Find out if you need a standard visitor visa or a short-term study visa for a course at Sussex. See how to get one.

The correct visa

There are two visa routes for short courses at Sussex.

The visa you apply for depends on how long you will be with us.

The two routes are:

Electronic travel authorisation (ETA)

Nationals of certain countries who wish to travel to the UK for the purposes of entering as a Visitor should apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) in advance of travel. You'll need to check which countries are now eligible. Once granted, an ETA allows you permission to travel to the UK and then after further checks at UK Border control, you receive your visit visa via a stamp in your passport.

ETA applications cost £10 per applicant and all eligible applicants must obtain an individual ETA including babies and children.

It is expected that this scheme will expand to other nationals in the future. Before travelling to the UK always check whether you require a visa through the Gov.UK website.

Standard visitor visa

Most students will use this visa route. You need a standard visitor visa if you are coming to the UK for up to six months, and are:

  • doing a short course at Sussex, including our Undergraduate Summer School
  • undertaking a period of study abroad at our university
  • a visiting research student as part of your PhD
  • returning to Sussex for your viva
  • a distance learning student coming to campus
  • returning to resit an exam.

Important: Your studies must be completed within the duration of your visit.

What you can’t do with a visit visa

You cannot:

  • extend a visit visa
  • change to a student visa in the UK
  • apply for a graduate work visa (you must be in the UK on a student visa instead)
  • get free non-emergency medical treatment through the NHS (you need private health insurance instead)
  • work (including voluntary work, work experience or a placement – even if it is unpaid).

Important: You must see a Border Force Officer when you arrive in the UK – and each time you re-enter during your course. This is so you can get your passport stamped. If you are eligible to use an ePassport gate you do not need to see a Border Force Officer.

Ways to apply

How you apply for a standard visitor visa depends on which country you’re from. Check if you need to apply for a visa before you leave home or if you can enter with your passport when you arrive in the UK.

You must also apply in advance if you have a criminal record or if you’ve previously been refused entry into the UK.

Applying before you leave home

You must apply online on the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) website.

If you are coming as a visiting and exchange student on a course of study for less than six months, you should select 'Short-term study (up to six months)' as the main reason for your visit.

You can apply up to three months before you travel to the UK. Check visa processing times.

Find out how much it costs to apply for a visit visa.

You must have all your visa application documents with you when you enter the UK, in case a Border Force Officer asks to see them.

Applying at the UK border

If you don’t need a visa to travel to the UK, you can apply to enter for free as a visitor when you arrive at a UK port of entry. You should check whether you need an Electronic Visa Waiver in advance.

Tell the Border Force Officer you want to be admitted as a visitor to follow a short course of study for fewer than six months. You’ll need to show some documents (skip to documents and evidence). If you leave the UK during your course, you’ll need to show these documents every time you re-enter.

If you are eligible to use an ePassport gate, you won’t get a stamp in your passport. Instead, when you arrive at Sussex, we will ask to see your passport and boarding pass as proof of your right to study.

Documents and evidence

All documents must be originals. See detailed information on the documents you need.

You will need to provide a translation of any documents not in English.

You’ll also need to prove you have enough money to cover all reasonable costs of your visit, including tuition fees and living expenses without working or accessing public funds. There is no set level of funds you need to show; instead see funds guidance [PDF]. As there is no set level, your application could be refused if you do not provide evidence of being able to meet the costs. We advise that you use the proof of funds requirements for student visas as a guide.

You must also have a letter from Sussex confirming the details of your studies.

If you are:

Make sure you have any other relevant supporting documents specific to your situation.

All visitors to the UK must satisfy the genuine visitor requirement. You may need documents to prove this.

If you apply before you travel, you supply documents as part of your visa application.

If you’re eligible for a visa at the UK border, carry all documents in your hand luggage in case you need to show them to a Border Force Officer.

Arriving in the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands

You can’t apply for a standard visitor visa on arrival if you enter via the Republic of Ireland, Isle of Man, Guernsey or Jersey (countries in the Common Travel Area).

This is because there is no immigration control at the UK port of entry.

If you want to enter the UK as a visitor through one of these countries, apply for a standard visitor visa before you leave home.

More detail

This is just a summary of what you need to know. For more details about the visit visa route and the requirements, refer to the Visitor immigration rules and the corresponding UK Visas and Immigration guidance [PDF]. Also see genuine visitor guidance by UKCISA.

Short-term study visa

This visa route is now only for students who apply for entry clearance to do an English language course between six and 11 months long.

More information on applying for this route can be found here on Study English in the UK (Short-term study visa): Overview - GOV.UK ( and UKCISA - international student advice and guidance - Short-term student visa.

See more from Applying for a student visa