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International Students


What is the short-term study visa route?

The short-term study immigration route allows non-EEA nationals to come to the UK to undertake a short period of study where the duration is less than six months or a part-time course where attendance in Cambridge is only required for short periods.

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.

You will need a letter to support entry to the UK as a short-term student.

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 cannot work on a self-employed basis in the UK or be involved in business activities;
  • You must leave the UK within 30 days after the end of your study period or before your leave expires, whichever is earlier;
  • You cannot extend your stay in the UK;
  • You must demonstrate you have the funds to support yourself during your studies in the UK.

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. For PhD students returning for their viva, the letter is issued by the International Student Office.

Whether you need to apply for this visa in advance, prior to travelling to the UK, or whether you can request entry as a short-term student at immigration control on arrival in the UK depends on your nationality:

Visa nationals

Students from certain countries, i.e. visa nationals, are required to apply for, and obtain, a short-term study visa before travelling to the UK. Information on the application, including the required supporting documents, is outlined on the Home Office website.

The short-term study letter should be submitted as a supporting document with the application.

The International Student Office has produced a guidance document to use when applying for a short-term study visa.

You will need to apply for the 6 month short-term study visa. The 11 month visa is not applicable to courses at Cambridge as this is for English language courses only. 

Non-visa nationals

If your country is not included on the list of visa nationals, you may obtain entry under the short-term study route by getting a passport stamp from a Border Force Officer at immigration control on arrival in the UK rather than applying for a short-term study visa in advance.

You will need to ensure you do the following to enter the UK as a short-term student:

  • see a Border Force Officer and confirm that you wish to enter the UK for the purpose of study;
  • show your short-term study letter, which you should carry in your hand luggage;
  • obtain the correct short-term study passport stamp in your passport. You should not enter as a visitor if study is the main reason you are coming to the UK.

Please note that although the passport stamp may reflect permission for up to 6 months, this expires when you leave the UK and therefore this status needs to be requested every time you enter the UK during your studies. 


Short term students are not eligible to use the eGates. Nationals from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the USA may in certain circumstances be able to use the eGates.  However it is not possible to enter the UK as a short term student via the eGates unless you have obtained entry clearance (a six-month visa) in advance of arriving to the UK. At the port of entry, rather than following the eGates signs, you should join a queue to see a Border Force Officer. As a short term student you must see an officer in order to get a stamp in your passport. This stamp gives you the permission needed for your studies and you will need to obtain this from a Border Force official every time you enter the UK during your course. If you enter via the eGates you will enter as a tourist. Without the correct stamp in your passport you may be unable to do the activities for which you are visiting the UK.

On arrival at Cambridge

The University is required to verify the immigration status of students before allowing them to begin their studies, and to check the relevant original documents and retain copies in accordance with Home Office requirements. Your host Faculty, Department or College will need to see your passport and ensure that you have the correct immigration status before you may start your course. If you arrive at Cambridge with a visitor visa (or entry stamp) or without the correct immigration status for study purposes, you may not be permitted to start your study at Cambridge. For students making multiple visits for studies on a part-time course, this will need to be repeated on each occasion. Your Faculty or Department will advise as appropriate.

Courses at Cambridge supported under short-term study

Short courses

Examples of short courses offered at Cambridge that are supported under the short-term study route include:

Part-time courses

The short-term study route supports students on part-time courses longer than 6 months where the majority of time is spent outside the UK and attendance in Cambridge is only required for short teaching sessions. Examples include Cambridge Executive MBA, Master of Accounting (MAcc), Master of Studies (MSt) and part-time postgraduate diploma programmes.

To meet the requirements of the short-term study route, students on these courses are required to leave the UK at the end of each short teaching session and re-enter for the next. No more than 56 days should be spent in the UK in any 6 month period. If you are required to apply for the visa in advance, you will need to renew it every 6 months to cover the duration of the programme. 

Examples of part-time courses that cannot be supported or undertaken on a short-term study visa:

  • Part-time undergraduate certificate and diploma courses at the Institute of Continuing Education which are longer than six months and where attendance is required more regularly than once a term
  • Part-time PhDs and MPhil programmes.

Visiting students

Short-term study is 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.

Visiting students undertaking postgraduate-level research in certain science and technology subjects will require an ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) clearance certificate to support either their visa application, if you are required to apply for the short-term study visa in advance of arriving in the UK, or entry to the UK at immigration control. You will be informed as part of your acceptance as a visiting student if this applies to you. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) manages ATAS. You must apply online to the FCO and applications are normally decided within 20 days. You will be sent the ATAS certificate via email and will need to print it out to support your visa application, or carry in your hand-luggage to show on entry to the UK

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 Office.

Examination Allowance

Short-term study supports students returning to Cambridge to re-take part of their course or re-sit examinations following an examination allowance and the period of study is less than 6 months.