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Travelling abroad

Find out how to get the right visa to travel abroad.

Find out if you need a visa to travel

Visas are issued by the UK embassy or consulate of the country that you wish to visit. You'll need to check the embassy's website or contact the embassy to see if you require one.

If you do need a visa, you should start making enquiries at the relevant embassy as early as possible, because the application process can be lengthy. The average processing time is three weeks, but this often takes longer during busy vacation periods like Christmas, Easter and over the summer.

Importantly, note that most embassies require you to have three-six months visa/leave to remain in the UK remaining in your passport at the end of your trip.

To apply for a visa you will need an application form, which you can usually download from your embassy's website, though application procedures differ.

Some embassies let you post your application to them, while others require you to visit their embassy in London. If your embassy asks you to go in person, make sure you arrive about two hours before the opening time, because they may have a limit on the maximum number of applications they will accept in one day.

You will usually be required to pay a fee for your visa. The cost and processing time also vary between embassies.

Documents

You'll find a list of the documents you need on your embassy's application form.

Generally you will need:

  • photographs
  • completed application form (available on the embassy's website)
  • passport
  • proof of purpose of the visit, for example an invitation letter from friends, conference organisers, job offers, plus bookings and reservations for accommodation or tours
  • evidence that you have enough money to support yourself during your stay (for example your last three months of bank statements - cash is not accepted as proof)
  • visa fee
  • an up-to-date letter of registration to prove you're a student of the University. You can request this by registering as a student - please allow six working days before collecting it from the Student Services Centre in 4 West
  • medical insurance - this can be obtained when buying travel insurance, and both Endsleigh and the Post Office offer travel insurance for international students in the UK

Different visas you can apply for

Each country has different visa categories, depending on whether you're planning to work, study or visit. If you're coming to work or study, your host organisation may advise you about which visa you'll need. The embassy or consulate's website will also be able to help.

The Schengen Visa

If you're travelling for less than three months as a tourist (and not working), the Schengen Agreement enables you to use one visa to enter all the following signatory states:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

You should normally apply for a Schengen visa at the embassy of the country where you'll spend most time, because it's your main destination. However, if you intend to spend approximately the same amount of time in several Schengen countries, you should apply to the embassy of the first one you will visit.

If you're not sure which visa is correct for you, contact the Student Immigration Service.

Medical insurance and GHIC / UK EHIC

When travelling abroad you need to make sure that you have medical insurance. Many companies provide this type of insurance, so research your options fully before selecting your insurer and policy, and buying your insurance.

UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) and European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) lets you get state healthcare in Europe at a reduced cost or sometimes for free.

If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), it will be valid until the expiry date on the card. You can apply for a new card up to 6 months before your current card expires. Once it expires, you’ll need to apply for a GHIC to replace it unless your rights are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement. If so, you are able to apply for a new UK EHIC which you can continue to use in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. You can apply for the new EHIC if you are:

  • a UK student who started living and studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland before 1 January 2021
  • a national (or student) from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland who started living in the UK before 1 January 2021. Your family may also apply.

Both cards give you access to state provided healthcare while staying in an EU country for things like emergency treatment and visits to A&E. GHIC and UK EHIC do not replace travel insurance and we strongly recommend obtaining travel insurance with healthcare cover if you're travelling to an EU country or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.

Using GHIC or UK EHIC abroad

A UK GHIC or existing EHIC covers you when visiting an EU country.

Although UK GHIC may become valid in more countries in the future, there are currently different rules for using your GHIC or EHIC card in Switzerland.

A GHIC or an existing EHIC cannot currently be used in Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. You can use a UK passport to get medically necessary healthcare in Norway (for example emergency treatment, or to treat a pre-existing condition).

Applying for GHIC or UK EHIC

If you plan to visit the EU, Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein, or Switzerland, you can apply for a GHIC or new UK EHIC via the NHS website.

If you are planning to travel to other European countries you can apply for a European Health Insurance card (EHIC). If you already have an EHIC card and are going to study or work in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland as part of your degree, you must apply for a new EHIC card.

A valid EHIC card gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare on temporary stays in all EEA countries. They should provide treatment on the same basis as residents of their country, at reduced cost or, in many cases, free.

The EHIC covers treatment that is medically necessary until the card holder returns home. This includes treatments for pre-existing medical conditions. The card is not an alternative to travel insurance, so it is important to have make sure you have an EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy before you travel.

You will still be able to access healthcare through EHIC for visits that begin after 1 January 2021 if you’re either:

  • a UK student studying in in the EU before the end of 2020

  • an EU national living in the UK before the end of 2020

Re-entering the UK if you have a UK visa

All students should carry the following documentation in their hand luggage when returning to the UK:

  • a passport or travel document, and visa
  • an up-to-date letter of registration confirming you're still a full-time student enrolled on a course at a recognised UK institution
  • evidence that you have enough money to support yourself and any dependants (such as your last three months' bank statements, or a letter from your sponsor confirming that they are continuing to sponsor you)

If asked, you will also have to satisfy the immigration officer that you intend to leave the UK at the end of your studies, or demonstrate that you are going to make a further immigration application.

If you are on a Student / Tier 4 visa you should also carry your CAS number.

Please remember to carry your BRP with you when travelling abroad - you will need it to re-enter the UK.

If you intend to return to the UK on a Student visa after your course has finished, please seek advice from a Student Immigration Adviser by emailing studentimmigrationservice@bath.ac.uk.

Visa curtailment and travel outside of the Common Travel Area

If your Student / Tier 4 visa is curtailed and you leave the Common Travel Area during the remaining time left on your visa, your visa will lapse. This means that if you leave the UK and want to return again, you will need to secure an alternative visa. If you try to re-enter using your Student / Tier 4 visa, you will be refused entry.

UK students on EU placement or exchange

The UK government has specific pages with guidelines for living in each of the EU member states. Students should read these pages carefully.

Students needing to travel to the EU are strongly encouraged to do the following as soon as possible:

  • Register as a resident in the country where they are living

This process will vary from country-to-country so it is important to read the local guidelines.

Having proof of residency could prove useful so we highly recommend students follow the advised protocol. British nationals may be required to apply for a new residency card.

Students travelling outside their destination country, for example to return to the UK, are strongly advised to carry their residency card with them along with other relevant documentation (placement agreement, contract, proof of accommodation, bank statements, etc.) in case their status as a resident is questioned at the border on their return.

  • Check their passport is valid for travel

We strongly recommend students use the Government's useful passport checker to confirm if their passport will be valid for the duration of their stay in the EU. This is particularly important if they intend to leave and return to their destination county as they may need to have at least 6 months validity on their passport. If not, students should make arrangements to renew their passport as soon as possible.

  • Register for local healthcare if eligible

Alongside use of the GHIC or EHIC, we also suggest students read the NHS guidelines for the country in which they are resident. Students may be eligible to register for local healthcare (and potentially avoid some costs) but may need to be able to demonstrate residency for a qualifying period.