Coronavirus: International Students FAQ in the UK

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the globe is facing an unanticipated health crisis. The COVID-19 has altered the terrain of past perspectives on international student mobility. Learning, well-being, and the changing of emotional state, legal, and financial repercussions of studying abroad are among the most complex obstacles for international students that derived from COVID-19. Many of these situations have caused dramatic shifts in a dynamic educational practice. Through the list of most frequently asked questions, we have delivered updated information that will keep international students aware of turns they should take.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions asked by international students during the pandemic: 

1. What Helplines Can I Call In the UK as an International Student?

Here’s some information you might find helpful if you need help as an international student in the UK:

  • To get the recent health advice and information, you can consult the National Health Service, and the Public Health Wales, the Public Health Agency Northern Ireland, and the Health Protection Scotland.
  • To keep up with the most recent official guidance, you can contact the Office for Students by phone at 0117 931 7317 or email [email protected] 
  • To have clear guidance on isolation for residential educational settings, the Department of Education allows you to contact them by phone on 0800 046 8687 or email [email protected]
  • For information on traveling abroad from England during coronavirus (COVID-19), you can contact the Department for Transport by phone at 0300 330 3000.
  • For help on UK Visas and Immigration, you can get in touch with the Coronavirus Immigration Helpline of UKVI by phone at 0800 678 1767 or email [email protected]

2. Can I Travel to the United Kingdom?

Each of the four UK countries has removed their red-amber-green ‘traffic light’ systems as of October 4, 2021. These methods have been replaced with an alternate system that relaxes criteria for many travelers while maintaining the harshest standards for those still regarded to be on the ‘red list.’ People arriving from countries not on the red list will be separated into two groups: those who have been “completely vaccinated” and those who have not.

Many persons on the red list are barred from entering the UK at all. In contrast, others are permitted to enter but must quarantine in specially-arranged hotel accommodations when they arrive.

The guide Travel to England from another country during Coronavirus (COVID-19)of the UK government will enlighten you with information on travel requirements during the pandemic. In addition, there are presented rules for arriving in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

On the other hand, the guide “Red list of countries and territories” will portray rules for entering England if you have been or haven’t been in a red list country or territory.

3. Is Quarantine Required When I Arrive in the UK?

Considering that you are fully vaccinated upon your arrival in the UK, you should still always follow relevant rules based on the country you are staying in. 

There are different regulations on the issue of quarantine. Here’s a few of the essential:

In Wales, there is a legal need to self-isolate following a positive test or notice by the Test, Trace, Protect contact tracers (by phone, email, or letter). 

In England, if you are completely vaccinated, you must have a COVID-19 PCR test on or before your second day there. If the test results are negative, you can immediately stop your quarantine. If your test results are positive, you must isolate yourself for 10 days. It is worth noting that day 0 is the day you took the test. Moreover, if your test result is unclear, you must self-quarantine for 10 days. 

Upon arriving in Scotland, you must isolate yourself at home or at the place you’re staying for 10 days. Another must-do is the COVID-19 PCR test; take your COVID-19 Day 2 PCR test on or before the second day of your 10-day self-isolation and your COVID-19 Day 8 PCR test on or after the eighth day.

In Northern Ireland, the restrictions for travel are determined by your vaccination status and the countries from which you are traveling or transiting. Generally, if you are arriving in Northern Ireland, you must:

  • Self-quarantine for 10 days at the address you supplied on your UK Passenger Locator Form or other inhabitants residing.
  • Take a PCR test on day two and day eight – NHS Test and Trace will contact you and send you these tests.

4. What Rules Are Currently in Place Regarding COVID-19?

While the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading, these are some of the rules which are being applied to stay safe:  

  • Wear a face mask in most indoor public locations and on public transportation.
  • Get tested and, if necessary, isolate yourself.
  • If possible, work from home.
  • Get vaccinated.
  •  If you’re meeting indoors, let some fresh air in. It is safer to meet outside.

5. Will Coronavirus Affect My University Application?

Being in a situation where the university application is uncertain of its status puts a lot of students in an undesirable position. The great news is that this year the teacher-assessed grades system has been designed to avoid disruptions to university applications.

The release of GCSE, AS, and A-level results were two weeks sooner than intended. This gave students enough time to appeal their results if necessary, with the plea for university candidates being prioritized to ensure a seamless transition to higher study.

6. How to Apply for a Student Route Visa Outside of the UK?

On October 8, 2020, the Student and Child Student routes replaced the Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child) routes. All applications, including those from the European Economic Area (EEA), are now processed through the Student or Child Student route. Outside of the UK, you can apply through the Student route. This is also advised if potential candidates do not match the requirements for applying within the UK. Because you cannot have immigration permission (a visa) for the UK under several categories at the same time, any successful application through the Student route would revoke any other immigration authorization held.

