Overseas travel for visa holders


Information and guidance about travelling outside the UK for Student, Tier 4 or Standard Visitor visa holders

When you travel, make sure you carry any official letters we’ve given you, and always keep your passport and visa secure. If they are lost or stolen, you will not be permitted to return to the UK until you have applied for replacement immigration documents and obtained a new passport from your home country or consulate. You should also be able to show immigration staff that you have enough money to support yourself.

Travelling outside of the UK during term time

Attendance and engagement with your programme are important and will be monitored appropriately in line with the SOAS student engagement policy. We therefore normally expect students not to travel out of the UK during term time unless for exceptional circumstances like a bereavement or urgent medical treatment where you need to return home. If you are planning to travel during term time, you must do the following:  

  • Talk to your academic department to make sure you have academic approval to miss classes or any term time activities and obtain written approval (email) from them 

  • Notify Student Visa Compliance (email compliance@soas.ac.uk) by providing a copy of the approval email from your academic department of your approved leave 
  • Request a student status letter from Registry via the online Student Information Desk (SID) to show a UK Border Force Officer if they ask to see this.

Travelling outside of the UK during official SOAS holidays

Holiday periods differ depending on the programme you are studying:

  • Undergraduate students can travel out of the UK during the official SOAS holiday periods.  
  • Taught masters students, will have holidays at Christmas and Easter. The summer is not a holiday period as during this time you are enrolled on your dissertation.  
  • SOAS research degrees are continuous programmes with enrolment running from the first day of the academic session until the day preceding the first day of the next academic session, so September to September each year. 

When you travel you must have the necessary documents to satisfy a UK Border Force Officer that you meet the requirements for re-entry to the UK as a Student or Tier 4 visa holder.

You should have a SOAS student status letter to show a Border Force Officer if they ask to see this. Find more information on requesting the student status letter on MySoas.

Before you travel abroad

  • Check that your passport won't expire while you are away. If it will be, apply for a new one well in advance of your trip, and carry both passports with you when you travel if your visa was issued as a vignette in your passport
  • Check that your current UK visa won’t expire while you are away. If it's no longer valid, you may not be allowed back in the UK. If in doubt, speak to the Student Advice Service (email:advice@soas.ac.uk)
  • Check if you will need a visa to travel to the country you want to visit. The Embassy website should provide the information you need. If you do need a visa, apply in plenty of time.  

If you are travelling within the Schengen area, apply for a Schengen visa from the country you plan to spend most time in, or the country you will go to first. You will need a Schengen Visa letter from Registry confirming your student status. You can request this letter via the online Student Information Desk (SID). Each Embassy will have their own application form, and you will need to check their website to find out what procedures you need to follow.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website has useful information about Schengen Visas and travelling in Europe. UKCISA also has useful information about going through immigration control on arrival to the UK.

Travelling with a Standard Visitor visa or permission  

If you applied for a Standard Visitor visa before travelling to the UK and your vignette (visa sticker) was endorsed into your passport, this will allow multiple re-entries to the UK whilst the visa is valid. You may still have to show a UK Border Force Officer that you are still studying each time you re-enter the UK.

In your hand luggage carry an up-to-date SOAS student status letter - requested via the online Student Information Desk (SID), and evidence of your finances, e.g. recent bank statements. 

If you were issued Standard Visitor immigration permission at the UK border by using an eGate or visiting a Border Force Officer, this permission ends when you leave the Common Travel Area (Republic of Ireland, the UK, the Isle of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey).

When you return to the UK you will need to request permission to enter again by visiting a Border Force Officer or using an eGate, if eligible. You should carry in your hand luggage an up-to-date SOAS student status letter and evidence of your finances (e.g. a recent bank statement), and the return ticket to your home country, if you have one. A Border Force Officer may decide to grant you less than the standard 6 month immigration permission but your new visa expiry date should allow enough time to complete your studies.

Please see our information about the Standard Visitor visa which includes application guidance. 

Loss of immigration documents whilst outside the UK 

If your passport and/or BRP is lost or stolen whilst outside the UK, you will need to apply for replacement documents before returning to the UK.

Read the guidance on the UKCISA website for instructions depending on whether you have Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) or a vignette in your passport issued with your full length of immigration permission.

If you have a digital Student visa and you lose your passport outside the UK, you must update your UKVI account with your new passport details before travelling. You must inform the Student Visa Compliance Team (compliance@soas.ac.uk) about the loss of your documents and let them know if you will be delayed returning to the UK as a result.

If you have any questions about how to apply for replacement documents, please contact the Student Advice Service.

Travelling after your studies have finished 

The current Student Visa caseworker guidance (April 2021) confirms on page 90 "Students are able to travel outside of, and re-enter, the UK whilst they hold valid permission as a Student, including in the period after they have completed their course and still hold permission under the route." This means that you can ask the Border Force Officer to allow you to re-enter the UK with your Student/Tier visa even though your programme has now finished if your visa is still valid.  

It is possible that Border Force Officers may still want to be satisfied that you are entering for study related reasons and will leave the UK before your visa expires, or you will submit an immigration application to extend your leave in the UK before your current visa expires. We recommend that you carry evidence to support your return to the UK or evidence of your return ticket home in your hand luggage to help answer any questions you may be asked. 

Your entry to the UK can be refused even if you have a valid Student/Tier 4 visa and a Border Force Officer is not satisfied about your reason to return to the UK. If you intend applying for further immigration permission such as the Graduate Route, we suggest remaining in the UK and only travelling when your new immigration permission has been granted to avoid any issues with your return to the UK.  

Returning to the UK after an agreed ‘leave of absence’ 

If your Student or Tier 4 visa has been curtailed or is awaiting curtailment action because you have taken a ‘leave of absence’ or withdrawn from SOAS, then you are strongly advised not to travel to the UK on that visa. You are likely to experience issues at UK Border Control and difficulties enrolling on your program. If you need to apply for a new visa to return to the UK to continue your studies, please request a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS).

If your return to the UK is delayed 

You must inform the Student Visa Compliance Team (compliance@soas.ac.uk) if you are unable to return to the UK by the agreed date. You will also need to provide them with your new return date as soon as possible. If you are travelling outside of term-time, you don’t need a letter from SOAS or academic approval. If you are at all unsure, please contact the Student Advice Service for advice.