The University is legally responsible for ensuring that every international visitor (however brief their visit) is properly entitled to work in, and/or participate in the activities of the University, be they paid or unpaid.
Visitors who are nationals of the EEA countries and Switzerland may need permission to enter, live or work in the UK.
Visa nationals & Non-Visa nationals
The most common cause of confusion for staff arranging visits is that ‘Non-Visa Nationals’ (i.e. visitors from countries that do not necessarily need a visa to enter the country on a short-term basis for leisure purposes) do need a visa to undertake unpaid activity that is classed as work under immigration rules. This can include guest lecturing and some research activity.
Visa nationals are required to apply for a visa under the appropriate visitor category in advance of travel to the UK.
A list of visa nationals can be found in Appendix 2 of Appendix V: Immigration Rules for Visitors https://www.gov.uk/guidance/immigration-rules/immigration-rules-appendix-v-visitor-rules
Non visa nationals
- do not require a visa in advance of travel to the UK.
- are required to announce purpose of visit at Immigration Control at the UK airport.
- will receive an ink stamp under the appropriate immigration category.
- are any nationality not on the above Home Office list.
Please note that those who enter the UK as a tourist may not take part in academic/business activity within the University. Tourists may only take part in typical tourist activities such as visiting the University’s museums, galleries and libraries open to the public.
Inviting an international visitor
If you are inviting an international visitor, you should firstly establish with them what if any eligibility to be in the UK they already have and assess whether that covers the purpose of their visit. If they do not have eligibility, your invitation should formally document precisely what it is they are being invited to do. This will support them in their visa application, however will not guarantee a successful visa application/successful entry to the UK.
Please see Visitors Policy, Visitors Procedure, Request for Visitor (Staff) Affiliation form and Initial Staff Invitation Letter, Formal letter of Invitation for Staff Member and Visitor Agreement templates. Please also see UKVI Guide for UK Business Event Managers.
The Visitor visa route is broad with several subclasses. It is important that visitors identify the correct subcategory to cover their proposed activities as selecting an inappropriate subcategory may mean that they cannot fulful their planned visit.
More details are available on our dedicated Visitor Visas page on StaffNet.
Visa nationals must complete the online visa application form carefully to select the correct visa type and subcategory.
Non visa nationals who apply for their visa on arrival in the UK must take particular care to ensure that they are clear in stating the purpose of their visit to the border force officer, and to check that the stamp in their passport is correct before leaving immigration control at their port of entry. It is not possible to switch this visa type or category from within the UK.
|Visitor visa route||Previous Visitor visa route||Maximum length of stay|
up to 6 months, OR
up to 11 months for Private Medical Treatment, OR
up to 12 months for an Academic Visitor & their spouse/ partner/ children, OR
up to 30 days for ADS Visitor
Marriage/ Civil Partnership Visitor
up to 6 months
Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) Visitor
up to 1 month
Short term study
up to 6 months
Visitors coming to the UK under the Standard Visitor route can
- attend meetings, conferences, seminars and interviews
- accompany students as part of a study abroad programme
- undertake some recreational study but this must not be the main purpose of the visit, and the study must not exceed one month. Full restrictions on permitted study are here.
- make frequent visits on this visa
- undertake paid or unpaid work
- participate in University hosted research projects, whether paid or unpaid (Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange (T5))
Academic Visitors (individuals employed by academic or higher education institutions overseas in teaching or research roles) can
- carry out private research if they are on leave from their home institution
- take part in arranged exchanges
- share knowledge or experience or hold informal discussions with UK counterparts (but not conduct research on University hosted projects)
- take part in a conference or seminar that is not a commercial or non-profit venture
- give a one-off unpaid lecture which does not form any part of the teaching requirements
- eminent senior medical doctors or dentists, can apply for an Academic Visitor visa to take part in research, teaching or clinical practice.
Visitors who are employed by academic or high education institutions overseas and who are also students must obtain a Short term study visa to enter the UK.
All researchers, including post-doctoral researchers, visiting researchers and academic staff who are subject to UK immigration control must also hold an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate (apart from exempt nationalities) before applying for a visa to conduct activities on UK soil that could result in the Intangible Transfer of Technology (ITT) to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT) programmes of concern.
If the research focus is changed at any time a new ATAS certificate will be required.
Researchers who have a valid visa and are were employed by the University before 21 May 2021 do not need to retrospectively apply for ATAS approval.
Full guidance available is here.
Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE)
This is a visa for short-term paid work such as academics on selection panels, guest lecturers, visiting examiners or assessors and
- must be arranged before applicant travels to UK
- must be declared as part of the application for visa/leave to enter
- the University must have provided a formal invitation
- must relate to the applicant’s area of expertise and occupation
- must not amount to filling a part- or full-time teaching position
- has a maximum 1 month duration
- is for paid engagements only
Full guidance available here.
When is a Visitor visa not the correct visa route?
A Visitor visa would not be appropriate for
- someone employed by the University (a Global Talent or Skilled Worker visa would be required)
- someone coming to give one, or a series of, lecture(s) for more than one month (a Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange (T5) visa may be appropriate but they could not be filling an advertised vacancy and must be additional to normal staffing requirements)
- someone coming to participate in collaborative research on a University-hosted research project (a Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange (T5) visa would be required)
- students coming on internships specifically to undertake research, i.e. ‘research interns’ (a Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange (T5) visa would be required)
- students coming on non-research internships or work placements (a Youth Mobility Scheme visa (T5), or Internship Scheme visa, provided by an overarching body acting as their sponsor, would be required (they cannot be sponsored by the University)
- students coming to carry out research which forms part of their course of study, either within or outside the UK (a Short Term Study visa would be required)
- those holding the title of University Visiting Professor, if working on University-hosted formal research projects (a Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange (T5) visa or Global Talent visa would be required).
Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange (T5) (Sponsored Researchers)
This scheme enables researchers (which includes academics, researchers, scientists, research engineers or other skilled research technology specialists) to come to the UK on a temporary basis, where they are hosted at a UK higher education institution (HEI). The HEI is able to assign a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) for a maximum duration of 2 years to undertake the following activities
- A formal research project or collaboration
- A period of work-based training/work experience/internship/placement
- Skill development/knowledge transfer
- A series of lectures, which doesn’t amount to a formal teaching post
- External examinations
- may be funded by their host, their overseas employer, or an independent UK or non-UK funding body
- must be in receipt of funding in line with, or above, the National Minimum Wage
- must apply from outside the UK
- be self-funded
- fill a genuine vacancy ie in accordance with the Home Office rules, the role must be over and above the organisation’s normal staffing requirements, and which would not be automatically refilled once the post holder leaves
Read more about this here.
- Visitors Policy
- Visitors Procedure
- Request for Visitor (Staff) Affiliation form
- Initial Staff Invitation Letter
- Formal letter of Invitation for Staff Member
- Visitor Agreement
Please also see UKVI Guide for UK Business Event Managers.