How to prepare for arrival in the UK – an international student’s guide.

By James Galloway

Coming to the UK as an international student is an exciting time: you’ll be making new friends, having new experiences, and learning new things every day. You’ll be starting a new life in the UK, and whether you’re coming to university or another place of study, that means there will be a lot to prepare. Let’s start with some basics.

It might seem obvious, but as an international student, you’ll need a valid passport, and you will need to have applied for and obtained a visa. You can apply for a visa yourself, but it’s often easier to ask an immigration advisor to help you with that, as they will know which documents you will need, and have a good understanding of the application process. If you do hire anyone to help with your visa, in the UK they must be registered with the OISC, which is part of the Home Office.

Students in the UK have their own halls of residence, but for international students at your place of study it might be different. Have you booked a place in a hall of residence? Have you arranged other accommodation? When can you check in? These are important questions you need to ask yourself. You will need to apply in advance, so make sure you take care of your accommodation as soon as possible.

As an international student, you will of course want to go out, go shopping, and buy things for your course. To do this you’ll need some cash – and making sure you have enough to cover your expenses for when you first arrive is an important thing to prepare. You can exchange currency at the airport, but the exchange rates there aren’t always favourable. The best idea is to either exchange it in your home country, or, if you think you can survive a few days, to research some good exchange rates at banks in the UK, which you can do online.

It’s one thing having money, and another thing being able to spend it: a budget, or at least setting limits on what you want to spend on living expenses, is also important. You don’t want to spend too much when you first arrive, but nor do you want to save everything and not go out and enjoy your new surroundings. So a balance needs to be reached, and having a limit on how much money you want to spend is a good idea.

You’ll also need to be ready for when you land in the UK. Whether you’re arriving at Heathrow or Gatwick, the first people that you’ll be talking to are Border Force, the officials at Passport Control. There usually won’t be a problem with them if your visa and passport are in order, but it will be a good idea to keep certain documents with you in your hand luggage, because a digital copy on your tablet or phone won’t be enough if you get asked!

Just in case you get asked, it will be a good idea to have copies of information on your course, for example your enrolment letter, and in certain cases you might need to show recent bank statements. This will be in only rare cases, as the bank statements show you will be able to pay for your course, or that you have a job in your home country that you plan on returning to. If you have been asked to show bank statements in your visa application, then you should have copies of those bank statements with you in your hand luggage.

Of course, you will also need to be ready to answer questions from Border Force when you arrive, such as why you’re coming to the UK, how long you plan to stay, and where you’ll be staying. These won’t be difficult questions, but you will need to answer them clearly – so try to be awake when you land! And definitely don’t forget that if you are coming with over €10,000 – or the equivalent – in cash, you will need to declare it when you arrive.

Tags: , , ,
Category: Applications, Postgraduate, Undergraduate