A visitor is a non-UK/Irish national who comes to the UK on a temporary basis. This could be 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). They should only take part in activities as permitted under the category of visit visa 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:
- Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences: email@example.com
- Faculty of Engineering & Design: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Faculty of Science: email@example.com
- School of Management: firstname.lastname@example.org
For all other types of visitor, you'll find further guidance on this page.
Who needs a visitor visa
Who requires a visa will depend on the visitor's nationality and the purpose of their visit to the UK. They will either fall under the visa nationals or non-visa nationals category.
Visitors from a country on the Visa National List are required to apply for (and obtain) a visa before travelling to the UK.
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.
Activities a visitor can take part in
The activities a visitor can take part in will depend on the purpose of their visit and the sub-category of visitor visa 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 website has useful information and guidance on the visitor routes and associated rules.
A business visitor can usually stay in the UK for up to six months (for a £100 fee). While they are here, they can carry out the following general business activities:
- attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews
- 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
- negotiate and sign deals and contracts
- attend trade fairs, for promotional work only − provided the visitor is not directly selling
- carry out site visits and inspections
- gather information for their employment overseas
- be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer − provided any work for the customer is done outside of the UK
Providing a visiting academic meets the eligibility requirements (including the ATAS requirement if applicable), they can stay in the UK for up to 12 months (£200 fee). They can bring their spouse/partner and their children (if applicable). They must be able to prove:
- they are highly qualified within their own field of expertise, for example they have a PhD
- they have been working in that field of expertise at an academic institution overseas prior to their arrival in the UK
- they are visiting for a formal exchange or to carry out research
In addition to 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, they can 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
- 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 to come to the UK for 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
- 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
Visitors are not permitted to take employment or work which involves them filling a role or providing short-term cover for a role within a UK based organisation. 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 GOV.UK.
In some cases, a Temporary Work − Government Authorised Exchange Visa may be appropriate for those who wish to come to the UK for a short period to undertake:
- work experience or training
- an Overseas Government Language Programme
- research or a fellowship through an approved government authorised exchange scheme
How to invite a visitor to the University
If you would like to host a visitor and have been granted permission from your relevant Department/Faculty (for some Faculties, this goes through the Board of Studies), you will need to follow this process.
Use the GOV.UK online tool to determine whether your visitor requires a visa. Irrespective of the visitor visa route, they will still need to meet the eligibility requirements and satisfy the conditions of their stay.
If the visitor requires a Temporary Work − Government Authorised Exchange Visa, or if you are unsure of which visa route is suitable, please email email@example.com 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 this page for further information and guidance). If you are unsure, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for guidance.
Issue an invitation letter to your visitor (deleting/amending relevant sections as appropriate). Academic, Business or Permitted Paid Engagement visitors will always require an invitation letter from the host Department or Faculty. They will need to present this 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 accompanying visitors, nor do they need to be listed in the visitor’s letter of invitation. Please use these prepared template letters which can be copied onto Department or Faculty headed paper and amended accordingly.
Please note, a letter of invitation will not guarantee a successful visa application or 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, depending on what activities they are due to carry out in the UK. 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 email email@example.com for guidance prior to the invitation letter being issued.
Further guidance is available from the GOV.UK website.
Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)
An ATAS certificate is required for both sponsored and non-sponsored visiting academic researchers entering the UK for research in one of the listed subject areas. Please visit our ATAS webpages to find out more about the ATAS requirements and what you and your 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. If this is not provided, they cannot be permitted on-site. They will be in breach of the conditions of their visit permission and may face enforcement action as a result.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any queries in relation to this.