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International Students


Below is a step-by-step guide on how to apply for entry clearance from outside the UK. If you are considering bringing dependants then please read the information on 'Bringing Your Family'

We have also produced a guidance document which provides advice on certain aspects of the Tier 4 visa application form (entry clearance only).

The Visa Advice Service will also be holding regular webinars for students applying for Tier 4 from outside of the UK. For more information please click here

Step 1: Obtain ATAS Clearance

Any student requiring a Tier 4 (General) visa undertaking a PhD-level research degree or Masters course in certain science and technology subjects requires an ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) clearance certificate. Your offer letter will confirm if you require ATAS. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) manages this scheme.

You must apply online to the FCO, using a statement provided by your supervisor. The application is free and you can apply when you have a conditional offer. You must receive an ATAS Certificate before applying for the Tier 4 visa. The FCO advises that it considers complete applications within 20 working days. The University monitors the outcome of your application.

Graduate Admissions provide details of the ATAS process for new graduate students and graduate students continuing on to a new graduate course.

Current students should contact the International Student Team.

Step 2: Obtain a CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies)

The University will only issue you with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) once you have met all the conditions of your offer. The Graduate Admissions Office prepares and issues the CAS for new graduate students and graduate students continuing to a new graduate course. The International Student Team prepares all other CAS.

We have developed a checklist to help you prepare your Tier 4 visa application. In addition to your CAS Statement, which we will send to you by email, you will also receive some information notes which provide further guidance with the application process and explain what is required from you whilst you hold a Tier 4 visa. It is your responsibility to understand what you commit to undertake whilst holding a Tier 4 visa.


  • If your visa application is refused, you must request another CAS as a CAS can only be used once. A new CAS will only be issued upon receipt of your full refusal notice and if the University is satisfied you will be able to meet the requirements for a new visa application.
  • You can only apply for your visa within 3 months of the course start date, even if you receive your CAS earlier than this.
  • You should make sure that all of the details in your CAS are correct and let the team who sent you your CAS know of any errors.


Step 3: When, where and how to apply

When- You must apply for your Tier 4 visa before you commence your studies at Cambridge. You can only apply for your visa within 3 months of your course start date even if you receive your CAS earlier than this. Visa processing times vary according to when you apply and where from. The Home Office provides information on current visa processing times at your nearest visa application centre.

Where- You should apply for your Tier 4 visa in your country of nationality or where you usually live.

How- In most countries an applicant will complete an online application form, pay the application fee and then attend a visa application centre to submit their supporting documents and enrol their biometrics (see step 6). The cost of submitting a Tier 4 visa application will increase from the 18 March 2016 to £328 per applicant

Applicants applying for a Tier 4 visa for 6 months or more will be issued with an entry permit in their passport. The permit will be valid for 30 days starting 1 month before the course start date or 7 days before the intended travel date stated on the application form, whichever is later. You will need to enter the UK during the period stated on the permit and then collect your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) within 10 days of arriving in the UK. The BRP is your UK visa and will confirm the duration of your immigration permission. You will be able to collect your BRP from the University but in order to do this, you must enter a particular code in the relevant section of your visa application. Guidance on this part of the application form can be found in the application guidance document at the top of this page. If you do not use this code in your application, you will need to collect your BRP from a designated Post Office within 10 days of your arrival in the UK. Further information about collecting your BRP is outlined on our pre-arrival webpages

Step 4: Healthcare surcharge

Applicants coming to the UK for 6 months or longer will be required to pay an immigration health surcharge of £150 per year as part of their visa application in order to access healthcare services in the UK. If the leave includes part of a year that is 6 months or less, the amount payable for that year would be £75. Any Tier 4 dependant will also be required to pay the surcharge.

 Once payment has been made, you will receive a reference number starting with 'IHS'.

The immigration health surcharge will entitle Tier 4 students to access NHS care in the UK free of charge in the same way as a permanent UK resident. This includes at the Doctor's surgery (known as General Practitioner or GP), a Healthcare Centre or in a hospital. You may need to pay for dental and optical treatment as well as medicine prescribed by the doctor and collected from a pharmacy. There are also exceptions for particularly expensive discretionary treatments.

If your visa application is not successful, you will automatically be refunded the immigration health surcharge (but not the visa application fee).

Step 5: TB Screening

You will need to take a Tuberculosis (TB) test if you are coming to the UK for more than 6 months and have lived for at least 6 months in one of the countries specified by the Home Office in the period immediately preceding your visa application. The list of countries can be found on the Home Office website.

The test will involve being given a chest x-ray. If the test shows that you don’t have TB, you will be given a certificate which is valid for 6 months and must be submitted with your visa application.

Please note that this test relates to the country in which you are applying and not your nationality.

Step 6: Additional supporting documents and differentiation arrangements

You will need to provide a number of documents to support your application. You must provide these documents in order for your application to be considered by the UKVI and they must be the originals.

