Legal and money issues
What are the rules about living in the UK if you are a student from overseas?
Visa and immigration
Take note of your visa or entry clearance dates. As an international student, your stay in the UK is only legal as long as your visa/entry clearance is still valid. Some students are not given permission to stay for the whole course. In this case, you will have to apply for a permission extension and submit it a month prior to the expiry date.
The fee for for a visa is £99. To see which documents you should submit and other related information, visit the Home Office. If your permission to stay has already expired, or if your application is refused, contact one of the following for help:
- A student adviser or welfare officer at your college or university
- The Immigration Advisory Service
- UKCOSA: The Council for International Education
Working in the UK
If your course lasts less than six months, you can ask permission to work when you apply to enter the UK.
If your course lasts longer than six months, you are allowed to work full-time during vacations, and part-time (up to 20 hours a week) during term-time. If you're taking a work placement or internship with an employer, you can work full-time during the term.
If your visa or passport stamp does not allow you to work, check the third line of your visa. If it says 'student', you can change the work allowance with the help of an international student advisor at your place of study.
You will need to obtain a National Insurance number in order to be employed in the UK. To do so arrange an appointment with your local Benefits Agency as soon as possible and bring these with you for the interview:
- A firm, written offer of employment
- Two forms of identification
- A reference from the university/college
First of all, ask your bank in your home country:
- How best to transfer your money to the UK
- How to run a bank account in the UK
- Whether your bank has a special relationship with any UK banks
- Whether you can use cash cards from your home bank in cash machines in the UK
Before you decide which UK bank to choose and which accounts to open, familiarise yourself with banking terms such as balance, overdraft, PIN, etc. Also master the pounds and pence of British currency.
When you go to the bank to open an account, you will need to bring:
- Your passport
- Letter of acceptance from your university/college
- Evidence of your UK address: reference from your student halls or tenancy agreement if you live in private accommodation
- Reference/statement from your bank at home (as requested)
There are three types of insurance that you might need while living and studying: personal property insurance; medical insurance; and motor insurance. Arrange the first two types before you come to the UK. Choose an insurance that covers both you and your possessions while living abroad.
If you're not insured yet, find a range of insurance companies online or in the local telephone directory, or ask your bank or building society for a quote. Always remember to ask for special deals or policies for students. And make sure that you understand all the conditions before you agree to sign any policies.
Help with legal matters
Fortunately, most international students complete their courses in the UK without running into any serious legal problems. But if you find yourself involved in a legal dispute, contact either the Students' Union or welfare officer/counsellor at your university/college, or your area's Citizens Advice Bureau for expert advice. They can recommend you with a lawyer (if you need one) and point you to a local law centre, which provides free legal advice.
In extreme circumstances (for example if you are arrested by the police), try not to be aggressive. Comply and co-operate when asked, and do not attempt to do rash things like bribing the police officer. And lastly, obey the local laws and show respect towards people in the community.
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