Travelling at the end of your studies
Advice on travelling at the end of your studies, including re-entering the UK before your results are released, before your graduation and following your graduation.
What you need to be aware of
As you will have a visa during the 'wrap-up' period, you are allowed to re-enter the UK if you have travelled abroad.
However, we advise that you may be questioned by Border Force Officers as to why you are coming back to the UK if you have completed your programme of studies. This is because it is their remit to make an assessment of a passenger's intentions on arriving in the UK.
For people who have a visa for the UK, such as students, this intention test is to confirm the person is arriving for the same general purpose for which their visa was granted. They will want to be satisfied that the passenger's circumstances have not significantly changed as to make their visa permission obsolete.
For students specifically, they may want to know your reason for re-entering using your Tier 4 visa if you have finished the studies for which it was granted.
In the vast majority of cases, people do not encounter significant problems or even further questions upon arrival. However, it is important to set out the position so that you are aware of what may happen and the kind of documents and actions you might take with you to minimise risk and evidence your position.
Re-entering the UK after the end of your course, but before your results are released:
If you need to travel after the end date of your course, you should take information about the date you might expect your results to be released and the date of your graduation.
If questioned on arrival, you can advise that you are awaiting the results of your course and that you intend to stay on for your graduation.
Returning to the UK for graduation after your results have been released:
Although we have not had any reports of significant difficulties with doing this in recent years, returning just for your graduation on your Tier 4 visa is generally less advisable. At this point, there is less basis for stating that you are returning for a study-related purpose - e.g., awaiting results.
Border Force Officers might generally expect that people in this situation apply for a visitor visa to attend their graduation, particularly if it appears that you have already fully left the UK and have relocated to your home country.
You should arrive prepared to show evidence of a flight ticket out of the UK, or be able to explain that you still have issues to attend to in packing your belongings and ending contracts and accounts.
Travelling and re-entering the UK after your graduation:
We strongly recommend people not to do this. By this stage, it would be reasonable for a Border Force Officer to expect that if you had any further purpose in the UK, such as studies or work, that you would have made the relevant application to do so.
Re-entering the UK if you have completed early, withdrawn or been excluded from your programme:
Early completion for whatever reason is required to be reported to the Home Office. This may mean you cannot re-enter the UK even though your Tier 4 permission still appears to remain valid.
Student Administration will have emailed you using contact details on your student record before any report was made to the Home Office to let you know this was happening and to explain the consequences.
We therefore strongly recommend people in this situation not to travel during that time.