See advice and guidance about international travel and the visas you need to study at Sussex while the Coronavirus situation is ongoing.
Telling us you have left the UK
Make sure you’ve updated your term-time address on Sussex Direct so we know how to contact you in an emergency.
If you’re a Tier 4 visa holder, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) requires us to hold up-to-date contact details for you. If you are staying on campus, please also complete this short survey so we can stay in touch and make sure you have the latest information about how we are supporting you.
The latest Government advice is that if you are still in the UK you should stay at home as much as possible. You will not be penalised by the Home Office if you need to stay in the UK and end up overstaying your visas – see more visa-related information.
Seek advice from your country’s embassy or consulate in the UK if you are considering returning to your home country. You may find that travel options are limited. You should not travel if you have symptoms of Covid-19 yourself, or if you live in shared accommodation with people who are self-isolating.
Coronavirus travel advice
Travel Health Pro is an expert organisation supported by Public Health England and a range of other expert health organisations. See Travel Health Pro information about travelling and Coronavirus.
Accessing NHS treatment if you get Covid-19
NHS treatment for Coronavirus (Covid-19) is free for everyone. For more information, see advice from the UK Council for International Students (UKCISA).
Applying to the EU Settlement Scheme
If you are an EU/EEA student, you can apply for the EU Settlement Scheme from outside the UK (free of charge) based on the fact that you have been living in the UK in the last six months.
Alternatively, if you are returning to Sussex, you can apply once you are back in the UK but you should do so before 31 December 2020. See our Brexit Hub for more information about the EU Settlement Scheme.
If you have a Tier 4 visa issue, check this information.
- My studies have finished, but I can’t leave the UK due to Coronavirus and my Tier 4 visa has expired or will expire soon. What should I do?
If your visa expired after 24 January 2020 and you were not able to leave the UK because of travel restrictions or because you were self-isolating due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, or if your visa will expire soon, you can contact a new dedicated Coronavirus Immigration Team (CIT) at UKVI to request that your visa is extended until 31 July 2020.
You will not have to make an immigration application or pay a fee. For more details visit the GOV.UK website.
- My course has not finished and my Tier 4 visa will soon expire. I want to remain in the UK. What should I do?
The UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS), led by Sopra Steria on behalf of UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), has introduced a controlled, phased restart of operations, including biometric enrolment. The delivery of Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) remains temporarily suspended. This means that, for the time being it is not possible to fully complete the visa application process in the UK. If you have already submitted a Tier 4 visa application but have not yet attended your biometrics appointment, UKVCAS will automatically reschedule your appointment and you do not have to do anything. See the UKVCAS website for the latest information.
For those who have not yet started the visa application process, UKVI has confirmed it is still possible to submit a visa application from within the UK (even though you won’t be able to submit your biometric details at the present time). If your visa will expire soon and you have not yet made a visa extension application, you should contact our student immigration advice team to discuss your options.
For more information, see the UKVI web pages.
- My course has not yet finished and my Tier 4 Visa will soon expire. I am already in my home country due to Coronavirus. Do I need to do anything?
If your visa will expire soon, or has already expired but you still need to complete your course or resit exams, then you will need to apply for a new visa prior to travelling to the UK when campus-based teaching activities resume in September 2020. You should receive a new CAS and can find details on how to apply for a new visa, including the latest Coronavirus information related to applying overseas, on the International Student Support visa pages.
- My course has not yet finished. I still have my Tier 4 visa. Will my visa be cancelled?
Whether you are still in the UK or overseas, as long as you remain actively engaged with your degree programme, as instructed by your School via online teaching and assessments for your course, then your Tier 4 visa will not be cancelled (curtailed) by the UKVI and there is nothing further you need to do currently. You should contact our student immigration advice team for any guidance you need about your visa situation.
Any studies that were missed whilst teaching was suspended will be treated as authorised absences.
If you will be continuing your studies in 2020/2021, you should make plans to return to campus for the beginning of term and your current visa will still be valid for re-entry to the UK. Visit this page for the latest details on returning to Sussex, re-entering the UK (including any quarantine measures in place) and what to do if you can’t travel back.
If you have permanently withdrawn from, or formally deferred, your studies, we would need to report this to UKVI as usual and your Tier 4 visa will no longer be valid.
- How will my attendance be monitored?
From autumn 2020, there will be a mix of classroom (and laboratory-based) and remote learning. Where Tier 4 students are engaging with their studies as instructed by their School this should be sufficient to satisfy UKVI’s attendance monitoring requirements.
- I’m currently in the UK on a non-Tier 4 visa (such as a dependant or standard visitor visa). Can I switch to Tier 4?
Individuals (students or staff) who cannot leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation and wish to stay in the UK in the long-term would ordinarily need to apply for a visa from their home country. Where individuals would normally be required to return to their country of residence to apply for a Tier 4 visa, the UKVI recently released some guidance which may allow individuals in certain situations to apply to switch from within the UK.
Please contact our student immigration advice team to discuss your situation further.
- I have a police registration appointment booked or have not yet registered with the police. What should I do?
Sussex Police have confirmed that:
“Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID 19 outbreak, all Foreign National registrations, transfers and updates are cancelled with immediate effect, until further notice. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause but are sure that in the current circumstances you understand why this decision has been made. Please keep checking this site which will be updated, as soon as possible, when the situation changes.”
