Arriving in the UK

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Travelling to a new and unknown destination can be daunting. Fortunately, British educational institutions and other organizations offer great resources to help students adjust to life in the UK more easily. Proactive research and planning can also help students settle in to their home more easily, and have a safe and rewarding study experience. Here are a few tips and a checklist to make sure the student is prepared before the board their plane to the UK.

Student Checklist

  • A Valid Passport and Visa: Bring all visa documentation along with a valid passport. We also recommend keeping multiple copies of the passport and visa documentation.
  • Student Enrolment Documents: Students should bring a paper copy of the Confirmation of Acceptance (CAS) they would have received from the institution.
  • Luggage: Pack according to the weather and permitted baggage allowance, and avoid all the restricted items. Learn more in the What to Bring section of this course.
  • Voltage Converter and Travel Adaptor: Students may need a voltage converter if their appliances do no not work on same mains voltage as the UK (230V 50Hz). A power adaptor is needed if appliances have a different plug than the ones used in Australian wall socket.
  • Flights/Airfare: Book a flight in time to arrive for orientation, and keep a record of the flight booking and bring it along to the airport. 
  • Transportation from the Airport: Obtain ground transportation from the airport to accommodation. Some colleges and universities may offer free pickup so be sure to check.
  • Accommodations: Plan out the accommodations (secure a place to live), and keep the address, phone number, and lease agreement/payment confirmation with you. Learn more about how to secure your accomodations in the Living in the UK section of this guide.
  • Contact Details: Create an emergency contact list, as well as your embassy, accommodation and institution details.
  • Medication and Toiletries: Learn how to travel with medication and what documentation the student needs to bring with them.
  • Local Currency: Consider bringing small amounts of Euros (~€500) with you. Monetary Instruments, including cash and traveller’s cheques, valuing at or more €10,000 (or its foreign equivalent) must be declared at customs. Learn more.

What to Bring

Before packing, an incoming student should:

  • Verify luggage restrictions with their airline
  • Pack for the weather by researching the temperatures in the city of stay and packing accordingly
  • Check which items the UK government does not permit through customs (eg. animals, plants, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat products, controlled substances, etc.).

Carry-On Items

Upon arrival, students will be asked to show their travel documents to the Border Control Officers for clearance before then can exit the airport. Students must keep these items, and any other related study documentation, in their carry-on luggage. Checked luggage is collected after the student passes the border clearance.

We recommend keeping the following items in the carry-on:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid study visa
  • Confirmation of Acceptance (CAS)
  • Original or certified copies of your academic transcripts and qualifications
  • Other personal identification documents, e.g. birth certificate, ID card, driver’s licence
    medical records and/or prescriptions
  • Important telephone numbers and addresses in home country and in Australia
    Details of accommodations, including proof of payment (if payment was made)

Arrival at a UK Airport

Upon arrival at the airport, follow signs for “Arrival”, which will take the student to Passport Control where they will clear customs.

At the Customs area, enter the line for non-UK passport holders, and wait to meet with an Immigration Officer. Present the officer with the passport and visa documents. Students should also bring a copy of their CAS, residence information, and financial details as an officer may ask for them.

After clearing customs, students can collect their baggage and exit the airport. If the student has any food, pet animal, cash of €10,000 or more (or the equivalent in another currency), or any other items to declare at customs, they will do so after collecting the baggage, but before exiting the airport.

Common Questions Asked at Arrivals

The Immigration Officer will ask students some questions to ensure that the student is coming for genuine study and that they intend to leave the UK after completing their studies. Students should be able to explain your their plans clearly without having to use an interpreter.

Below is a list of common questions that students may be asked by an Immigration Officer when they arrive at the airport:

  • What is your name?
  • Where are you from? What is your home address?
  • What is your mother’s and father’s name?
  • What is your date and place of birth?
  • What university are you going to attend in the UK?
  • What course are you going to study and how long is the course?
  • What are your plans after completing the program?
  • Who packed your bag(s)? Do you know what’s inside the bags?
  • How much cash are you carrying with you?
  • Do you have relatives/friends/family in the UK? If yes, where do they live? If no, where will you stay?
  • Is someone coming to pick you up at the Airport?

Students should respond to all the questions asked by the Immigration Officer with simple and clear answers. If the student does not understand the question, ask the officer for clarification.
Once the officer is satisfied with the student’s responses, they will date-stamp the student’s passport to confirm that the student meets the immigration requirements to study in the UK.

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Navigating the Airport

Many airports have arrival guides on their websites. We highly recommend students research the airport they will be landing in to get themselves familiar. The 10 most frequently accessed airports in the UK are:

Airport Pick-Up and Transportation

Some colleges and universities offer students a free pick up service from the airport. Students should check with their institution, and arrange pick up if possible. Students can also arrange their own transportation from the airport to their accommodation.

Available Transportation Options

  • Taxi: Most airports have a designated area where visitors can get a taxi; no prior booking required. Students can check if the airport they will be arriving at has a designated taxi area. Otherwise, they can arrange a taxi to pick them up by searching for local taxi companies on Google.
  • Uber, Kapten, and Bolt: Ridesharing applications are commonly used in the UK. However, there are some limitations on where one can be picked up at the airport. Furthermore, Uber was banned in the city of London in November 2019. View ride availability by searching within the apps.
  • Private/Rental Car: Students can rent a car at the airport provided that they have a valid driver’s license. Many car rental companies, such as Avis, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz and Budget have offices at the airport. Students should make a reservation prior to their arrival to ensure a car that fits their needs and budget will be available. Note that some car rental companies do not rent cars to those under 21 or 23 so be sure to check ahead before booking the car.

Payment

Students can pay for their transportation at the end of the ride using a debit or credit card that works in the UK, or in cash with euros. If the transportation was pre-booked, students can often also pay through the transportation provider’s website or through their smartphone app.

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Adjusting to Life in the UK

The British welcome international students with open arms, and hundreds of thousands of international students study in the UK happily and safely. However, it is natural to feel homesick from time to time.

The UK universities provide a wide range of support services to make your study experience easy and stress-free. These include: language and academic support; designated international student advisers; on-arrival reception and orientation programs; student accommodation; employment services; prayer and worship rooms; on-campus banking, shopping and food outlets; and, clubs, societies, and sport and fitness facilities. There are also many activities on-campus to help international students get to know other students, make friends and explore their new city and country.

Students should take the time to explore their neighbourhood and attend local events, while remembering to stay in touch with their own culture and their family back home and embracing the best of both worlds.