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I am a US citizen who booked a flight in December 2023 to visit a friend in the UK from July 11 to August 7, 2024. In January, I decided to apply to study in the UK, starting in September 2024.

Today, I received an offer for one of the programs, conditional on my ability to get a study visa. Upon researching visas further, I found that I cannot enter the country earlier than one month prior to my start date.

Because I had this trip scheduled and booked before I applied to these programs, I figured I could maybe still get into the UK, at the very least, to catch a flight into the EU where my friend and I could spend our time together.

I have reached out to immigration, who has been absolutely 0 help, saying that I am essentially at the mercy of the Border Force once I fly out. This is a very risky situation for me, as I would be traveling 16 hours to possibly be sent back to the US.

So I'm hoping someone can advise me on what I should do and if there are any shared experiences here (I'm sure there are).

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    I suspect that if you read the visa research in more detail it probably says "you cannot enter the country using your student visa earlier than one month". Mar 11 at 21:56

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I'm hoping someone can advise me on what I should do

As a US citizen you can enter the UK visa-free in order to visit your friend, then exit to a nearby country eg France, and return to the UK using your student visa.

You can’t change status from a Visitor to a Student while in the UK (see Immigration Rules ST 1.4.). Applying from outside the UK the earliest you can apply for a Student visa is 6 months before you start your course. That gives you more than enough time to apply and get the decision and your passport back before 11 July.

If you’ve not done so already, reading the Student Caseworker guidance would probably be a good idea.

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