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International Students


If you are a registered student currently sponsored under Tier 4 and need more time to complete the PhD examination process or have had an extension to registration date approved, you would normally be eligible to apply for a new Tier 4 visa. We advise you to contact the International Student Office 3 - 4 months before your current visa expires if you believe you will need more time in the UK. You may also be eligible if you previously had a Tier 4 visa but are outside the UK or if your current visa is in another category.

Tier 4

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

ATAS clearance

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 - 30 working days. Your department or supervisor must provide a new ATAS research statement using an ATAS form. On receipt of this form from your department, you should complete your online application with the FCO. Your CAS will be issued after you have obtained a new ATAS certificate.

Applying for a Tier 4 extension inside the UK

If at the time of applying you have a valid Tier 4 visa, you will be able to extend from inside the UK. You will need to take the following into consideration:

  • The earliest you can apply is 3 months prior to your current visa expiring.
  • You will require a new CAS from the International Student Office.
  • After making your application, you will not be able to travel overseas outside the Common Travel Area (UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) until you have received your new BRP.
  • The advertised decision timeframe for a Tier 4 application in the UK using the standard service is 8 weeks. Priority and Super Priority services are available at additional cost. Once a decision has been made, your BRP can take up to 10 days to be delivered.
  • You may need to consider time limits on study. This is not relevant to those extending to complete their first UK postgraduate research degree.
  • You will need to provide the International Student Office with proof of application if your new visa is not granted before your current permission expires.

You are advised to read our detailed guidance on applying for Leave to Remain which outlines the procedures, requirements and application costs. You will note the specific requirements for evidence of funds.

Applying for a Tier 4 visa 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, issued to enable you to return to the UK as a Tier 4 student. When you return to Cambridge you will need to collect your BRP.

You are advised to read our detailed guidance on applying for Entry Clearance, which outlines the procedures, requirements and application costs. You will note the specific requirements for evidence of funds.

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 4 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 you need to 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.