I am an Australian student going on exchange to the UK for six months. I am intending on travelling prior to the commencement of my studies. As a condition of my student visa I am unable to enter the UK until 1 week before my studies commence. I was wondering if I can enter the UK as a tourist (approx. six weeks before study) then travel around Europe and come back into the UK on my student visa one week before I start studying? Or would I have to go back to Australia first?
I am in exactly the same boat: arriving 7 weeks before my course starts from Australia.
From what I have heard, as long as you can prove at immigration when you enter the UK that you are leaving before the start of your student visa, and have a good reason as to why you can come in beforehand, it should be okay.
However, I don't know anyone who has done this, and none of my Google searches have proved fruitful, so I am hoping that it will be OK. I hope this makes sense!
A tourist visa would allow you to enter the UK and stay for up to three months. If you wanted to travel six weeks through the UK with a tourist visa, then stay six months with your student visa, that would seem very dodgy to me and I wouldn't try unless you get some official confirmation that it is fine. (The reason why I think it's dodgy is because you enter with a tourist visa with the intent to stay 7 1/2 months).
Entering the UK with a tourist visa and then travelling through Europe, returning to the UK when your student visa allows it, should be fine.
As an Australian citizen you can come to the UK as a visitor for 6 month. On arrival be honest with the border guard, tell him/her you are coming in as a tourist, leaving the country and coming back on a student visa and you will be fine. I have learnt from past experience to just always be honest with border officials and you will be fine. I'd also advise you show proof of you planned travel to Europe like flights and hotel itinerary.
What you don't want to do is not mention your studies and the border officer find out about them, then it will look like you are up to something.
Enjoy your holiday and studies in the UK and the rest of Europe.