A visitor is a non-UK/Irish national who is coming to the UK on a temporary basis, for example as a tourist, to carry out certain business activities or to take part in research or an exchange programme as an academic.
Visitors should not carry out paid or unpaid work (other than as a Permitted Paid Engagement Visitor) and should only undertake those activities which are permitted under the category of visit visa that they hold.
If you would like to invite a PhD student to visit, please contact the relevant Doctoral College team who can advise you further:
For all other types of visitor, please see below for further guidance.
Who needs a visitor visa?
This will depend on the visitor's nationality and the purpose of their visit to the UK.
Visa nationals - Visitors from a country on the Visa National List are required to apply for (and obtain) a visa before travelling to the UK.
Non-visa nationals - Visitors from a country not on the Visa National List are able to travel to the UK without holding a UK visa, but must instead present their passport or travel document at the border to an Immigration Officer. If the visitor satisfies the conditions of the visa they are applying for, the Immigration Officer will stamp the visitor's passport. This stamp acts as the visitor's visa, as it grants the visitor entry clearance to the UK for a temporary period of time.
What activities can a visitor undertake?
The activities which a visitor can undertake will depend on the purpose of their visit and the sub-category of visitor visa that they apply for. The main purpose of a visit to the University under a Standard Visitor Visa would normally fall under the Business or Academic Visitor sub-categories.
The GOV.UK webpage has useful information and guidance on the visitor routes and associated rules.
A business visitor can usually stay in the UK for up to 6 months (£95 fee) and whilst they are here, they can do the following activities:
General Business Activities
- attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews; and
- give a one-off or short series of talks and speeches provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser; and
- negotiate and sign deals and contracts; and
- attend trade fairs, for promotional work only, provided the visitor is not directly selling; and
- carry out site visits and inspections; and
- gather information for their employment overseas; and
- be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer, provided any work for the customer is done outside of the UK
Subject to a visiting academic meeting the eligibility requirements (including the new ATAS requirement if applicable), they may be able to stay in the UK for up to 12 months (£190 fee) along with their spouse/partner and their children (if applicable). They must prove that they are:
- highly qualified within their own field of expertise, for example they have a PhD;
- have been working in that field of expertise at an academic institution overseas prior to their arrival in the UK;
- visiting for a formal exchange or to carry out research
In addition to the above 'general business activities', they can carry out the following activities:
- take part in formal exchange arrangements with UK counterparts (including doctors);
- carry out research for their own purposes if they are on sabbatical leave from their home institution;
- if they are an eminent senior doctor or dentist, take part in research, teaching or clinical practice provided this does not amount to filling a permanent teaching post.
Scientists and researchers may:
- gather information and facts for a specific project which directly relates to their employment overseas or conduct independent research; and
- share knowledge or advise on an international project that is being led from the UK, provided the visitor is not carrying out research in the UK.
Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE)
A Permitted Paid Engagement Visa is for experts in their field coming to the UK to undertake a specific paid engagement for up to one month.
The following are Permitted Paid Engagements:
- an academic who is highly qualified within their field of expertise, coming to examine students and/or participate in or chair selection panels, and have been invited by a UK higher education institution, or a UK-based research or arts organisation as part of that institution or organisation’s quality assurance processes; and
- an expert coming to give lectures in their subject area, where they have been invited by a higher education institution; or a UK-based research or arts organisation, and this does not amount to filling a teaching position for the host organisation.
Permitted activities must not amount to the visitor undertaking employment, or work which amounts to them filling a role or providing short-term cover for a role within a UK based organisation and where the visitor is already paid and employed outside of the UK they must remain so.
Full guidance on Permitted Paid Engagements can be found on the GOV.UK webpage.
In some cases, a Temporary Work - Government Authorised Exchange Visa may be appropriate for those wanting to come to the UK for a short period to undertake:
Further guidance on this type of visa can be found on our Temporary Work Visas webpage and the GOV.UK webpage.
How do I invite a visitor to the University?
If you are proposing to host a visitor and have been granted the appropriate permissions from within your relevant Department/Faculty (for some Faculties, this goes through the Board of Studies) you will need to follow the process below.
Use the GOV.UK online tool to determine whether your proposed visitor requires a visa. Irrespective of the visitor visa route, the visitor will still need to meet the eligibility requirements and satisfy the conditions of their stay.
If the individual requires a Temporary Work - Government Authorised Exchange Visa or if you are unsure of which visa route is suitable, please email the Staff Immigration Team with the details of the visit and visitor, including:
- nationality of visitor
- postal address
- purpose of the visit, including activities to be undertaken
- dates and duration of the visit
Consider if an ATAS certificate will be required (see below for further information and guidance). If you are unsure, please email the Staff Immigration Team for guidance.
Issue invitation letter to visitor (deleting/amending relevant sections as appropriate) - visitors to the University who are coming as an Academic or Business visitor or as a Permitted Paid Engagement visitor will always require a letter of invitation from the host Department/Faculty to present with their visa application (for visa nationals) or to an Immigration Officer at the UK port of entry (for non-visa nationals). Letters of invitation are not required for dependants who are accompanying visitors, nor do they need to be listed in the visitor’s letter of invitation. Please use these prepared template letters that can be copied onto Department/Faculty headed paper and amended accordingly.
Please note that a letter of invitation will not guarantee a successful visa application/successful entry to the UK. This decision is made solely by Immigration Officers and/or at the UK port of entry.
Those applying for a Standard Visitor Visa must submit the following documents in support of their visa application:
- current passport (valid for whole stay with a blank page for a visa) or other valid travel document
- proof that they can support themselves during their trip
- details of where they intend to stay and their travel plans
- an invitation letter from the host Department/Faculty within the University
Visitors may be required to provide additional documentation to that above dependent on what activities they are due to carry out in the UK and they will be advised of this when they apply online. For full guidance on what supporting documentation may be required for Standard Visitor Visas please refer to the UKVI Guide.
Visitors are not permitted to receive pay from a UK source (except Permitted Paid Engagement visitors who must be paid). However, payment of reasonable expenses to cover the cost of travel and subsistence is permitted. The Home Office do not define ‘reasonable’ so please ensure any payments can be justified. If unsure on this point please contact the Staff Immigration Team for guidance prior to the invitation letter being issued.
Further guidance is available from the GOV.UK website.
An ATAS certificate is now required for both sponsored and non-sponsored visiting academic researchers entering the UK to undertake research in one of the listed subject areas. Please visit our webpages here to find out more about the ATAS requirements and what you and the visitor need to do to comply with this requirement.
Visitors will need to obtain an ATAS certificate before beginning any relevant research activity in the UK, but will not need to do so before making a visa application.
It is strongly recommended that the visitor obtain their ATAS certificate before travelling to the UK. The host Department/Faculty is required to check the visitor's ATAS certificate before allowing any research to commence, and if this is not provided they cannot be permitted on-site, will be in breach of the conditions of their visit permission and may face enforcement action as a result.
Please email the Staff Immigration Team if you have any queries in relation to this.