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International Students


If you already have a UK immigration status that permits you to undertake your course of study at Cambridge, you should inform the relevant admissions office and you will be asked to provide evidence. Pending applications and permissions granted in expired passports may need to be verified with the Home Office.

If your current immigration permission is time-limited (even if it covers your course in full), the following should be taken into consideration:


You may wish to study with an alternative immigration status because it has more flexible work conditions than a student visa but your work options will still be limited owing to the University's working restrictions for full-time students.

'Graduate visa' eligibility restrictions

In 2021 the Home Office launched a post-study visa called the ‘Graduate visa’. It is only possible to apply for the Graduuate visa if you hold a student visa and successfully complete the degree course for which that visa has been granted. In addition, to meet the eligibility requirements you need to have studied on a student visa for at least 12 months of your course, or for the full duration of your course if it is 12 months or less. If you are considering applying for the Graduate visa on completion of your course, read the requirements carefully to determine whether it may be better for you to start your course on a student visa. 

Unexpected changes to your immigration status

It is your responsibility to determine whether your current immigration permission might change during your studies - for example , if you are no longer fulfilling the purpose for which the permission was granted or are unable to apply to extend under the same permission when it is due to expire. You will need to provide evidence to the University of continued valid immigration permission that permits study throughout the duration of your course, in accordance with Home Office requirements. You should contact the International Student Office for further advice if this is the case. You will only be able to continue your studies as long as you have valid permission that permits study.

Length of course

If your existing permission does not cover the length of your course, you will need to consider what you intend to do when it expires - e.g. will you be extending your permission in the same category, or do you intend to apply for a student visa mid-course?

Switching to a student visa at a later date

If you need to apply to switch to a student visa during your studies, contact the International Student Office at least three months before your current permission expires. The University will provide you with a CAS to confirm sponsorship and you may need to obtain a new ATAS certificate first, if applicable to your subject and nationality.

Check you are able to switch into a student visa inside the UK. You will need to consider the application processing times and plan this around any overseas travel plans.

Familiarise yourself with the requirements for making a student visa application as early as possible.

Considering whether to apply for an alternative visa

If you are thinking about applying for an alternative immigration status which you would use for study purposes but are unsure whether to apply for this or a student visa, think about the immigration requirements of each immigration route and the primary purpose for which the permission would be granted, as well as your longer term plans.

Compliance requirements

If you are studying with immigration permission that is not a student visa, it is still necessary to:

  • Comply with the University of Cambridge's regulations on working and studying.
  • Obtain ATAS clearance before starting your course, if applicable. ATAS clearance is required for study purposes for those on time-limited visas, not just those on a student visa, and clearance will be a condition of your admission.
  • Provide your immigration documents before starting your course/matriculating (passport; visa, Biometric Residence Permit or share code for a digital status; proof of application if you have a pending visa application; exemption documentation).
  • Notify your College of any changes to your immigration status or passport throughout your studies.
  • Ensure your UK contact details on your record are up-to-date at all times during your studies.


The University will need to approve whether or not an individual may study on an alternative immigration permission but some common examples include:

  • PBS Dependant
  • Spouse/Partner
  • T5 Youth Mobility
  • A status under the EU Settlement Scheme

The following examples are not acceptable:

  • Tourist (Standard Visitor)
  • Tier 4/Student visa from your previous institution (unless you can provide proof that you have submitted a valid new student visa application using your CAS issued by Cambridge - you may then start your course at your own risk)

If you hold a current Tier 4/Student visa sponsored by the University of Cambridge and are continuing onto a new course at Cambridge, you can start your new course on your current visa. You will need to make a new application for permission to stay in the UK within 6 weeks of the official start date of the course or prior to your current visa expiring, whichever is earlier. You will need to provide your College with proof you have submitted an application within the relevant timeframe. This only applies where you successfully completed the course for which your current visa has been granted.

Further advice

The International Student Office provides a visa advice service, offering guidance to applicants and current students on:

  • whether or not it is possible to study with specific alternative immigration permission or a pending immigration status;
  • overview of advantages and disadvantages of studying on a specific alternative visa rather than a student visa, to help you decide;
  • switching to a student visa - detailed advice on the process and requirements, application and supporting document checking, CAS issuance, webinars.

The International Student Office cannot provide personalised immigration advice on applying for non-student related visas.