Overseas travel for visa holders

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

Absences from your programme

Attendance and engagement with your programme are important and we monitor this according to the SOAS Student Engagement Policy. We expect students to be in the UK attending classes during their programme except for short trips at weekends or outside term time. Find out more about what is defined as term time as this differs for undergraduate, taught postgraduate and research students. For example, Masters students are in term time during the summer dissertation period.

You should also be aware that absences from the UK may affect eligibility for the Graduate Route visa which requires you to have studied in the UK for a minimum period of time. 

Request approval to be absent 

If you need to be absent from your programme for an exceptional reason, you must request approval: 

  1. Contact your academic department to request approval to miss classes or any term time activities  
  2. Notify Student Visa Compliance via Student Information Desk (SID) and provide a copy of the approval email from your Academic Department 
  3. Request a student status letter via (SID) to show a UK Border Force Officer if they ask to see this. 
  4. If you are delayed returning to the UK, you must inform Student Visa Compliance with your new return date which will need further approval from your academic department.

Postgraduate Research students must also notify Student Visa Compliance if they will be doing fieldwork overseas. 

Travelling in and out of the UK on your Student visa

Some notes for travelling out of the UK on your student visa: 

  • If travelling during term time, make sure you have your absence approved unless you’re traveling at the weekend. 
  • Have a SOAS student status letter to show a UK Border Force Officer if they ask to see this. Find more information on requesting your student status letter on MySoas
  • Ensure your UK Visas and Immigration account is up to date with your current personal details and passport.  
  • Take care of your passport and Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) card whilst overseas. If you lose your BRP, you will not be able to return to the UK until you have the right visa to return which costs money and can take time. 

Visas for other countries

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 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.  

If you've taken a 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 have been withdrawn from SOAS, you must not travel to the UK on that visa. Your immigration permission will no longer be valid to enter the UK and you will have problems at the UK border.

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)

Travel in and out of the UK with a Standard Visitor Visa

If you applied for a Standard Visitor visa before travelling to the UK and your vignette (visa sticker) was endorsed into your passport, this should allow multiple re-entries to the UK whilst the visa is valid. You may have to show a UK Border Force Officer that you are still studying each time you re-enter the UK. Carry an up-to-date SOAS student status letter in your hand luggage, you can request this via the Student Information Desk (SID)

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.  

Find out more about the Standard Visitor visa including application guidance.  

Lost or stolen immigration documents

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) a vignette in your passport issued with your full length of immigration permission or a digital visa. If you have any questions about how to apply for replacement documents, please contact the Student Advice Service via SID by choosing Immigration and Finance Advice. 

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. New immigration documents must be uploaded to Online Student Services as SOAS is required to hold up to date documents for our students.   

Travelling when your programme is finished

The current Student route: caseworker guidance confirms that "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 valid Student/Tier visa even though your programme has now finished.

A Border Force Officer 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. They can refused entry if they are not satisfied with the reasons you provide about returning to the UK. 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. 

If you have submitted a visa application in the UK e.g. Graduate visa, you cannot travel outside the Common Travel Area (UK, the Crown Dependencies and Ireland), whilst this is in progress or it will be considered automatically withdrawn. You must wait for your decision notice and receive any new immigration documents issued to you before travelling.