What is the short-term study visa route?
The short-term study route allows non-EEA and non-Swiss nationals to come to the UK to undertake a short course of study that does not exceed six months. It is an alternative to Tier 4, normally when a course does not meet the requirements for Tier 4 sponsorship or the course duration is less than six months. Do not assume that you can study without a visa, even if you are allowed to visit the UK as a tourist. An immigration status as a standard visitor / tourist does not permit the holder to enter the UK for the purpose of study.
If you are a national of a country in the EEA or Switzerland, you do not need a visa to study.
Restrictions of the short-term study visa
This immigration route has the following restrictions:
- You cannot take employment in the UK (including part-time or full-time vacation employment);
- You cannot undertake a work placement/internship (paid/unpaid) as part of the course of study;
- You must intend to leave the UK at the end of the study period or before your leave expires, whichever is earlier;
- You cannot extend your stay in the UK. If you require more time you must apply for a new visa in your home country. (You may not receive consecutive visas, and generally you should have a gap between one study visit and the next);
- You must demonstrate support and funds to pay for any course costs, accommodation, and flights home.
The Registered Traveller Service cannot be used to enter the UK under the short-term study route as this is not one of the visitor categories that it covers. If you have a Registered Traveller Service card you should not use this if you are entering as a visitor for the purposes of study, as your conditions of stay will not be correct and you will not receive the required short-term study stamp in your passport which would allow you to start your course.
Applying for a short-term study visa
Your host Faculty, Department or College will issue a specific short-term study visa letter to you, explaining the purpose and dates of your study at Cambridge.
If you are studying on a course that is supported on the short-term study route, you should not travel to the UK without obtaining the visa in advance or ensuring you have the correct documentation for presentation at the border if you are a non-visa national, as outlined below. Whether you need to apply for this visa in advance, prior to travelling in the UK, depends on your nationality:
If you come from certain countries, i.e. a visa national, then you are required to make a short-term study application before travelling to the UK and submit your short-term study letter as a supporting document.
- Information on applying for this visa, including the required supporting documents, is outlined on the Home Office website.
- The University's International Student Team has produced a guide to completing the short-term study visa application.
If you are not a visa national, you may obtain entry at the UK border under the short-term study route. You need to ensure you speak to the Border Force Officer at immigration control and ask for and obtain the correct short-term study entry stamp in your passport. You should carry your short-term study visa letter in your hand luggage when entering the UK and present it at the UK border, even if not asked, to support this application as a short-term student and to avoid being allowed into the UK as a Standard Visitor. You should ensure you are not issued with a standard visitor stamp if study is the main purpose of the visit.
On arrival at Cambridge
The University is required to verify the immigration status of students before allowing them to begin their studies. Your host Faculty, Department or College will need to see your passport and check that you have the correct immigration status before you may start your course. If you arrive at Cambridge with a visitor visa or without the correct immigration status for study purposes, you may not be permitted to start your study at Cambridge.
Part-time and short courses
Examples of programmes offered at Cambridge that can be supported on a short-term study visa include:
- Summer programmes and short courses provided by the Institute of Continuing Education
- Cambridge Executive MBA
- Part-time Master of Studies (MSt)
There is no specific visa category for part-time courses (Tier 4 is for full-time study only) but where a part-time course requires a number of occasional visits to the UK, each of less than six months, students can be considered under the short-term study immigration category, even if the course in its entirety spans more than six months. Students attending part-time study at Cambridge with sessions spread across a longer period of time are expected to leave the UK at the end of each teaching session.
The University is required to hold evidence of students' immigration permission to study and you will need to present your passport and visa on arrival at Cambridge. For non-visa nationals making multiple visits as part of a part-time course, this will need to be repeated on each occasion. Your Faculty or Department will advise as appropriate.
Examples of part-time courses that cannot be supported or undertaken on a short-term study visa:
- Part-time programmes at the Institute of Continuing Education which are longer than six months and where attendance is required on a weekly basis.
- Part-time PhDs and MPhil programmes.
Short-term study immigration permission is also 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.
Undergraduates visiting on an exchange programme for one or two terms will receive a short-term study letter from their College.
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 short-term study route - supporting letters can be provided by the International Student Team.