You will have to apply online, except if you’re applying in DPRL (North Korea), which requires another application method. In the application form, you will have to specify the type of Student application you are making. These three are the given options:

  • Student. Applicable to the majority of applicants.
  • Scholarships. Available to students who have received a Chevening Scholarship or Fellowship, a British Marshall Scholarship, or a Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships Plan.
  • Child student. Exclusively for pupils aged 4 to 17 (inclusive) who will attend an Independent School that has a Child student sponsor license (check this with your school before applying)

In case of facing difficulties with the online form, contact your sponsor institution. If you encounter a technical difficulty with the online form, use the ‘is there a problem with this page’ link at the bottom of the web page. 

When you are ready to apply, you must pay the immigration health surcharge, any biometric enrolment costs, value-added service fees, and the application fee.

The majority of applicants must still visit a visa application center for a biometrics appointment. Only EEA nationals with a biometric chip in their passport are exempt.

7. How Long Will My Student Visa Take to Process?

When you submit your application online, the waiting period begins when you either:

  • Attend your appointment at a visa application center and present your fingerprints and a photograph (biometric information).
  • Use the UK Immigration: ID Check app to confirm your identity. This will depend on the visa you apply for, and you will be informed if you are eligible to utilize it.

You can apply for a visa up to 6 months before the commencement of your study. Typically, you will receive a decision on your visa within three weeks. Nonetheless, the waiting time will end the moment you get an email that states the decision on your application.

8. Will My Tier 4 Visa Be Affected by Remote Study?

The effectiveness of your Tier 4 Visa depends on the stage of your visa application and when you intend to travel to the UK. If your visa has been approved but you are unsure if you will be able to travel to the UK for the rest of your course, you should continue to work on your studies remotely until the situation becomes clearer. The other alternative, in case you have applied for a visa but have not yet submitted your fingerprints/photo, you can cancel your application and receive a refund if you are unable to go to the UK.

9. Can Distance Learning Affect My Graduate Route Eligibility?

To be eligible for the Graduate route in the UK, students must generally complete their studies in the United Kingdom. However, if students are obliged by COVID-19 to continue their existing studies or begin a new course through distance learning from abroad, they will still be eligible to switch into the Graduate route if they fulfill the other conditions of the route and a concession applies.

10. Can I Defer My Course?

The most adequate answer will be given if you speak with your school. In case your school approves this request, but you have not applied for a student visa, it is not a good choice to proceed with it since your CAS will expire. On another note, if your school agrees to the deferral and you have filed for your visa, the University will notify UKVI that your visa is no longer needed. Your visa will be revoked and no longer valid for admission into the UK. You will not be reimbursed for your visa application or the Immigration Health Surcharge.

11. Are Universities Helping Self-Isolating Students?

The checklist of Universities UK has had a positive approach towards the support of students who are required to self-isolate. Self-isolation and regular testing are essential for limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Universities understand that it might be difficult for students to isolate themselves. This might be due to issues with their continuous learning, difficulty obtaining supplies, difficulties with their home and income, or difficulties accessing help for their health and wellness.

12. What Should I Do if I’m Facing Financial Difficulties?

If you are experiencing financial issues, notify your education provider or Students’ Union and ask if they can assist you in any way. The Office for Students defines international students as vulnerable, which means you should be assured suitable housing, timely access to hardship funding if necessary, and assistance with purchasing food, cleaning supplies, and medical supplies. Your country’s embassy or high commission may also be able to assist you or connect you with persons and organizations that can.

If you are unable to pay your tuition, rent, or other expenditures, education and housing providers should be accommodating, so contact them as soon as you suspect you may be experiencing issues. Educational institutions may also have hardship funds. They do not often publicize their hardship funds, so contact them personally if you cannot find any information on their website or elsewhere.

13. Am I Eligible for Public Funds as a Tier 4 Student in the UK?

Being a Tier 4 student visa holder means that you can study and work as a student union sabbatical officer. However, you cannot claim public funds or pensions, work in certain occupations, such as professional sportsperson or sports coach, be self-employed or attend an academy or a school supported by the local government (also known as a maintained school).

14. What If I Can’t Return to My Home Country Due to COVID-19?

If you intended to leave the UK to return to a nation or territory but were unable to do so, and you have a visa, leave, or ‘extraordinary assurance’ that expires before 31 January 2022, you may apply for an extended time to remain, known as ‘exceptional assurance.’ This responds to people whose place of residency is red-listed, or in extraordinary instances when you may be unable to return to a country or territory because that nation’s borders have been blocked or quarantine facilities are temporarily over-subscribed.

Worth noting that ‘exceptional assurance’ does not entitle you to leave. It is a safeguard for persons who cannot leave the UK due to COVID-19 limitations, not a way of facilitating travel other than to return home.