The supporting documents include your passport(s), two passport photographs, TB certificate (if applicable), ATAS certificate (if applicable),evidence of the qualifications outlined on your CAS (e.g. academic transcript) and proof of your ability to pay your course fees and maintenance.

Financial evidence

You must be able to prove that you have sufficient funds to cover your first year course fees plus 1015GBP in maintenance for each month of your course up to a maximum of 9 months.

You must ensure that your financial documentation meets the specific Tier 4 requirements. You are advised to use our Tier 4 Financial Checker tool to help determine the financial evidence you require as part of your visa application based on your circumstances. 

The Home Office outlines the specific documents you will need to provide including the types of acceptable financial evidence you can submit and the definition of an official financial sponsor. It is important you read the Tier 4 Policy Guidance in good time to ensure you fully understand the requirements and make the necessary preparations.

Please note: The Financial Undertaking Form you sign as part of the conditions of your admission to the University is different to the requirements of the Home Office. You cannot submit this form as evidence that you have the required funds available to you.

Nationals subject to differentiation arrangements

You are subject to the Home Office differentiation arrangements if you are a national of one of the countries listed in Appendix H of the Immigration Rules and are applying in that country. This means that you do not need to provide certain supporting documents with your visa application including your financial evidence and academic qualifications. However the Home Office is entitled to ask for these documents during the consideration process and failure to provide them within a specified time frame could result in your application being refused. You are therefore advised to have the evidence available to you at the time of making your visa application.

As the University of Cambridge is participating in a Tier 4 visa pilot scheme, all students applying for a visa to undertake a Masters course of 13 months or less is subject to the differentation arrangements.


Step 7: Attend a visa application centre

In most countries you have to complete an online application form and then attend a visa application centre in order to enrol your biometrics (have your fingerprints and a facial image taken), submit your supporting documents (see steps 5 and 6 for more information) and in some cases attend an interview. Applicants from the US attend a biometrics appointment and must then send a print out of the online application and supporting documents to the British Consulate General in New York within the timeframe specified on the biometric confirmation sheet.

Most students will be asked to attend a 'credibility interview'. These interviews are held when you lodge your application and take place, via a video link, with a visa officer based in the UK. This takes about 10 to 15 minutes. The questions will focus on your chosen course of study and reasons for studying in the UK and will be conducted in English. The transcript of the interview will be included with your application form and other supporting documents and will be an additional piece of evidence to help the visa officer assess your visa application.

Step 8: Collect and check your visa

Once you have collected your BRP, check that it has:

  • The correct start and end date (you should receive the length of the course plus 4 months for courses of more than 12 months or length of course plus 2 months for courses between 6 and 12 months);
  • Either the University’s Sponsor License number (4NUV7KB58) or your CAS number.
  • Your correct personal details

You should take your BRP to your College as soon as you collect it so that a copy can be uploaded onto your student record. Only then can you begin your studies.

REMEMBER: Keep your passport and BRP safe. Take copies of both before travelling and keep secure in a different place to your originals.


If you receive your visa under the old system of a vignette in your passport and you think that an error has been made on your visa, such as you have not been given as much leave as you are entitled to or your name or sponsor license number is incorrect, your visa can be amended free of charge. Please contact the International Student Team as soon as you spot the error.

If your receive your visa under the new system, if you spot an error in your permit or BRP letter before you to travel to the UK please contact your Visa Application Centre. They will then issue instructions on how to correct the error. If the error is on your BRP card please contact the International Student Team.

If your visa is refused inform the International Student Team’s Visa Advice Service immediately. Only this office can inform you of the options available to you.

Step 9: When can I come to Cambridge?

You should make sure to arrive in the UK before your 30 day permit expires.The permit will usually be valid from one month before your course starts. If you are coming for less than six months, and are not on a pre-sessional course, you can only enter the UK up to seven days before the course start date.

You should arrive at Cambridge by the date given as the ‘Course start date’ in your CAS, and certainly by the ‘latest arrival date’.

You should inform your College if you are delayed, providing the new date of your arrival and the reason for the delay.

For information on your responsibilities under Tier 4 whilst you are at Cambridge please read the ‘Your responsibilities under Tier 4 guide’.

REMINDER: Please note that if you are required to have a visa and you do not already have current valid leave you cannot arrive in the UK until the visa application process has been completed and you have a 30 day permit in your passport. If you try to enter the UK before you have your permit it is likely that you will either not be permitted entry to the UK or you will be granted entry as a tourist which does not allow you to study

Where to find more information


Home Office

We Are International has produced two videos to explain the Tier 4 student visa application process for students applying from China and India.

Contact us

The University's International Student Team provides a Visa Advice Service and can assist with queries in relation to your Tier 4 visa application. However, it is your responsibility to make sure you understand and meet the UK immigration requirements.