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Visa rules for honorary appointments

An honorary appointment may require a visa. The visa type will depend on where the appointee comes from, the nature of the visit, the duration and their personal circumstances. Applicants can use the Home Office link here: to determine if a visa is required.

There are two main types of visa which may be applicable: The standard visitor visa (this has replaced the Business Visitor visa and includes academic visits) or the Temporary Worker visa.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) applies to all international students and researchers, including visitors, (apart from exempt nationalities) who are subject to UK immigration control and are intending to study or research at postgraduate level in certain sensitive subjects.

The subjects and research areas are those where knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery. Researchers and students in these sensitive subjects must apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate before they can start research in the UK.

Students and researchers who are nationals of EU countries, the European Economic Area (EEA), Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland or the United States of America do not need an ATAS certificate.

An ATAS certificate may be required before starting any relevant research activity in the UK. If you need an ATAS certificate as a visitor, you do not have to obtain this before applying for a visa (unless you are applying under the Temporary Worker route), but you should obtain it before travelling to the UK. The faculty must check the ATAS certificate before allowing the research to start, and if this is not provided you will not be permitted on-site.

Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA)

The ETA scheme is being introduced by the Home Office in 2023/2024 and will apply to most visitors to the UK who do not need a visa for stays of less than six months, and who do not have any other immigration status prior to travelling. An ETA will cost £10 per applicant and must be applied for at least a week before travelling.

If you’re a national of Qatar

You’ll need an ETA if you’re travelling to the UK on or after 15 November 2023. You’ll be able to apply from 25 October.

If you’re a national of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates

You’ll need an ETA if you’re travelling to the UK on or after 22 February 2024. You’ll be able to apply from 1 February 2024.

If you’re a national of another country

You do not need to apply for an ETA now. More nationalities will be added to the scheme later.

For further details of the scheme and how to apply, please see here:

Standard Visitor visa

UK Visas and Immigration has issued the following guidance on academic visitors:

This route allows well qualified academics to visit the UK for a maximum of 12 months to undertake certain activities. They should be able to produce evidence that they have been working as an academic in an institution of higher education overseas, or in the field of their academic expertise immediately prior to seeking entry or entry clearance for entry in the category.

Academic visitors must be either:

  • A person on sabbatical leave from an overseas academic institution who wishes to make use of their leave to carry out research here (to do research for a book for example); or
  • academics (including doctors) taking part in formal exchange arrangements with United Kingdom counterparts; or
  • eminent senior doctors and dentists coming to take part in research, teaching or clinical practice.

Academics who want to come to the UK simply to share knowledge or experience or to hold informal discussions with their UK counterparts may qualify as an academic under the Standard Visitor route. The Standard Visitor category may also be suitable for those who intend to conduct research for their own private purposes - such as to do research for a book.

Academic visitors must:

  • Not receive funding for their work from any United Kingdom source (payments of expenses or honoraria to cover their needs whilst in the UK may be disregarded, as may payments on an exchange basis).
  • Not intend to take employment or engage in any work* other than the academic activity for which they are being admitted.
  • Not be filling a normal post or a genuine vacancy.
  • Not stay in the UK for more than 12 months.
  • Intend to leave the UK at the end of their visit.
  • Be able to maintain themselves and any dependants without having recourse to public funds (or be adequately maintained and accommodated by relatives or friends).
  • Be able to meet the cost of the return or onward journey from the UK.

*The UK Visa and Immigration's definition of employment includes, 'unless the contrary intention appears, includes paid and unpaid employment, paid and unpaid work placements undertaken as part of a course or period of study, self-employment and engaging in business or any professional activity.'

An academic visitor will generally be required to apply for a Standard Visitor visa – see the Home Office website or a UK visa guide for overseas academics for further information.

Temporary Worker (formerly Tier 5) Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) Visa

UK Visas and Immigration has issued the following guidance on Sponsored Researchers:

The Temporary Worker (GAE) Scheme visa enables higher education institutions to engage with sponsored researchers for up to a maximum of 2 years. Sponsored researchers include academics, researchers (overseas PhD students), scientists, research engineers or other skilled research technology specialists. The sponsored researcher may give lectures (which does not amount to formal teaching) act as an examiner, undertake skill development, work-based training, or participate in a research collaboration.

Sponsored Researchers should enter the UK under the Temporary Worker (GAE) category of the Points Based System. A certificate of sponsorship is required and can be obtained from the HR Immigration Team The HR Immigration Team require a minimum of two months' notice of the visit to allow time to prepare and issue the certificate of sponsorship and for the visa to be obtained. If ATAS is required, this will need to be obtained before the certificate of sponsorship can be issued.

Overseas PhD students should refer to the Visiting Postgraduate Research Students guidance:

UK immigration regulations are extensive and can vary depending on the country of application. If the sponsoring Faculty or honorary appointee are unsure whether they require a visa, the honorary appointee should contact their nearest UK consulate or embassy directly for immigration advice. Further information can be found on the Home Office website or on the UK visas website.