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International Students

The Institute of Cancer Research is proud to welcome students from across the world into our diverse community.

We understand it can be daunting travelling to and living in a new city, the ICR is happy to offer support to help you settle in and make London your new home. With our student cohort made up of individuals from all continents and backgrounds, and London being a truly international city, we hope you feel at home in no time.

Find out about the services we provide and what you need to do to prepare for your new life in London.

Visas and Immigration

Before you apply for a course of study in the UK, you should check your visa requirements.

Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland

Citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland who were living in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

The EUSS means citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland will be able to stay and continue to work, study and access benefits and services such as NHS healthcare broadly on the same basis as they currently do. It is free to apply.

You can read the ICR's Information for EU/EEA/Swiss candidates (PDF)

We also recommend you visit the UK government's website which has the latest guidance on Brexit for EU students. The UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs) website has helpful guidance and is also updated regularly. 

Student Visas

The Student Visa (formally the Tier 4 Visa) is the most common visa for visiting students. It is based on a point-based system, and it is issued for a particular course at a particular institution.

To apply for this visa, you will need to meet some basic requirements, including:

  • confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) in the UK - this will be provided by the ICR as the sponsoring institution;
  • appropriate English language skills; and
  • adequate funds to maintain your studies and living costs.

The Institute of Cancer Research has been granted a Student Visa sponsor licence by the Home Office. This means that if your application to study with us is accepted, we can issue you with a CAS to support your Student Visa immigration application once you have returned the relevant documentation.

This process can only begin three months prior to enrolment. Registry will support you through the process as far as possible. For the avoidance of doubt, it is your responsibility to apply for a visa and ensure that you have a correct visa before travelling to the UK.

The Home Office visa criteria for English language eligibility is for applicants to either be from or have studied an appropriate academic qualification in a majority English-speaking country, or have passed an approved secure English language test (SELT). Visit for more guidance about the application process.

If you are currently residing in the UK with a Tier 4/Student Visa from previous studies, you will need to re-apply for a visa under the Student Visa immigration rules as outlined above.

If you have any questions about applying for a visa, please email us at [email protected] and we will be happy to assist you.

Applying from outside the UK

  • The earliest you can apply for a visa is 6 months before you start your course.
  • You’ll usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks.

Applying from inside the UK

  • The earliest you can apply is 3 months before your course starts.
  • You must apply before your current visa expires. Your new course must begin within 28 days of your current visa expiring.
  • You’ll usually get a decision within 8 weeks.

Useful resources

National Insurance number

You do not need to have a National Insurance (NINo) number before commencing a PhD but it may help you to access certain services. A NiNo is a unique personal number which is used to record your National Insurance contributions. If you begin paid work, you will need to obtain one.

If you have a biometric residence permit (BRP), you may have an NI number printed on the back of it. Not all BRPs have this – it depends on factors like the date it was issued and your visa status.

If you don’t have an NI, you can only apply for it once you’re in the UK. You will need to apply by phone. Visit for further details.

Opening a bank account in the UK

In order to receive your PhD stipend, you will need to open a bank account in the UK into which it can be paid. This should be done as soon as possible after you arrive in the country. 

You will need:

  • Two forms of ID – usually a passport and drivers licence.
  • Confirmation of your current UK address, such as a tenancy agreement, rent book or mortgage book.
  • Confirmation of your overseas address.
  • The previous month's bank statements, from bank accounts in the UK or your home country.
  • A letter of admission or enrolment from the Higher Education Institution, confirming you are in full or part time Higher Education (you can get this from the Registry).

The main banks in the UK are BarclaysHSBCLloyds TSB, and NatWest. All of these banks have branches in Sutton, and in the Chelsea / South Kensington area, and in most towns or districts. In addition, many building societies and the Post Office offer full banking services.

It is recommended that you check with the bank beforehand to clarify what information is needed to join, as some banks may vary with their request for information.

Useful resources:

Student Life in London

London is a fantastic city to live in and there are plenty of services offering private rented accommodation and house shares.

On our Postgraduate Life webpage we provide links to resources to help you:

  • find a place to live in London;
  • learn about transport options in London; and
  • learn about the facilities and social activities available at each ICR site, including team sports and games.

Postgraduate Life

If it is your first time living in the UK:

At the ICR, we aim to provide you with a welcoming and inclusive student work environment. Prior to enrolling, you will be assigned a 'buddy' (a current student) who will give you advice and help you with settling into your new surroundings. 

We also offer a range of student well-being and welfare services, in case you ever feel like you need some additional support. 

Post office

There are several Post Office branches in Sutton and Chelsea. Post Offices generally open from 9am to 5.30pm on weekdays and close at 12.30pm on Saturdays, although this can vary from branch to branch. Find your nearest post office.

Useful resources:

  • PrepareForSuccess contains learning resources about different aspects of academic life in the UK and the skills needed for effective study. Although some of the material is aimed at undergraduate students, many of the topics are useful for postgraduate students too.
  • UKCISA offers advice for dealing with culture shock, as you may notice differences between the way things are done here and what you're used to at home. We would like to reassure you that it's perfectly normal to find it hard at first and that this usually disappears over time. It can also be a positive learning experience, making you more aware of aspects of your own culture as well as the new culture you have entered.


Many international students will be entitled to use the National Health Service (NHS), which provides free healthcare paid for UK residents’ taxes:

  • If you began studying at an accredited UK higher education institute in the UK on or before 31 December 2020, you may use your EHIC for medically necessary healthcare until the end of your course, irrespective of your nationality. You must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if your course extends beyond 30 June 2021.
  • If your course of study in the UK began after 1 January 2021 and lasts for more than 6 months, you will need to pay the immigration health surcharge as a part of your student visa application.

Make sure you register with a local General Practice (GP). That way you can receive emergency care if you need it, and access health services quickly and easily while you are studying with us. Find your local GP.

Registration with a GP is free. Once you’ve registered, you will be sent an NHS card. This is proof that you are registered for NHS treatment. If you ever require hospital care, you will need to show the hospital your NHS card – along with your passport, visa, and proof of attendance at university.

You should also register with a dentist. NHS dentists provide dental care at a low fixed cost, or you can choose to use a private dentist at a higher cost. Find an NHS dentist.

The NHS also advises you to check your vaccinations, get contraception, eat healthy food, and get plenty of rest. For more information, visit

Registering with the Police

Certain international students will be required to register with the police in the UK. If you applied for your visa overseas, this requirement will be printed on your 30- or 90-day entry clearance sticker in your passport. Visit for further details.

If you applied for your visa in the UK, this requirement will be printed on the letter you were given when you received your passport and documents.

Please check carefully whether you need to register with the police, as the consequences of not doing so can be serious.

If you are based in London, registration is completed at the Overseas Visitors Records Office. You need to book an appointment online via the OVRO website. Please read the information on the OVRO website carefully about preparing for your appointment. Visit their website for further updates - Overseas Visitors Records Office

Coronavirus (Covid-19): Police Registration Services in London are suspended during the national lockdown and the OVRO will remain closed until further notice. Please visit their website for updates.