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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.

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    For most courses of study, the student requires a student visa even with visa-exempt nationality, so I suspect you'll need a visa. You'll probably get a better answer at Expatriates. – phoog Jan 22 at 14:46
  • One or two days per week might get you suspected of trying to live in the UK through successive visits. Also, the rules for spouses of EU citizens will probably change after March 29th (the scheduled Brexit day) in ways we cannot predict yet. – o.m. Jan 22 at 16:11
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    @o.m. EU spouse rules are irrelevant to this case, because they aren't traveling or reuniting with their family member, so they will need to fulfill the non-EU visa requirements whether it's before or after Brexit. – MJeffryes Jan 22 at 16:51
  • @MJeffryes, they're living in the UK right now. If they marry before Brexit, does the non-EU partner have an option to apply for residency? – o.m. Jan 22 at 16:54
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    @o.m. Marrying won't help, they need to live in the UK for 5 years to get residency. – MJeffryes Jan 22 at 17:04
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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.
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    What about the short term student route? – MJeffryes Jan 22 at 17:07
  • Visa free entry is six months per visit. For example, there's nothing in the rules that strictly two four-month visits starting in January and September, even though that means eight months in the UK during the 12-month calendar year. Staying in more than you stay out will raise red flags with immigration officers, of course, but it is not explicitly forbidden by the rules. For example, there is no calculation that forbids indefinitely alternating six-month visits with five-month absences. – phoog Jan 22 at 17:59
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    Good answer, except: "visa-free entry is not up to 6 months. It's up to 6 months in any given 12 month period" - this part is not correct for most (all?) visa-free nationalities. It's 6 months per visit. – jbg Jan 23 at 10:08
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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?

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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.

  • If you arrive on Sunday evening and leave on Tuesday evening (for example), is that "two days" or "three days" as far as immigration is concerned? If it's three days, then the OP is going to run out of days. – Martin Bonner Jan 22 at 18:43
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    @MartinBonner I think it's counted as distinct calendar days in which you're present in the UK, so your calculation is correct. – MJeffryes Jan 22 at 18:52

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