A Warm Welcome to the UK

The Advice Centre recognises that deciding to study abroad as an international student is a big step and a significant undertaking.  We are here to welcome you and we will support you throughout your time at the RVC.  The information on the Advice Centre site is for all students including international students, however, we have added resources of specific interest to international students on the following pages. 

The UK Council for for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has worked since 1968 to support international students and the institutions and organisations who work with them. The UKCISA website is the go-to resource for all issues regarding the international student experience. They provide an extensive Info and Advice page that has the most up-to-date information regarding visas and immigration, fees and practical matters. 

The Great British Mag is a digital magazine that offers valuable insights to those students interested in coming to the UK and to those already here. Their website is packed with informative and helpful articles on every facet of life in the UK as an international student. 

The International Student House (ISH) is a charity dedicated to International and British students in London. They offer a wealth of facilities and social events as well as affordable accommodation for singles, couples and families.  Located less than half an hour's walk or 10 minutes on the bus from the RVC Camden Campus, ISH offers a Travel Club, student bar and gym facilities as well as a scholarship programme and a hardship fund for residents. There are loads of things to do every evening too, and it's very reasonable for London!

If you have any suggestions or other information that you feel would be useful to add or that you think would be helpful, please let the Advice Centre know. Your contributions and suggestions are always valued and appreciated.  Email us at: advice@rvc.ac.uk    

Visa Support

As a Higher Education Institute, The RVC is exempt, by ministerial order, from having to apply for authorisation to give immigration advice.

However, we do have to comply with the Code of Standards set by the Office of Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC).The Code of Standards outlines what is required of advisers when providing immigration advice or immigration services. 

The requirements of the code vary according to the level of advice being provided. The RVC is able to provide advice and service at the ‘General Help’ level. We can provide assistance with:

  1. basic applications for entry clearance and leave to enter or remain, such as student visas
  2. basic applications for registration and naturalisation as a British Citizen
  3. basic applications relating to EU and EEA immigration law, such as residence permits

The OISC Code states that only named advisers are permitted to give advice. 

The RVC’s named adviser is: Sylvia Simpson (International Student Adviser) email: ssimpson@rvc.ac.uk   phone: 01707 66 7140

The International Student Adviser can provide free and confidential advice to current and prospective students on range of issues including welfare and personal issues, immigration and visa advice and information on UK culture. 

The RVC is a member of UKCISA and as such, the Adviser has access to support in the form of training, regular briefings and the UKCISA telephone advice line.

The Adviser will offer advice in good faith, based on the information provided by you. She will make every effort to ensure that the advice offered is accurate but as immigration regulations, procedures and contact information can frequently change, it is important that you also refer to the UK Visas & Immigration and UKCISA websites for up to date information. 

The Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)

Since 2015 UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) have been issuing student visa holders with a Biometric Resident Permit (BRP) for periods of leave granted for 6 months or longer.

The BRP is a secure identity card which contains personal details and biometric information for those who have permission (a visa) to come to the UK for more than 6 months. You will be provided with a temporary visa sticker (vignette) in your passport which will enable you to enter the UK upon arrival.  The vignette is only valid for 30 days.  Once you have arrived in the UK, you will have 10 days to collect your BRP from the Post Office listed on the decision letter, or from the College if this was requested.

The RVC must have evidence that you have received your BRP in order to finalise your enrolment process.

If you lose your BRP inside the UK

  • If your lost or stolen BRP was valid for 3 months or more, report it and order a replacement online. You must do this within 3 months of losing it.
  • You can be fined up to £1,000 and made to leave the UK if you do not apply for a replacement within 3 months.

If you lose your BRP outside the UK

Health and Wellbeing

Disabilities and Learning Differences

In the UK, a disability is defined as a physical or mental health condition that has lasted for 12 months or more and affects an individual's ability to function on a day to day basis. The RVC can offer help and support to students with a long-term diagnosis so that they can flourish as independent learners.

If you have been diagnosed with a disability or learning difference in your home country, you may want to disclose this information to the College before you arrive in order to ensure that the appropriate support is in place once you are here. 

  • You can contact our Disability Adviser at disability@rvc.ac.uk to discuss the support that may be available to you once you have begun your course at the RVC. 
  • Be sure to provide recent evidence and documentation from your health professional in order to avoid any delay in managing your support options. 
  • If you are on regular medication, be sure to bring at least one month's supply of your prescription - but preferably three months if at all possible.  There may be some discrepancy between drug regulations in the UK and your home country.  Having a reasonable supply of your usual medication will help to avoid any additional stress when changing countries with a health issue.

Immigration Health Surcharge

Since 2015, all student visa applicants coming to the UK for more than 6 months are required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge as part of the application process.  This surcharge is intended to cover the cost of your NHS treatment.  The cost is based on the full length of your visa and not the length of your course.  


The National Health Service (NHS) is the umbrella term for the publicly funded healthcare system in the UK.

