Applying for a visa to come to the UK for doctoral research

If you are not from a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland, you will need what is currently called a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK at postgraduate level.

The rules about applying for UK visas can change, so you will need to check carefully before you apply. UKCISA – the UK Council for International Student Affairs and EURAXESS UK provide good information about visa issues.

You should only apply for a visa once you have received and accepted an offer from one recognised UK higher education institution, because a visa will only be issued if that institution has provided a ‘Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies’. The visa will be specific to that institution (your ‘Sponsor’) and programme of study. You will also need to provide evidence that you have sufficient funds to maintain yourself during the doctoral programme.

If you are applying via an agent or an educational adviser that works with the institution you are interested in, they will be able to advise you about this. Alternatively, the institutions’ International Office will also be able to help you.

The visa permits somebody undertaking a doctoral programme to bring their partner and dependants (children) with them into the UK for the period of the programme.

There are also arrangements available so that you can apply for the ‘Doctorate Extension Scheme’ to stay in the UK for 12 months after your programme has ended, i.e. if you need more time to write up. Once you have successfully completed your programme, you can potentially use the remainder of those 12 months to gain further work experience.

Limits on part-time working

  • Whether you can undertake part-time work may depend on your doctoral programme, as some funding programmes limit this
  • Current regulations of the Tier 4 visa allow you to work for up to 20 hours per week during your programme, and also to undertake a work placement/internship if this is a formal part of your programme. If you do not need a visa, these restrictions do not apply.