half months doing two courses if they enjoy the first one.

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