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International students at Cambridge

Cambridge University attracts large numbers of extremely able international students from across the world as undergraduate and graduate students. The latest published figures on the student body at Cambridge are for 2018/19.

Employing International Students for vacation work in the UK

International students are sponsored by the University under Tier 4 to study in the UK. Students on a Tier 4 visa studying for a degree at Cambridge can automatically work full time during the vacation periods for their course. They are allowed to undertake any kind of work as long as they do not fill a permanent full time vacancy or are self-employed, engaged in business or provide services as a professional sportsperson or entertainer. Please note that graduate students do not have the same vacation periods as undergraduate students. Students can provide a letter confirming their official vacation dates, required as part of an employer's right to work checks.

Students on Tier 4 visas can also work full-time as above between completing their studies and the expiry of their permission to be in the UK. For a PhD student this means when all corrections are done and the hardbound thesis has been submitted.

Employing International Graduates in the UK

Tier 2 General

This is the main immigration route employers can use to sponsor international graduates. The following concessions exist under Tier 2 to support employers in sponsoring graduates switching from Tier 4 in the UK:

  • Exemption from carrying out the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT)
  • The issuing of a Certificate of Sponsorship is unrestricted (i.e. not subject to the annual limit)
  • Exemption from paying the Immigration Skills Charge

These concessions apply if the graduate has valid Tier 4 leave and is applying in the UK having completed a Cambridge undergraduate or postgraduate degree or a PGCE OR is applying no more than 3 months before the expected completion date of their degree OR completed at least 12 months of study in the UK towards a UK PhD.

An employer will need to have a Tier 2 sponsor licence and the job must be at graduate level and meet minimum salary levels. Our International Student Office have prepared a brief Guide to: how to become a Tier 2 sponsor; and the streamlined process that facilitates job applicants on a Tier 4 student visa to switch into a Tier 2 General visa, for a graduate level job with a Tier 2 sponsor.

Doctorate Extension Scheme

This scheme enables PhD graduates to remain in the UK for 12 months to work, look for work, set up as an entrepreneur or gain practical work experience in their field. The University remains the sponsor and the visa is issued under Tier 4. The only work restrictions are as a doctor or dentist in training or as a professional sportsperson or sports coach. The concessions for switching into Tier 2, as outlined in the section above, apply.

Start-up visa


The University is an endorsing institution under the Home Office’s Start-up visa route. This scheme is for graduates who demonstrate high entrepreneurial potential and wish to start a business in the UK for the first time. There are no restrictions on working hours or working for another employer. However, the main focus must be on the development of the business during the time spent on this route.


Information from Employers

We do not include information in our vacancy listings, events programmes or other materials as to whether organisations are in a position to accept applications from international students who require employer sponsorship. It is the responsibility of the employer to advise prospective candidates on this matter. The Association of Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) has produced a guide to help employers consider recruiting international graduates from UK universities.

Employing international students in their own countries

If you wish to target international students for employment opportunities in their own country, you may be interested to know that we can target students and some graduates by their expressed career interest and nationality using CamCareers email. If you want to get material to a certain nationality of students generally (rather than just those who have signed up for CamCareers material in certain career sectors), we can do this by a special hardcopy mailing. This is a service for which we make a per-capita charge. Sufficient lead-in time must be allowed for the process. Your contact careers adviser can help further with this.