Introduction and Support
Almost half of all postgraduate students studying at the Cambridge come from overseas, with just about every country in the world represented. Leaving home and coming to a new place to live is a daunting experience, and settling in may take time. People living far from family and friends for the first time often feel homesick or lonely, and may find that they face language or cultural barriers.
Your college may have a contact scheme where a student from your college will be around for you to talk to. See if people from your part of the world have formed a society in Cambridge, and contact them to meet fellow countrymen and women. The University Counselling Service runs group sessions for overseas students, to discuss the problems and stresses faced in adjusting to life in a different country with a trained counsellor. One way to settle in is to try to make friends with people in your College and take part in College social events; it’s a great way of meeting people. Remember that there will be others in exactly the same situation – most people find before too long that they’re feeling at home!
The University International Student Team provides specialist support to students who come from outside the UK to study at Cambridge and to Cambridge students who study overseas as part of their course. They can help with information relating to visas, provide assistance if you are part of the Erasmus programme, enable access to funding information and briefings relating to living and studying in the UK. http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/students/gateway/international/
The main Student Union has an autonomous group called CUSU International which aims to provide information and support for international students. They also produce a handy international freshers’ guide.
Immigration laws are complex and varied. Some organisations which have websites and publications that can help you to understand them are listed below.
The Home Office is responsible for internal affairs in England and Wales. Police, immigration, passport control and issuance are under this Government department.
- 50 Queen Anne’s Gate
- 020 7273 4000
Council for International Education (UKCOSA)
A national independent charity which puts students in contact with experts on immigration, employment, fee status, funding, etc. Its publications are available for consultation in the Graduate Union office.
- 9-17 St Albans Place,
- 020 7354 5210 (Student hotline, Mon-Fri 1pm-4pm only)
Immigration Advisory Service
The IAS is an independent charity that gives advice and assistance to people applying for entry clearance into the UK.
- County House
190 Great Dover Street
- 020 7357 7511
- 020 7357 5875
Immigration and Nationality Directorate
The IND is responsible for immigration policies and controls on entry to the UK and afterwards.
- Block C
Surrey CR9 1AT
- 0870 6067766
H.M. Revenue and Customs
H.M. Revenue and Customs (formerly Customs and Excise) are responsible for controls on what goods you can bring in to the country. If you’re shipping things in or out of the country, contact them if you have any queries.
- Eldon Court
75 London Road
Registration with the Police
Students from certain nations are required to register with the police within 7 days of their arrival in the UK. If this applies to you, it will have been stamped in your passport on arrival in the UK. You can call Parkside Police Station on 01223 358966 and ask for the Overseas Visitors Registration Department. The department hours are 10am – 1pm and 2pm – 4pm, Monday to Friday. To register you will need your passport, two passport-sized photographs, a letter from your College confirming your address, and £34 (either cash or a cheque made out to the Cambridgeshire Police Authority).
When you need to renew the Leave to Remain stamp in your passport, get an application form from the Immigration and Nationality Directorate: see their list of IND application forms. For most students this should be the FLR(S) form (form; guidance).
A renewal fee of £295 for postal applications, and £500 for applications in person, is now in force. Instructions are also provided on the website; you may need to get documentation from your college and the Board of Graduate Studies. Try to have your visa extended for as long as you expect to need to complete your degree, so that you don’t have to pay the hefty fee each year. If you have difficulties, consult your graduate tutor, supervisor or the Graduate Union.
Healthcare, Social Security and Other Benefits
International students can be treated for free on the National Health Service (NHS) in the same way as British people. See the health page for more information on NHS provision in Cambridge.
Entry to the UK depends on your having the money to support yourself or any other dependents. It is almost impossible for students to claim Housing Benefit, Family Credit, Income Support, or Supplementary Benefit, although you may be eligible for Child Benefit or Legal Aid. To find out, contact the Benefits Agency.
- Benefits Agency
Henry Giles House
73-79 Chesterton Road
- 01223 545200
Some students who come from warmer parts of the world may be able to get a warm clothing grant from the University. Contact BoGS or your college to find out if you qualify.
One very common query is whether international students are able to work. You can take up part-time or vacation work but must not work for more than 20 hours per week during term time. You cannot run a business, be self-employed or provide services as a professional sports person or entertainer. You cannot take up full time employment to pursue a career. Contact the Home Office for further information. You should also note that the University has its own rules about students taking employment – see Employment information.
Help with English language
The University does not ordinarily provide English language classes for international students. Minimum English language standards are set as a condition of offers for international students, and you must meet these (with an IELTS or TOEFL test) before you arrive to study in Cambridge. However, you may feel that you need a little help during your course. The university’s Language Centre offers some courses in English for Academic Purposes, CUSU International runs informal language classes, and some students might want to enrol in a private language school if help is needed in this area. For more details, see the Language Courses information page.
Hosting for Overseas Students (HOST)
HOST is a national organisation set up to provide a friendly link between international students and the British people to meet, make friends, exchange cultural ideas and experience home life in Britain.
Students who join HOST can receive invitations to stay for a few days in the homes of British residents. There is no charge for the visits, students only have to pay the cost of travel to their hosts.
You can apply directly on HOST’s website: