Skip to navigation | Skip to main content | Skip to footer
Search the Staffnet siteSearch StaffNet
Search type

Visitor visas

Visa documentation image

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.

This guidance applies to all international visitors to the University, apart from visitors from the Republic of Ireland (who do not require a visa to enter, live or work in the UK). 

Unless your visitor already has a visa in place which allows them to live and work in the UK (i.e. a ‘dependant’ visa, Global Talent, Tier 1 / Entrepreneur, Tier 2 / Skilled worker), the appropriate visa type will depend on the activities they will undertake while at the University. Further details are provided in the Visa Type Table below.

International visitors who enter the UK on a tourist visa cannot take part in academic or business activities at the University.  Tourists may only take part in typical tourist activities such as visiting the University’s museums, galleries and libraries that are open to the public.

Visa nationals and non-visa nationals

International visitors can be divided into two categories: visa nationals and non-visa nationals. 

Visa nationals must obtain a visa in advance of travel to the UK.  A visa national who arrives in the UK without a visitor visa will be refused entry.

Non-visa nationals do not require a visa in advance unless they intend to stay in the UK for more than 6 months. If a visitor has not obtained a visa in advance, they will need to announce the purpose of their visit at Immigration Control at the UK border and, if approved, will receive an ink stamp in their passport under the appropriate immigration category. (This does not apply to non-visa nationals who are permitted to use the e-gates.)

From 30 June 2021, EU, EEU and Swiss visitors will be categorised as non-visa nationals. Until that date, a passport or national security card is sufficient to prove right to enter and work in the UK.

Follow this link to identify whether your visitor is a visa national or non-visa national

View the full UK Government list of visa requirements

How to facilitate a visitor visa

Check if the visitor already has a visitor visa or other UK permission (i.e. a ‘dependant’ visa, Global Talent, Tier 1 / Entrepreneur, Tier 2 / Skilled worker), and whether it covers the specific purpose of their visit to the University.

If they do not, use the Visa Type Table to identify which visa they need.

Ensure your visitor’s letter of invitation* sets out precisely what it is that they are being invited to do and that this corresponds with the visa type to be applied for. This will support them in their visa application, however will not guarantee a successful visa application/successful entry to the UK.

If the visitor requires an ATAS certificate, or the visit is for more than one week in duration, the letter of invitation should only be sent to visitor after the visit has been authorised by People & OD Operations.

In all cases where an ATAS certificate is required for research activities a visitor will undertake at the University, or a visit is for more than one week in duration, the visit must be authorised locally in advance by your Head of School, Head of School Operations or Director. This includes a declaration that export control  and ATAS requirements have been considered and addressed.  

The visit will also need to be approved by People & OD Operations in advance of the visit in accordance with the International Staff Visitor Policy and International Staff Visitor Procedure.

You are encouraged to submit your visitor request for authorisation at least three months in advance of the proposed start date, so that there is time to seek to resolve any issues which may arise (for example, in respect of visa type, ATAS certificates and missed export control obligations), without having to delay the visit.  

For more information, see the International Visitor PolicyInternational Staff Visitor Procedure, International Visitor Request (staff) form and Visitor Agreement. Template letters include: Initial letter of Invitation for staff visitor (to obtain funding), Formal Letter of Invitation for staff visitor and Academic Visitor Letter from the University to Entry Clearance

What your visitor needs to do 

Identify (with our help) the correct visa subcategory to cover their proposed activities.

Visa nationals:

  • must obtain a visa through completing the online visa application form in advance oftheir visit, carefully selecting the correct visa type and subcategory:
  • pay any fee that applies
  • provide their biometrics (i.e. fingerprints and photo of face) for visits over 6 months)
  • provide a passport or other document which satisfactorily identifies their identity or nationality
  • provide other documents that support the visitor application (including an invitation letter from the University, proof they can support themselves during the trip, details of where they intend to stay and travel plans, and (for academic visitors) proof that they are highly qualified in their field of expertise and currently working in that field at a HEI  overseas. Find out more about the supporting documents required
  • attend a staffed Immigration Control desk at the UK border and present the entry vignette in their passport.

Non-visa nationals:

  • must obtain a visa in advance (as above) if their visit exceeds 6 months
  • who are applying for a visa at the UK border should take particular care to ensure that they clearly the purpose of their visit at the immigration desk and present the documents required to support their application (see above)
  • who are academic and business visitors coming for less than 6 months from the EU, EEA, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States and have a biometric chip in their passport, can use the automated eGates. However, Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) visitors must attend a staffed Immigration Control desk and receive leave in the form of a stamp in their passport in order to evidence they can undertake the permitted paid activity
  • must 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.

Find out more about applying for visitor visas 

Visitor Visa Types

Some visitors may already have in place a visa which gives them the right to live and work in the UK (i.e. a ‘dependant’ visa, Global Talent, Tier 1 / Entrepreneur, Tier 2 / Skilled worker).

For visitors who don’t, it is important that the correct visa subcategory is identified to cover their proposed activities while at the University; selecting an incorrect subcategory may mean that your visitor will not be permitted to enter the UK or carry out the proposed activities when they are here.

The quick reference table explains the type of visas that are appropriate for different types of visit purpose.  This includes information on Temporary Work - Government Authorised Exchange visas, which may be an appropriate alternative route if a visitor visa is not suitable because it does not permit the proposed activities.

If you are unable to identify a suitable visa from the options, please contact for further advice.