I hold a Malaysian passport and my partner is French. We are both living in the UK as a student. We plan to get married in the UK then move and settle in France for my partner's career. However, I am also interested to sign up for a 2 years part-time course in the UK after we moved to France. The course only requires me to physically present in the uni for one or two days a week. My planning is to travel to the UK from France for that one or 2 days every week. With a Malaysian passport, I have the allowance to stay in the UK up to 6 months without a visa but I do not know how does it work in this situation since I am not going to stay in the UK, instead I'm visiting the UK every week. Do I still need a visa and what kind of visa do I need? Your suggestion and advise are very much appreciated. Thank you.
This is risky at best. With visa-free entry, you would have the same status as a Visitor. As such, you would be permitted to undertake certain academic activities, including:
- going to a conference, meeting or training
- doing academic research
- accompanying students on a study abroad programme
You wouldn't, however, be permitted to "study". If your on-campus activities fall into the category of study, e.g. you're attending course lectures, handing in assignments, meeting with tutors and getting feedback, it's unlikely that it would be allowed. And while you might get away with it once or twice, I wouldn't want to be the person trying to do so every week.
Other things to note:
- Visa-free entry is not up to 6 months. It's up to 6 months in any given 12 month period, which for most people means that they need to stay away for as long as they visit. Entering the UK for two days a week shouldn't pose a problem in this regard.
- How are you planning to legally live in France? If you have the legal right to remain in France as a resident, this may open up an alternative route into studying in the UK.
- The institution offering the part-time course may ask about your immigration status.
Every time you enter and leave the UK, your passport will be stamped. The immigration officer will also look at your previous visits. If you're visiting twice a week for two years, or even once a week and staying overnight, that's going to be a lot of stamps and this might raise red flags for any immigration officer. Best to consult a lawyer. If you already have a Student visa, maybe the people who advised and assisted you with obtaining it could help here?
If you are studying at a UK university by distance learning, you are eligible to use the short term student route to visit the UK. Since you are a visa free national, you can apply for leave to enter the UK under this route at the border, each time you enter. In this case, your passport will be stamped with a short-term student stamp, which you should check before leaving the desk, since mistakes can happen. The criteria for the use of this route are:
An applicant who wishes to use short-term study to undertake distance learning in the UK must meet all of the following criteria. They must:
- be studying for the majority of their time outside of the UK for a UK qualification by distance learning
- be on a course that is longer than 6 months
- only enter the UK for limited periods, totalling no more than 56 days in the UK in any 6 month period - study completed during visits can include induction weeks, short periods of intensive face-to-face learning and exams or assessments
I believe that your university will need to confirm that your course is distance learning, perhaps in the form of a letter. It is not clear to me that a pattern of visiting two days every week is in keeping with intention of the route. You may contact the international office at your university to discuss this, but they might not be familiar with this entry route. In that case, you may need to engage your own immigration solicitor.
As with any visa free national, you could also apply for a visa (the short term study visa in this case) rather than seeking leave at the border, and this may be less stressful.