Main Menu

Visas and Immigration

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

Overseas students

You will be required to apply for a visa unless you:

  • hold a full British passport;
  • hold settled or pre-settled status (EU/EEA/Swiss nationals); or
  • already have a different type of visa that allows you to study for the full length of your course.

EU/EEA/Swiss nationals without settled or pre-settled status who arrived after 1 January 2021 will be required to apply for a visa.

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.

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.