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Who is eligible for a Tier 4 visa?

Where a student intends to visit the University of Cambridge for a study period of greater than six months and has been accepted by a Faculty or Department, the appropriate immigration route is Tier 4. The University holds a Tier 4 licence, administered by the International Student Office, which allows it to sponsor eligible students for a Tier 4 visa. To receive sponsorship from the University, in the form of a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), a student must meet a number of requirements including competence in English language to a minimum level. Please consult the rest of these pages, and our guidance on visits of more than six months, for further information.

For Tier 4 sponsorship, the visit to Cambridge must be for the purposes of study that is part of an overseas qualification. This qualification must be at the same level as, or above, a UK degree. If an individual is not a registered student elsewhere then sponsorship under Tier 4 cannot be provided

Visiting student can be at Cambridge for up to one year. If the period of attendance is to exceed this, the student would be required to apply for a Cambridge qualification following standard admissions procedures. Further information is outlined in the Visiting Student Guidelines.

Determining whether a CAS can be issued

Current status

A student must be a registered student overseas in order to receive Tier 4 sponsorship as a visiting student. The student must also be intending to return to complete the overseas course after their visit to Cambridge.

Academic ability

The host Faculty of Department is responsible for assessing whether an individual meets the academic requirements to be a visiting student at Cambridge. The University is required to include the basis of offer in the student's CAS and documentary evidence should be provided.

English language assessment

The Home Office requires all students sponsored for a Tier 4 visa to be competent in English language at a minimum level of CEFR B2 in all four elements (reading, writing, speaking and listening). The standard of English language needed for admission to the University is higher, normally equivalent to an overall band score of 7.5 in IELTS, with 7.0 in each element. Some nationalities are exempt from the requirement, where English is deemed to be the majority language, and alternatives to an English test certificate are possible depending on nationality and academic background - the Graduate Admissions Office provide full detail of the English language requirements. The International Student Office must hold evidence of a student's English language ability before a CAS can be issued.

A Language Centre assessment can only be recommended where a student has already provided a valid Secure English Language Test, as listed by Graduate Admissions, which meets Home Office requirements for a Tier 4 visa. This cannot be used as the sole method of assessment.

Previous UK study

The host institution must obtain any information about a prospective visiting student's previous study in the UK. The University can only sponsor a student under Tier 4 if the proposed study represents academic progression from any previous study in the UK. For example, if a student had previously completed a PhD in the UK and was intending to visit Cambridge for research related to a Master's course, the academic progression requirement would not be met. In addition to this, the Home Office imposes time limits on study in the UK with a visa - the University must ensure that it has full details of previous UK study to ensure that this limit has not been reached, or will not be exceeded by issuing a new CAS.


Certain courses require a student to obtain Academic Technology Approval Scheme clearance from the FCO before a Tier 4 visa application can be made. The requirement for ATAS clearance is determined by the JACS code of the course. An ATAS application has a processing time of 20 working days and a CAS cannot be issued until the student has received their certificate. For information on how the University assists students applying for clearance, see our pages on the ATAS process.

Timescale - how long does the visa process take?

The International Student Office is often asked how long it might take a visiting student to obtain their Tier 4 visa. This is dependent upon a number of factors:

  • Is ATAS clearance required? If yes, a student should receive an outcome of an application within 20 working days of submission. The ISO can issue the ATAS letter a student needs for this application within five working days of receipt of a complete ATAS proforma from the host institution.
  • Has the student provided an acceptable Secure English Language Test (SELT)? If not, the student may need to re-take the test or in some circumstances will be recommended to undergo an assessment with the University's Language Centre. Time for this should be factored in when it is known that a SELT has not been provided.
  • When will they receive their CAS? The International Student Office can issue a CAS within five working days of receipt of all information when satifised that a student is eligible for Tier 4 sponsorship as a visiting student.
  • Where will the student be making their visa application? The visa application processing time will vary based on the student's location. The Home Office produce regular updates to visa processing times.