***All information here is subject to change. Visit the UK Border Agency’s site for the most up to date information.
In order to enter the UK legally, every member of your family will need an entry clearance (or visa) issued by the UK Embassy in your home country before arriving. The visa will be put right into your passport. When you go through customs at the airport, the immigration officer will need to see your visa and your visa letter from the University before you are allowed into the country.
Here are some helpful tips when applying for your visa, since phoning the embassy is very costly.
- Verify your name: It is imperative that your passport name is identical to that on your visa application, as well as your acceptance letter and visa letter given to you by the University.
- No UK address yet? If you do not have a temporary or permanent address yet where you will be moving, in the past it has been acceptable to write “housing to be finalized upon arrival” or “in process of obtaining housing.”
- Check your entry date: Students may not enter more than one month prior to the start of their program. Your acceptance letter from the University will state exactly when your program begins.
- Leave enough time to apply: When applying for a visa from the US, you must apply online and then mail your supporting documents to your nearest UK embassy. It is advisable to send them through a secure service with tracking information. They will be returned to you in a similar fashion. Be aware that you must include your passport as one of these supporting documents, so do not plan any other trips out of the country around the time you apply for your visa. Please also be aware that you need to leave yourself plenty of time to complete this process.
- Need a ‘Biometrics’ Appointment? Visa applications require “biometric data” which includes digital fingerscans and a digital photograph. Once you have submitted your online application, you will be directed to your local Application Support Center to submit your biometrics. Read the UK Border Agency’s Biometric Page for more details. The first available appointment may be in a couple weeks, and some family members my may not have appointments on the same day. Although you will not be able to contact the Center directly to confirm, most centers will allow your entire family to come at the same time. Make sure to bring the appointment confirmation notice and passport for each family member. Check in advance whether your children need to be present.
As part of the visa system, students are given a visa letter from the University. You MUST remember to carry this with you while traveling. You will need it!
You may find additional answers or help by visiting UKCISA. It may also be advantageous to phone UKCISA directly; they offer free advise for international students, though you will pay the cost of an international phone call.
If you run into difficulties, or time is short, you can use an expediting service, like A Briggs. Previous families have found this service to be particularly helpful despite back-logs at visa centers around the US. You can also call A Briggs with questions at no cost, even if you do not ultimately choose to use them. It is a cheaper and faster alternative to phoning the UK embassy directly.