In order to access health care in the UK you will need to register with a GP (General Practitioner) when you arrive and the RVC will help you with this process during induction.

Most medical practices offer online registration which is completed upon in-person presentation of identifying documentation. You will be allocated an NHS number once you have registered with a GP practice

  • Your GP practice is always your first point of contact for any physical or mental health issue.
  • If you require immediate medical assistance or are at risk of serious harm please call 999.
  • Call 111 for 24 hour support for medical help and advice. If you are not sure where to go for your illness or injury, ask them.
  • Not all dental practices take NHS patients so be sure to check before making an appointment.
  • Eye care is provided by opticians on the high street and there will be a minimal cost for an eye check (usually under £20)

Staying Healthy

Coming to live and study in a different country can be an exciting but also overwhelming experience. You may experience low mood as part of the transition to life as an international student and this is quite common and understandable. Taking proactive steps to look after your physical and mental health can make a difference in ensuring that you have a positive and successful university experience and the Advice Centre is here to support you with every step of your journey. 

Below are some online resources that you might find helpful: 

  • UKCISA have put together an overview of mental health support in the UK.
  • Mind is the foremost mental health charity and they have drawn up a glossary of drugs and treatments terminologies in the UK.
  • The Mental Health Foundation have published guidance on talking to your GP about mental health which may be a different approach than in your home country. 
  • Scottish Public Health and the NHS have some information on Culture Shock which refers to the process of adjusting to a new cultural environment.
  • The RVC Students Union is a lively and important presence on campus! They offer a wide range of clubs, societies and events to help keep you engaged and active within the College Community. 

Money and Financial Support

If you are unsure about any aspect of your finances while at the RVC, please contact our Student Money Adviser at moneymatters@rvc.ac.uk

Budgeting for your studies

According to research by UKCISA, finance is the number one concern for international students. Of those who had experienced hardship, 72% said they underestimated the cost of living. Only 25% of students took out possessions insurance, which is a concern as students are often targeted by thieves.  Many international students also have unrealistic expectations of how much time they can spend working.

The Money and Budgeting page on the Study UK site from the British Council offers a guide to university costs from Which? magazine to help you find out more about living in the UK as a student. 

The MoneySavingExpert site offers a student budgeting planner with essential tools and tips to help you get your budget organised.


Opening A Bank Account

International students are unable to open a UK bank account until they have enrolled at the RVC at the start of the course i.e. in September. You should be able to open a 'basic bank account' with any number of high street banks which will provide access to essential banking facilities in the UK

Important to know: 

  • Once enrolled, the letter of introduction will be available for you to download and print from Rover (our online student information portal). 
  • You can then take the letter, your passport/visa/BRP and evidence of your address e.g. your tenancy agreement, to an appointment at your preferred bank to open the account - banks usually require several bits of documentation.
  • Some banks will require you to make an appointment to open an account, or to complete the process if you have registered online. It may take a few weeks to get your account fully set up.
  • Your debit card and pin number will be sent to you in the post, so you will need a confirmed UK address.
  • Make sure to bring sufficient funds to cover initial expenses for your first month in the UK.

Council Tax

Council tax is a charge levied on households by local authorities in the UK to pay for local civic services. 

  • As a full time registered student, you are exempt from paying council tax.
  • Once you are registered, you will be able to download a Council Tax Exemption form from Rover to present to your local council should you be billed for council tax. 

Beware of Scams! 

Unfortunately international students are often seen as a soft target by criminals. 

  • Never give your bank account details to anyone unless you are 100% confident that you know and trust them. 
  • If you are contacted by someone and it seems unusual, unexpected or just odd, end the call/communication immediately.
  • If you believe you have been involved in a scam, immediately inform the Police by calling 101. You should also report the incident to Action Fraud.
  •  If money is involved, call your bank or debit card provider who may be able to freeze transactions or else advise you on the next steps.

Working While You Study

International students on a student visa are permitted to work up to 20 hours a week during term-time.

UKVI defines a week as being Monday - Sunday.  All international students are permitted to work full-time during official College holidays as long as your visa or identity card does not prohibit work.  The dissertation period is considered term time for MSc students.  

To be considered eligible for work you should have one of the following printed on your student visa: 

  • No recourse to public funds. Work 20 hrs max in term time
  • No recourse to public funds. Work 10 hours max in term time
  • No recourse to public funds. Work/Business as in Tier 4 rules

You must not exceed the stated limits on your visa under any circumstances as a breach of these rules could result in your Tier 4 visa being cancelled and your withdrawal from the RVC. As your visa sponsor, the RVC is required by law to inform UKVI if we are aware that you are working in breach of your visa conditions.  

Your National Insurance Number

If you decide to take employment while you study you will need to register for a National Insurance Number.  The rate that you pay income tax and national insurance contributions are determined by your legal status.  Registering for a National Insurance Number will ensure that you are taxed appropriately.  Please note that you can only apply for a National Insurance Number once you are in the UK. You can register here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-national-insurance-number      

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