The United Kingdom is a culturally diverse combination of cosmopolitan cities and beautiful countryside. It's also a top destination for international students looking for a globally recognised education.
If you're studying in the UK, sort out all the logistical stuff early, like your student visa, overseas bank account and travel insurance, so you can relax and enjoy your time at home now.
Here's a few things to prepare you for your study abroad in the UK. *
1. Check that your passport is valid
If your passport is due to expire within a year, you may want to renew it before you travel. It's no longer possible to transfer your visa to your replacement passport if your old one expires (or is lost or stolen). You'll need to apply for a biometric residence permit (BRP) instead.
If you apply for your BRP outside of the UK, you'll need to book an appointment with a visa application centre. The permit will be granted automatically when your visa is approved.
2. Apply for work permits and visas
Students from outside of the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland need a visa to study in the UK. Be aware that summer's usually the busiest time for processing visas, so lodge your application as early as possible (up to 6 months before your course starts).
If you'll be studying for less than 6 months, you may be eligible for a short-term study visa. Students studying longer than 6 months will need a Student or Child Student visa, which replaced the Tier 4 (General) student visa in October 2020. The new guidelines for these student routes can be found on the UK government's student Visas and Immigration page.
Be prepared to prove your English proficiency at the border while travelling on this visa as well: international students on the new visas must be able to communicate without the need for an interpreter.
For students wishing to stay on after graduation, you're in luck: the UK post-study work visa was brought back in autumn 2020. The 2-year visa is available for all international students who have completed an undergraduate or higher course study at an approved higher-education institution.
3. Find accommodation
Rent will mostly likely be your largest expenditure when you're studying abroad so it's best to start researching your options as soon as possible. There's lots of accommodation types to choose from, like university-managed dorms, rental apartments, or even rooms in a private house.
You may find that it's easier to make friends while living in university accommodation, and that any facilities you might need - like laundry and dining halls - will be close by, if not on campus. Your university might even set aside student housing for first-year students, so take a look at your prospective university's website to see what they have to offer.
4. Set up your banking
You'll need to prove you have the funds to support yourself, as well as where the funds came from, while studying in the UK. Those with a Student or Child Student visa can set up a basic bank account in the UK, but it'll be easier (and you'll save time) if you set up an overseas bank account in advance.
In the UK, you're usually required to have a bank account to apply for a mobile phone contract and to pay your utility bills. If you're working, your employer might also expect you to have an account for them to directly deposit your salary into. Open an overseas account to receive your debit or credit card prior to departure (subject to local regulations) and to be able to access full banking services, like global bank transfers.
5. Set a budget for settling in costs
The British Council estimates that it costs on average GBP12,600 per year1 for a student studying in the UK, not including tuition. Your scholarship(s) may cover certain expenses, which makes it easier to budget. The Newton-Bhabha Fund for UK and Indian PhD scholars, for example, covers accommodation, a stipend, visa fees, international airfares and travel insurance.
Not sure how much it's going to cost you? Search for your university in this student budget calculator and you'll have a pretty good idea.
6. Start saving
Once you have your budget, set yourself a savings goal so you'll be ready when the time comes to move. A good way to supplement your tuition is through scholarships and grants. These can be highly competitive, so apply often and early. The most well-known scholarships include the Chevening scholarships, Commonwealth Scholarship, and the UK - China Research Partnership for PhD Studies.
Student visa holders are also able to work up to 20 hours a week. Make some money, meet people and gain work experience while you're there.
The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) will give you even further savings – not just in the UK but in 130 countries around the world. Why pay full price when you can get a student discount!
7. Complete a health check
You may need to have vaccinations or health checks before you enter the UK. Currently, residents of at least 80 countries, including mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam, must be tested for tuberculosis if they're to stay for more than 6 months.
When completing your visa application, you'll also need to pay a healthcare surcharge. This entitles you, as a Student visa holder, to access National Health Service (NHS) care in the UK at no extra cost.
It's recommended that you register with a GP near your university as soon as you arrive, especially if you have an ongoing medical condition. Your school can provide you with a list of doctors, so ask student services first.
If you're unsure about anything, chat to your doctor about your options before you leave.
8. Consider travel insurance
A fully comprehensive one-way travel insurance policy can cover you for your belongings, travel delays, missed departures and airline failure. And while the NHS will provide you with a wide range of health services, there will be limitations to coverage and treatments.
Check with your current healthcare insurance in your own country before you buy more. Your cover may also protect you when living overseas.
9. Check that your phone is unlocked
If your phone is unlocked, you'll be able to use any SIM card in the UK. This makes it much more flexible if you switch to a contract and keep your handset. You can also save on roaming costs by switching to another SIM card when you're travelling back home.
If you're buying a new mobile phone, the locking policies are different with every provider. With a locked phone, you may have to wait for a minimum contract period to have it unlocked. Once you're out of your contract, however, providers can no longer charge you for this service.
10. Double-check all documentation
In the days leading up to your move to the UK, make sure you have all your documents ready, scanned and saved. You'll still need hard copies in your hand baggage, however, when going through immigration.
Documents include your travel and accommodation details, proof of funds, your passport and visa, and any communication relating to your studies. If you're unsure if you have all you need, the UK Border Force has top 10 tips on getting through immigration smoothly as an international student.
11. Stay safe
Life in the UK may be different to what you're used to. While some things may be common sense, it's important to read up on how to stay safe. The GOV.UK website is a compilation of all the government websites and a great resource. Here, you'll find the most up-to-date information about living, studying and travelling in the UK.
Ready to open an overseas account?
Do you need to tick 'Set up your banking' off your list? HSBC can help you on this one. Fill out our 'Arrange a call back' form below and one of our team will call you back at a convenient time to walk you through the account opening process.
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