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International Students


If you are a registered student, and you need more time to complete the PhD examination process or have had an extension to registration date approved, it is likely that you will be eligible to apply for a new study visa. We recommend that you should contact the International Student Office 3-4 months before your current visa expires if you believe you will need more time in the UK.

Tier 4

The usual route is to extend your stay as a Tier 4 (General) Student.

If at the time of applying you have a valid Tier 4 visa, or in certain other categories, you will be able to extend from inside the UK if you wish (Tier 4 Leave to Remain) but you must apply on or before the expiry of your current immigration permission. Otherwise a new Tier 4 visa application must be made from outside the UK (Tier 4 Entry Clearance).

  • You will require a new CAS from the International Student Office.
  • If you are undertaking a course that is subject to ATAS clearance, you will require a new ATAS certificate before a CAS can be issued - this is required for any new visa application. The FCO advises that the process takes about 20 days. Your department or supervisor must issue the International Student Office with a new ATAS statement. On receipt of an ATAS letter from the International Student Office, you should complete your online application with the FCO.
  • You may need to consider time limits on study. This is not relevant to those extending to complete their first UK PhD.

If you wish to apply from inside the UK:

While your application is being considered, you will be without your passport and so you must not plan any travel. The Home Office advises that the process for postal applications normally takes up to 8 weeks but it can take longer so you may prefer to pay more for either the priority postal service or the in-person premium service. The International Student Office can advise you on how to choose your method of application. You should not leave the UK until you have received your new Biometric Residence Permit which will be sent 1-2 weeks after the decision is made. If you are not sure about your travel plans it may be better to make your application in your home country.

You will need to provide your College with proof of application if your new visa is not granted before your current leave expires.

If you wish to apply from overseas:

You will need to manage your absence from Cambridge appropriately and discuss your travel plans with the International Student Office as your return travel dates and the dates in your CAS will determine the period of validity of your 30-day permit. When you return to Cambridge you will need to collect your BRP.

Financial requirements

It is very important that you prepare your finances in advance of applying for your visa.

You will need to provide evidence with your application that you hold sufficient funds to cover £1015 per month for living expenses, up to a maximum of £9135.00, for the remaining duration of your course plus any course fees for the current/next academic year if applicable, and the required funds for any dependants. The International Student Office can provide further advice on this and you can also use this Tier 4 Maintenance Checker tool to help determine the specific financial evidence you require as part of your visa application based on your circumstances.

Advice on your application

The International Student Office offers a visa advice service and can answer queries, check forms and supporting documents and provide one-to-one appointments to assist you with your Tier 4 visa application.

Short-term study visa

The short term student route is an alternative route to Tier 4 which might be preferable for PhD students who:

  • have submitted their softbound thesis
  • are leaving the UK between submission and viva (or are able to do so)
  • wish to return only for viva and/or corrections and then leave the UK within six months
  • do not wish to work in the UK or seek work after completion of their PhD and are not considering switching into the Tier Doctorate Extension Scheme.

The University is required to provide a letter in support of your return under the short-term study route and this letter should be requested from the International Student Office.

An ATAS certificate is a required document for the short-term study route. If you are returning for your viva under this route, the short-term study policy allows you to reuse the original ATAS certificate you obtained to study towards the same doctorate for which you now have a viva examination. You should use that ATAS certificate in your visa application or at the border along with your short-term study letter, as long as the certificate reflects the research that you did (a new ATAS certificate must be obtained during your studies if your research changes).

It is not possible to complete your PhD under the standard visitor (tourist) route owing to the restrictions of study with this type of permission.

Switching into Tier 4

If you were granted permission to start your studies on an alternative visa but need to switch to Tier 4 to complete your studies, please contact the International Student Office for further guidance and advice.

Switching to a different visa

If you switch from Tier 4 into a different immigration category while you are a registered student, you must inform the International Student Office and also present these documents to your College for scanning straight away. See 'Changes in circumstances' for more details about this and other changes that might require action on your part.

Need more time but completing overseas?

It is not necessary to extend your UK visa if you will be completing the requirements of your PhD overseas - for instance, corrections - but it is essential that you obtain formal permission from the University of Cambridge to be away, normally by applying for Leave to Work Away or sometimes by being removed from the register. Not only is this a University requirement, it also ensures your record accurately reflects the reason why you did not hold a valid study visa for a given time.

If you need to return to the UK before graduation, you must contact us for advice on the correct immigration route.

Need more time but not a PhD student?

If you are on another programme, it may be possible for the University to be able to support you in obtaining a new visa to complete your course - for instance, following a period of intermission - but it is unlikely that you would be able to apply for such a visa from inside the UK. You should contact the International Student Office as soon as you become aware that you might need more time.