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From September 2004 the maximum time someone can stay in the UK to do successive short courses (under 1 year) below degree level is two years. For example, it will not be possible to obtain a visa extension for studying at a language school beyond two years.

The Home Office rules are shown here:

A "degree level" course is defined as "a course which leads to a recognised United Kingdom degree at bachelor's level or above, or an equivalent qualification at level 6 or above of the National Qualifications Framework, or levels 9 or above of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework.". For information about the levels of the National Qualifications Framework, see the National Database of Accredited Qualifications website:

- Required documents

The rules about extending your stay in the UK before the end of March 2009 are shown on this page of the Home Office's website:

You normally have to complete one of two forms. The forms sometimes change: make sure that you check that you are using the correct form (the last valid date may be shown on the front page).

The form FLR(S) ("Further Leave to Remain - as a Student") can be used if you are currently a full-time student in the UK and wish to extend your stay as a full-time student. See:

The form FLR(O) ("Further Leave to Remain - for Other reasons") needs to be used instead in many other circumstances. See:

Guidance notes on how to complete the form FLR(S) ("How to complete the Home Office student application form") are provided by UKCISA at: You can ask for advice about immigration from the international student adviser at your school, college or university. You can also get advice on completing the forms by telephoning the Immigration and Nationality Enquiry Bureau on 0870 606 7766.

Details of the documents you need to provide with your application form are given in the application forms. These are some of the documents which you should bring with you:

- Your passport

- Your police registration certificate, if the stamp in your passport states you need to have one

- A letter from your current school proving that you have attended your classes

- A letter from your future school, confirming that you have been accepted on a course of study and showing the fees and how much you have already paid

- Proof that you have enough money to finish your course. Original bank statements, passbooks or wage slips need to be supplied covering the last 3 months. Photocopies are not allowed, unless they have been certified by the bank or building society.

- Ways of applying

The two ways of applying for a student visa extension are:

(1) Applying by post

From 1 April 2007 the fee for postal applications for "leave to remain" is £295 for students.

If you are applying by post, always pay to use a recorded delivery service (see: Life/Post) and keep a note of the reference number you are given. Documents need to be sent to the address shown on the application form. The completed form and the required documents must be sent before the expiry date of your visa.

You will not have your passport until your application has been completed. You may prefer to apply directly at an immigration office instead (see below) if this is inconvenient: for example, if you need to go abroad for some reason, if you want to cash travellers cheques, or if you need to prove your identity for an exam. If you need your passport to be returned for some reason (for example, if you need to return home because of illness or for a funeral), it may take a couple of weeks for IND to locate it and send it back to you: you may be able to obtain it more quickly by visiting the public enquiry office directly, but remember to take the reference number of your recorded delivery so that they will be able to locate it (see: Prepare/Croydon).

You may want to ask your school for guidance about the visa extension process. Some schools organise a "batch scheme" which allows them to send several applications together at the same (this may be a safer and more efficient process), and some will look through your form to make sure that you haven't made any obvious errors.

Note: It is very important to make sure that you apply "in time" (before the expiry date of your visa). If you do not you are known as an "overstayer" and there is a high probability that when you apply to extend your stay you will be refused. Check the forms carefully before you send them. Note also that your application is not valid unless payment is made. For these reasons it is better to apply several weeks (eg 1 month) before the expiry date of your visa, not just before the expiry date.

Some students have had problems when paying the fee by credit or debit card. For example:

- an incorrect number may have been copied by the student or by the person processing the application

- the card company may not make the payment for some reason (eg your card has expired, you have gone above your allowed credit limit, the payment amount looks suspicious, your wallet is lost or stolen and need to cancel your card)

If your payment is refused and you do not make a new application before the expiry date of your visa, you may find that your application is refused because it is too late.

For these reasons it may be better to pay by using a "postal order".

(2) Going to the immigration office (a Public Enquiry Office)

From 1 April 2007 the fee for personal applications (the premium service) is £500.

For further information about visiting one of the Home Office's public enquiry offices, see: Prepare/Croydon.

Note that normally you must make an appointment before going to an immigration office. Make sure that you check that you have all of the correct documents and that you know how you can pay the fee when you are there.

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