skip to content

International Students


What is a short period of study?

Information on this page is relevant to students from outside of the UK or Ireland who will be undertaking the following types of study at Cambridge:

  • a short course where the duration is less than 6 months;
  • a short period of research as part of a degree at an overseas institution;
  • a medical elective placement linked to overseas study as part of a medicine degree;
  • a part-time degree course where attendance in Cambridge is only required for specified short periods and the majority of study is undertaken overseas;
  • a PhD student returning to the UK for their viva and to complete their studies;
  • a student granted an examination allowance to re-take part of their course or re-sit examination/s where the relevant period of study is less than 6 months.

This information is not relevant to students studying a full-time degree.

If you already have UK Immigration permission in another category you may be able to undertake a short period of study on that. You will need to provide evidence of this prior to starting at Cambridge.

Visitor Route

A short period of study, as outlined above, can be supported under the visitor immigration route.

A status as a visitor in the UK has the following restrictions:

  • You cannot take employment in the UK;
  • You cannot undertake a work placement/internship (paid/unpaid) as part of the course of study;
  • You cannot work on a self-employed basis in the UK or be involved in business activities;
  • You cannot extend your stay in the UK;
  • You must demonstrate you have the funds to support yourself during your studies in the UK.

Entry to the UK as a visitor is at the discretion of UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) based on information available to them. You can be issued a letter to support entry as a visitor for study purposes on applicable courses. Your host Faculty, Department or College will issue this letter, unless you are on a part-time research degree admitted via the Postgraduate Admissions Office, or PhD students returning for their viva, in which case the letter is issued by the International Student Office. The International Student Office can provide guidance on entering the UK as a visitor, but the University cannot accept responsibility for decisions made by UK Visas and immigration (UKVI).

If you are coming as a visitor to the UK, you are advised to take out private medical insurance for your visit unless your country has a reciprocal agreement with the UK which may entitle you to free healthcare. Further information is on the UKCISA website.

Applying for a visitor visa

Whether you need to apply for this visa in advance (prior to travelling to the UK) or whether you can request entry as a visitor at immigration control on arrival in the UK depends on your nationality:

Visa nationals

Students from certain countries, i.e. visa nationals, are required to apply for, and obtain, a visitor visa before travelling to the UK. The list of visa nationals is outlined in the Immigration Rules.

Information on the application, including the required supporting documents, is outlined on the Home Office website.

The visa letter issued by the University or College should be submitted as a supporting document with the application.

A standard visitor visa is usually granted for 6 months. Where you are studying a part-time course for longer than 6 months, this means you would need to reapply at the appropriate time during your studies for further visas to cover the full duration. It may be possible to request a longer-term visitor visa when you apply that covers the duration of your course, but please note that if this is granted as 2 year multiple-entry, or longer, it is not possible as a visitor on a course of more than 6 months to make the UK your main study location or residence, or make frequent or successive visits to stay in the UK for extended periods (see information below).

If you are a national of Qatar, you can apply for electronic travel authorisation (ETA) instead of a visitor visa. Nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia or UAE will be able to apply for an ETA from 1 February 2024. 

Non-visa nationals

If your country is not included on the list of visa nationals, you are not required to apply for a visa in advance of travelling to the UK. You can request entry as a visitor at immigration control on arrival. You may need to explain to a Border Force Officer the reasons for your stay in the UK and provide the visa letter issued by the University or your College. You will receive an entry stamp in your passport to reflect your visitor permission. 

Students from the EEA, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA can use the eGates on arrival in the UK and have automatic entry as a visitor if they do not already hold alternative permission. If you use the eGates you will not speak to Border Force or receive a stamp in your passport. You will be required to provide evidence of date of entry to the UK (e.g. your boarding pass or flight ticket) to your host Faculty, Department or College in order to verify your immigration status before commencing your studies.

On arrival at Cambridge

The University is required to verify the immigration status of students before allowing them to begin their studies, and to check the relevant documents and retain copies in accordance with Home Office requirements. Your host Faculty, Department or College will need to see your passport and ensure that you have the correct immigration status before you may start your course.

Further information on part-time courses

The visitor route is used to support students on part-time courses longer than 6 months where the majority of the time is spent outside the UK and attendance in Cambridge is only required for short teaching sessions. Examples include Cambridge Executive MBA, Master of Accounting (MAcc), Master of Studies (MSt) and most part-time postgraduate diploma and certificate programmes. In certain circumstances it may be relevant to part-time postgraduate courses admitted via the Postgraduate Admissions Office but relevant students will be notified of this during the admissions process.

To meet the requirements of the visitor route for courses of more than 6 months, the majority of study must be taken outside the UK. Generally students will enter for the short teaching session and leave soon after. It is not possible as a visitor on a course of more than 6 months to make the UK your main study location or residence. From a visa perspective, attendance arrangements are considered to be via distance learning, and it is not expected for students to be in the UK for an extended period of time, or undertake frequent and successive visits. 

Part-time undergraduate certificate and diploma courses at the Institute of Continuing Education which are longer than six months and where attendance is required more regularly than once a term cannot be supported or undertaken on a visitor visa.

Further information for visiting students

The visitor route is appropriate for students registered at a University overseas who are accepted by a department at Cambridge to visit for a short period of study or research. Your host institution will provide you with a letter explaining the purpose of the visit. See the visiting students page for further guidance on applying to visit Cambridge as part of your course overseas.

Some visiting students undertaking postgraduate-level research in certain science and technology subjects will require an ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) clearance certificate in accordance with Home Office requirements. You will be informed as part of your acceptance as a visiting student if this applies to you. The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office manages ATAS. You must apply online to the FCDO and applications are normally decided within 20 working days. You will be sent the ATAS certificate via email and will need to print it out to support your visa application, or carry in your hand-luggage to show on entry to the UK if required.

Undergraduates visiting on an exchange programme for one or two terms will receive a visa letter from their College.

Further information for PhD students returning for viva and corrections only

See 'Extending your visa as a current PhD student' for information about returning to complete your PhD under the visitor route - supporting letters can be provided by the International Student Office.

Visitor status not eligible for Graduate visa

Students on courses supported under the visitor immigration route, or PhD students completing their studies in the UK after submission of their thesis for examination on a visitor immigration status, will not be eligible to apply for the post-study Graduate route visa.