15. Can My Student Sponsor Withdraw Sponsorship? 

There are only two cases in which a student sponsor must report you or withdraw sponsorship according to The Home Office Advice for Worker, Temporary Worker, and Student sponsors:

  • If a student withdraws from their studies permanently or defers their studies for a period of more than 60 days, [the student sponsor] must notify this as normal.
  • If a student does not participate in their distance learning for more than 30 days, whether in the UK or abroad, [the student sponsor] must discontinue funding.

16. What Should I Do if I Have to Leave the UK Earlier Due to COVID-19?

If you need to leave the UK sooner than intended for whatever reason, you must notify your educational institution. It is critical that they are aware of what you are doing. This is not only due to their responsibilities to the Home Office; they also need to know if you are well or if you require any assistance.

If your reason for leaving is related to Coronavirus (COVID-19), and you inform the Home Office that you expect to return to the UK to finish your studies at some time in the future, then your student sponsor should not report your departure to the Home Office.

17. What Are the Eviction Rules for Private Accommodation?

Rules on private accommodation eviction have returned to pre-pandemic levels (as of 1 October 2021), as the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government announced on 8 September 2021. Notice periods have undergone several changes ever since the beginning of the pandemic.

18. Will I Be Able to Get My International Qualifications (e.g., English Language Test Scores)?

Many accredited Secure English Language Test (SELT) centers have now reopened.

The safe English language test suppliers, IELTS, Trinity College London, Pearson PTE, LanguageCert, and PSI Services (Skills for English), as well as all other test providers, provide information on their websites regarding their arrangements and any test centers that have reopened.

19. Can I Cancel My Visa Due to COVID-19?

You have a good possibility of canceling or withdrawing your visa. If you do so before a decision is made on your application, you will receive a refund of the immigration health surcharge. Furthermore, depending on the stage of your application when you cancel, you may be eligible for a refund of your application fee.

There are two possible occurrences if you cancel your application. The first one is that you cannot stop the cancellation once it has been received by UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI). And the second one is that you may lose your permission to stay here if you’re in the UK. 

20. What Should I Do If My 90-Day Student Visa Vignette Has Expired?

You must submit a paid application for a vignette transfer by filling out the online form. The fee for replacing an expired 90-day vignette is £154, and you must schedule an appointment to resubmit your biometric details. This corresponds if you have been unable to travel to the UK due to coronavirus but have been following your studies remotely from abroad and intend to fly to the United Kingdom to pursue the same course. Also, If you have finished an eligible course through distance learning under coronavirus concessions and will be in the UK by the relevant date, you may apply under the Graduate route.

On the other hand, if your 90-day visa vignette has ended and you have postponed your course start date due to coronavirus but have been unable to finish your studies remotely — implying that your course cannot be completed during your current visa term — and you now plan to go to the UK, you will need to submit a new paid student visa application along with a new Certificate of Acceptance of Study (CAS). The same norm applies if you can still complete your study within the periods covered by your current visa term, but the end date of your course has changed, and you would need a new visa with a revised end date. Additionally, you must schedule an appointment to resubmit your biometric information.

21. How Will Summer Exams Be Graded in 2022?

For the summer of 2022, plans have been made to assist students and make exams more equitable. The government has introduced a choice of themes or material in some GCSE tests, and exam boards will publish prior information about the focus of exam content, aiming to provide revision help for pupils ahead of summer exams, and study aids will be permitted in some exams.

Exam boards will establish grade boundaries in 2022 based on a profile that represents a middle ground between 2021 and pre-pandemic grading.

22. What If Summer Exams Cannot Take Place in 2022? 

The Department for Education and Ofqual revealed contingency arrangements for students on 11 November in the improbable event that examinations in England cannot be held in 2022 because of the pandemic. 

The government aims to hold exams in the upcoming summer. However, if they are unable to proceed safely or fairly owing to the pandemic, contingency plans will be put in place to ensure that schools and colleges are adequately equipped to allow students to complete their certificates. 

Furthermore, exams will be modified in the upcoming summer to account for the disruption to schooling caused by COVID-19 and to maximize fairness for students. These include a choice of themes for some GCSE examinations as well as prior information on the emphasis of other tests to aid students’ revision.

23. I Have Lost My Part-Time Job, Where Can I Ask for Financial Assistance?

Many students work in the UK while pursuing their degrees. COVID-19 has also impacted student jobs and finances. Worrying about money might have a bad impact on your education. If you are experiencing issues, you should notify your institution. The first step is to describe your situation to someone else. You should attempt to contact your International Student Adviser, academic tutor, Welfare Officer, or someone from your Students’ Union. They may be able to offer solutions to your problems and provide you with useful information and guidance.

24. What Are UK Universities Doing to Help International Students?

Ever since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, the higher education sector has been working to ensure that their students are safe and their education faces as few disruptions as possible. The UK higher education sector has been following government advice ever since the beginning by avoiding face-to-face teaching and switching to online classes. In addition, the vast majority of UK universities are continuously keeping their students informed by updating their websites and FAQs sections, as well as providing student support services at all times.

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