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This page covers some of the considerations that you may have at the end of your course on a student visa.

When must you leave the UK?

The length of your student visa depends on the length of your course, as stated in your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). The Home Office varies this leave if you are government sponsored and then limits your stay in the UK to meet your sponsor's requirements. The following table shows how much leave the Home Office grants for each course duration.

Course length Additional months granted at end of course
12 months or longer 4 months after course end date
6 months - 12 months 2 months after course end date
Masters courses covered by the Tier 4 Pilot (if you applied for your student visa prior to 5 October 2020) 6 months after course end date
Pre-sessional course 1 month after course end date
Courses less than six months e.g. medical elective 7 days after course end date

The course end date is determined by when the University expects you to have completed all required elements of the course and is the same for all students on that course. It does not include congregation dates.

The Home Office expects you to leave the UK on or before your visa expiry date, unless you have applied to extend your stay or to switch into another immigration category. However, in certain circumstances your student visa may be curtailed.

Will your visa be curtailed?

If you complete your course on time (i.e. according to the course end date in your CAS) your visa expiry date does not change and you may remain in the UK until that date.

If you complete your course early (i.e. earlier than the course end date in your CAS) do not assume you can remain in the UK until the date of expiry of your visa. The Home Office requires the University to inform them if a student completes their course earlier than expected. The Home Office normally limits your permission to the standard post-study period of leave. This means that if you have completed your course more than 12 months after the course start date entered on your original CAS, you will receive a curtailment period of 4 months.

The Home Office advises that if you leave the UK after early completion of studies, or are already outside the UK, your leave to enter or remain will lapse under Article 13(3) of the Immigration (Leave to Enter and Remain) Order 2000 and you may require a new visa to enter the UK. Please contact the International Student Office if you have any queries about this.

Visa expiry and ‘overstaying’

You must leave the UK by the expiry date of your visa unless you have submitted a visa application to extend your permission in the UK; there is no ‘grace period’ following the expiry date of your visa. You will become an ‘overstayer’ if you are in the UK the day after your visa expires without having submitted a valid application for further leave or having obtained other valid immigration permission.

This is the case even if you are able to enter the UK as a visitor without a visa - you cannot switch from a student to visitor status automatically from within the UK but would need to leave the UK and enter as a visitor. Entry to the UK is at the discretion of Border Force officials. The University will not allow you to continue your studies as an ‘overstayer’. You would also need to declare this on any future visa application to the UK and many other countries. Overstaying is a criminal offence.

What can you do in the final months of your visa?

The University remains responsible for you until you leave the UK, switch to another visa category or move to another visa sponsor. During the additional permission granted at the end of your course (or your curtailed leave if you complete early), the Home Office allows you to work full-time within certain limits.

Visas for graduation

If your congregation takes place after your existing student visa expires, you may return to the UK under the Standard Visitor (tourist) immigration route because you will no longer be a student by that time. It is not possible to apply for this visa from inside the UK. Non-visa nationals do not need to apply for this visa in advance but must leave the UK in order to re-enter as a visitor.

The Standard Visitor route should only be used after you have been awarded your degree, as it restricts study activity - for instance, it is not appropriate for returning for your viva (see instead 'Extending your visa as a current PhD student').

It is not possible to extend your student visa to cover your graduation ceremony.

Post-study visa

You may wish to consider switching to the Graduate visa after successful completion of your course if you would like to work, or look for work, in the UK. 

Continuing to a further degree at Cambridge

In line with Home Office policy, students continuing to a further course at Cambridge, having successfully completed one course, must apply for a new student visa within six weeks of your new course start date or before your leave expires, whichever is earlier.

If you are in the UK on a student visa, you can only apply to extend your visa from inside the UK if:

  • you have obtained the qualification for which your current immigration permission was granted. If you have not obtained the qualification, you will need to apply for your new visa from outside the UK.
  • your new course start date is less than 28 days after your current visa expiry date. For instance, if your visa for your Master’s course ends on 30 August, and you are starting a PhD which begins on 1 October, this gap exceeds 28 days and you will need to submit your new student visa application outside the UK, in your country of nationality or residence.

You will then be required to provide evidence to your College that you have submitted your new visa application by the time of your visa expiry date or within six weeks of your course start date, whichever is sooner.

You can also apply in your home country ('entry clearance') if you prefer - please notify the International Student Office if you anticipate a delay in starting your course and be aware of the 'latest start date' in your new CAS.