Academic Visitors

Academic Visitors are a sub-group of the Standard Visitor category. To qualify as an Academic Visitor, the applicant must be able to produce evidence that they are highly qualified in their own field of expertise and are currently working in that field at an academic or higher education institution overseas.

Who can come to the University as an Academic Visitor?

Only those employed by academic or higher education institutions overseas in teaching or research roles are eligible to apply to come to the UK under the Academic Visitor sub-category of the Standard Visitor visa route. Academic. Visitors would fall under the Academic Visitor visa route if they are:

  • on sabbatical leave from their overseas academic institution coming to the University to carry out their own private research (e.g. research for a book, for example);
  • taking part in formal arranged exchanges, e.g. where the University is collaborating with an overseas university on research and exchanges personnel for some or all of the duration of the project. Any salary should continue to be paid by the academic's own overseas institution;
  • coming to share knowledge, experience or advice or to hold informal discussions with UK counterparts (but not conducting research on University hosted projects);
  • taking part in a conference or seminar that is not a commercial or non-profit venture;
  • presenting one-off lectures, seminars;
  • eminent senior doctors or dentists, (i.e. those considered to be top of their field of expertise) coming to take part in research, teaching or clinical practice.

Please note that Academics coming to the University to collaborate with University staff on University-hosted research projects are likely to be classed as sponsored researchers, could not apply as an Academic Visitor, and would require need to apply for a Tier 5 visa instead.

Academic Visitors might get payments in the UK but only for reasonable travel and subsistence expenses. They must intend to leave the UK at the end of their visit and be able to maintain themselves and any dependants without having recourse to public funds or work.

How long can an Academic Visitor and their dependants spend in the UK?

While a Standard Visitor visa is issued for a maximum of 6 months an Academic Visitor can apply for a visa for up to 12 months.

Dependant spouse/partners and children of Academic Visitors can obtain Standard Visitor visas to accompany them in the UK for up to 6 or 12 months in line with the Academic Visitor’s visa.

What is the Academic Visitor visa application process?

The process of obtaining permission to enter the UK as an Academic Visitor under the Standard Visitor visa route for up to 6 months is the same as that for other Visitor visa routes and depends on whether the applicant is classed as a ‘visa national’ or ‘non-visa national’. Visa national list and detailed visa application process can be found on the Gov.UK website.

If coming to the UK as an Academic Visitor for more than 6 (up to 12) months, both ‘visa-nationals’ and ‘non-visa nationals’ must apply for a visa in advance of travelling to the UK.

To apply for a visit visa the applicant must:

  • complete the online application process on the visas and immigration pages of the website; and
  • pay any fee that applies; and
  • provide their biometrics if required; and
  • provide a valid travel document. Where the online application process is not available, the applicant must follow the instructions provided by the local visa post or application centre on how to make an application.

Those applying for an Academic Visitor (up to 12 month) visa must submit, amongst other documents, an invitation letter from the host department within the University. 

What is ATAS?

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS), run by the UK government's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), is designed to prevent the transfer of information and the spread of knowledge or technology that could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery.

With effect from 21 May 2021, any international person who will be undertaking research activities in the UK that could possibly result in the Intangible Transfer of Technology (ITT) to WMD and ACMT programmes of concern, at PhD level or above (including Visiting Academics and Researchers), in one of the Academic Subjects/Fields of Research relevant to ATAS will be required to apply for government clearance by obtaining a free of charge ATAS certificate before they can apply for a Standard Visitor visa. If they do not include an ATAS certificate with their application, it may be rejected/refused.

Sensitive Academic Subjects include Mathematical and Computer Science, Biological Sciences, Engineering, Physical Sciences, Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects, Technologies, Medicine. There is also a quick assessor to see if ATAS is required or not here.

Exemptions exist for nationals from the UK/Ireland, EEA, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and USA and those applying for other visa types e.g. Global Talent Visas.

Where an ATAS certificate is required, the recruiting department will need to provide a short research statement summarising the research activities the individual will undertake. The individual will need to submit this information when they apply for their ATAS certificate.

Individuals can apply for an ATAS certificate in advance and certificates will be valid for 6 months. Applications will normally be processed within 10 working days, up to 15 working days between April and September 2021.

Who does not qualify as Academic Visitors?

Recent graduates, research students, retired academics, people on sabbatical leave from private research companies, named researchers on grants, those filling a normal post or a genuine vacancy, those being paid to give a/ series of lecture(s) and sponsored researchers. However this does not preclude such people from visiting the UK and they will most likely still be able to come on a Standard Visitor visa but a narrower remit of what they would be permitted to do whilst in the UK.