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International Students


Full-time study is usually undertaken on a Tier 4 student visa but the University can allow students to undertake their course with alternative immigration permission, providing this permission allows study. There are a number of considerations before deciding whether to study using a different immigration route. If you intend to start your course on a non-Tier 4 visa, you should inform the appropriate admissions office at the earliest opportunity.


Length of course and visa expiry
Ideally you should be able to complete your course within the leave granted on your current visa (i.e. prior to the expiry date of your current visa). If your existing visa does not cover the length of your course, you will need to explain what you intend to do when that visa expires - i.e. will you be extending your leave in the same category or do you intend to apply for a Tier 4 visa mid-course?

Switching to Tier 4 at a later date

If you need to apply to switch to a Tier 4 visa during your studies, contact the International Student Office at least three months before your current visa expires. The University will provide you with a CAS to confirm sponsorship and you may need to re-apply for ATAS clearance.

Only certain visa holders may 'switch' to Tier 4 from inside the UK. If your current visa type is not listed by the Home Office, you would need to make a Tier 4 application in your home country or a country where you have immigration permission other than as a visitor. If you will need to apply for a Tier 4 visa from overseas, you will need to make appropriate plans for these arrangements so this does not interfere with your studies.

Familiarise yourself with the requirements for making a Tier 4 application as early as possible, in particular the maintenance requirements.

Unexpected changes to your immigration status

It is your responsibility to determine whether your current visa might be curtailed as a result of a change in circumstances - for instance, if you are no longer fulfilling the purpose for which the visa was issued or able to comply with the conditions of that immigration route. 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.


You may wish to study on an alternative visa because it has more flexible work conditions than Tier 4 but this is unlikely to be possible if you are are studying full-time owing to the University's working restrictions.

Deciding whether to apply for an alternative visa

Think about the purpose of that visa and the primary purpose for which it would be granted. Check the processing times and consider how long the visa would be granted for. If the visa would not cover the duration of your course, does it allow you to switch to Tier 4 during your course or would you need to apply from overseas?

Compliance requirements

If you are studying on a non-Tier 4 visa, it is still necessary to:

  • Comply with the University of Cambridge's regulations on working and studying, which are stricter than those of Tier 4.
  • Obtain ATAS clearance before starting your course (unless you have Indefinite Leave to Remain or your non-Tier 4 visa was issued before 6 April 2015 and covers your course in full). ATAS clearance will be a condition of your admission.
  • Present your immigration documents to your College upon arrival at Cambridge and before starting your course/matriculating (passport; visa or Biometric Residence Permit; proof of application if you have a pending visa application; exemption documentation).
  • Ensure your UK contact details on your record are up-to-date at all times during your studies.
  • Notify your College of any changes to your immigration status or passport.


The University will need to approve whether or not an individual may study on an alternative visa to Tier 4 but some common examples include:

  • PBS Dependant
  • Spouse/Partner
  • Family Member of an EEA national
  • Tier 5 Youth Mobility

The following examples are not acceptable:

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

Further advice

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

  • whether or not it is possible to study on specific alternative visas or a pending immigration status;
  • advantages and disadvantages of studying on alternative visas;
  • switching to Tier 4 - detailed advice on the Tier 4 process and requirements, application and supporting document checking, CAS issuance, workshops.

The International Student Office cannot provide personalised immigration advice on non-Tier 4 or student-related visas, or how to decide whether or not to apply for a particular alternative visa. The International Student Office can provide detailed advice on the Tier 4 application process.