We are aware that some students left the UK following Covid-19 and have concerns that they were not able to either register with the police or update their Police Registration Certificate before travelling. We advise that those students who have left the UK before first registering with the police (due to the shortage of appointments) or updating their Police Registration Certificate (where necessary) should keep the following as evidence of the situation:
- Their original email confirmation confirming the police registration appointment
- email correspondence from email@example.com confirming the police registration appointment has been cancelled.
We will keep you updated as the situation changes. Students who have left the UK before they were able to attend their police registration appointment should contact us two or three weeks before their return date so we can update you and advise on the next steps for police registration. If you are due to make a visa application before your return date, please contact us before you make your visa application so we can advise on this.
If you had not yet made an appointment to register with the police but are required to do so (for example, you have only very recently arrived in the UK), contact our immigration advisers and we can advise you further.
- Can I continue to study from overseas?
Many doctoral researchers have already returned to their homes, outside of the UK. If you are continuing to study, please agree this with supervisors and use the Change of Study Location (COSL) form to notify the University.
The COSL form is normally used for changes of more than three months. We are advising doctoral researchers to use this form where the length of time outside the UK is uncertain, and to update the Research Student Administration Office (RSAO) upon your return to the UK. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Can I take a break from my studies?
Wherever possible, you should continue your programmes of research. Doctoral researchers and supervisors should discuss how to adjust the research project temporarily to enable different activities to take place, under remote supervision. We acknowledge this will differ in complexity based on an individual’s circumstances and the discipline or stage of the PhD.
Options for taking a break
It is important to discuss all options with supervisors before making a decision to pause studies.
If it is not possible to continue studies as a direct result of Covid-19, Tier 4-sponsored doctoral researchers have two options:
Apply for a period of authorised absence (or extend a current period of authorised absence up until 31 July 2020)
Authorised absence can be granted regardless of current location, within or outside of the UK. A period of authorised absence as a direct result of Covid-19 can be applied for, regardless of any previous authorised absences.
Authorised absence effectively ‘stops’ the registration clock, and extra time will be added to the maximum date of registration. Extra time is not added to length of visa and fees are not accrued during this time.
Requests for new authorised absence will be dated from the start of the month and can be requested using the Covid19-related authorised absence form. Applications must be supported by a full description of the current circumstances which explain how studies are not possible as a direct result of Covid-19. Applications are signed off (by email) by Supervisors and Directors of Doctoral Studies in the normal way.
If you remain unable to return to studies as a direct result of Covid-19, you may request an extension of authorised absence up until 31 July 2020.
Requests for extensions to authorised absence can be made by email to the Research Student Administration Office, and must include:
- A note describing your current circumstances, and why you are requesting further authorised absence
- The length of absence requested (one or two months – up until 31 July 2020)
- Supervisor support of the further period of authorised absence
If you have questions, contact the Research Student Administration Office.
Take a period of intermission (also called temporary withdrawal)
The University standard guidance on intermission for Tier 4 sponsored students applies in the current Covid-19 context. Doctoral researchers who require intermission should note the standard UKVI procedures, and that to intermit from studies would end a current Tier 4 visa, and require a return to a home country outside of the UK.
If you have questions about intermission, contact the International Student Support team.
- Will a period of authorised absence affect a Tier 4 visa?
The University will continue sponsoring Tier 4-sponsored doctoral researchers through a period of Covid-19 related authorised absence.
Additional time will not be added to your visa-length if you take a Covid-19 authorised absence.
As a result of Covid-19 authorised absence, if you require further time to remain in the UK and complete your PhD, you will need to apply for a visa extension in the normal way, noting visa application costs and proof of maintenance.
- Do supervision meetings need to be recorded during authorised absence?
As the University is continuing to sponsor a Tier 4 visa during authorised absence, you must keep your contact details up-to-date on Sussex Direct and maintain monthly contact with your main supervisor.
- How will an authorised absence or intermission affect my studies?
Authorised absence effectively ‘stops’ the registration clock, and extra time will be added to the maximum date of registration.
It is expected that many early-stage Doctoral Researchers will not require any additional registration time to complete their PhD. However, where additional time is required, the University is committed to offer flexibility in registration extensions due to Covid-19.
- How will an authorised absence or intermission affect a scholarship?
Funded Doctoral Researchers will need to consult with their funders for further information regarding funding during a break in studies, and funding extensions.
- Do I need to return to the UK for a viva?
Not at the current time. All Sussex viva examinations are being conducted via teleconferencing (e.g Zoom / Skype) until further notice. Under these arrangements, a doctoral researcher, an internal and external examiner, and a viva ‘Chair’ would all be remote and away from Sussex campus. If there is no access to technology, or a delay is preferred, this should be discussed with supervisors.
Beyond the current Coronavirus situation, we expect distant vivas to revert to being used only in exceptional cases, where one party cannot travel to campus.
Working at this time
The same working limits for Tier 4 visa-holders apply, whether you’re studying or on a period of authorised absence during term-time. You cannot work more than 20 hours a week.
See more about working while studying with a visa.
Contact our immigration advisers for advice and support on any immigration or visa issue. We can offer video advice sessions via Zoom.
The UK government has a dedicated Coronavirus Immigration Helpline for people affected by travel restrictions:
- Telephone: 0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
- Email: CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk.
The UK Council of International Student Affairs (UKCISA) also has detailed information for international students.