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Information for international students

The Institute of Cancer Research has a diverse student population and takes care to create a fully inclusive environment for students to achieve their goals.

UK visa application

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

Currently if you are a national of an European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland, you do not need a visa to study in the UK.

The countries in the EEA are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Following the European Union (EU) referendum result in June 2016, the UK has now left the EU on the basis of an agreement made between the UK and the EU known as the Withdrawal Agreement.  The UK has negotiated separate agreements with the EEA EFTA states (Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein) and Switzerland.

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. 

Tier 4 student visas

The Tier 4 visa is the most common student visa. 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;
  • appropriate English language skills; and
  • adequate funds to maintain your studies and living costs.

The Institute of Cancer Research has been granted a Tier 4 (General) 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 Tier 4 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 as a non-EU resident with a Tier 4 visa from previous studies, you will need to re-apply for a visa under Tier 4 UK 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.

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 Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds 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:

Health care

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

  • If you are an EEA national, you are entitled to use the NHS by showing your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
  • If you have a Tier 4 visa, you are also entitled to use the NHS, because you have paid the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of your 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

Some people need to register with the police after arriving in the UK with a visa, or after getting permission to stay for longer in the UK. Visit for further details.

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.

Living 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. 

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.

PhD studentships

Applications for PhD studentships are now open. We’re searching for the brightest minds in cancer research. The next deadline for applications is 27 September.

ICR values

Our values – developed together as an organisation – make it clear how each and every one of us work to meet our mission – to make the discoveries that defeat cancer.