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Immigration information

This information is intended as a guide only and should be read in conjunction with the website

The UK operates a points-based system of immigration. To work in the UK you must have a visa which permits work. Check if you need a UK visa

The main visa types are listed below:

  • The Global Talent visa (formerly Tier 1 Exceptional Talent) is obtained by the individual and is not linked to a specific job or employer; sponsorship not required
  • The Tier 2 visa has been re-branded the Skilled Worker visa and requires sponsorship from the University of Exeter.
  • The High Potential Individual (HPI) Visa is obtained by the individual and is not linked to a specific job or employer; sponsorship is not required

If you are currently living outside the UK, you will need to apply for ‘leave to enter’. If you are currently living in the UK, you will need to apply for ‘leave to remain’.

If you are currently in the UK as a student, please see the information on the UKVI website with regard to switching to a skilled worker visa

For further information on the specific visas please see the UKVI webpages below:

Public Funds

If your visa includes the condition that you have “no recourse to public funds”, the public funds document published on the Home Office website can provide more information.

Immigration advice

If you need to obtain immigration advice, the Law Society database can help you search for immigration advice around the world.

With effect from 20th February 2020 the Global Talent Visa was introduced, replacing the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa. The Global Talent visa aims to encourage talented researchers and specialists in the field of science, engineering, medicine, social sciences or humanities to work in the UK.

Unlike the Skilled Worker visa (formerly Tier 2) which requires sponsorship from the University, there is no salary requirement or cap on the number of visas that can be issued. Applicants do not need to be appointed to a specific job or be tied to a specific employer. Eligible individuals for this visa also benefit from the option to apply for indefinite leave to remain after 3 years.

There are four different routes to obtain this visa, outlined below:

  • Senior appointments – for individuals who have accepted a job as a Professor or Associate Professor at the University of Exeter. The Recruitment or HR Immigration team will advise if the post meets the criteria for a fast track endorsement.
  • Fellowships – for individuals awarded a fellowship within the last 12 months from the British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering and Royal Society. A full list of approved fellowships can be found here.
  • Endorsed Funders – for researchers and specialists whose name or job title is specified in a grant application from an endorsed funder approved by the UKRI. A full list of endorsed funders can be found here. In addition, the funding must be at least £30,000 and the contract must be for at least two years.
  • Peer Review – for individuals who submit an application for a full peer review by the British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering or Royal Society.

It is up to the applicant to assess their eligibility and complete the two stage process to obtain the visa.

The UKVI website provides an overview of the Global Talent visa and details of how to apply but the Royal Society website also has comprehensive guidance for applicants. If you have any questions about this visa or require a letter(s) from the University of Exeter to support your application for the Global Talent Visa, please contact the HR Immigration Team.

Existing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa Holders

Applicants who currently hold a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa and wish to extend their stay must do so under the Global Talent category. There is no requirement for existing Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa holders to switch to the Global Talent route and all Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa holders, whether they have been endorsed through the “talent” or “promise” criteria, can apply for settlement after 3 years.

This route is for people being sponsored by The University of Exeter to work in a particular role. The University will issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to each sponsored person. To be issued with a valid visa by UKVI, the applicant must then demonstrate they also meet the points criteria to obtain entry clearance.

Certificate of Sponsorship

Once the HR Immigration Team receive confirmation of your appointment we will contact you to begin the necessary arrangements to apply for a CoS.
The HR Immigration Team will require the following documentation before a CoS can be issued:

  • your passport (if you are sending certified copies we need: the main passport page and any current UK visas) and
  • your academic or professional qualifications (eg diplomas, PhD certificates etc)  We can also accept original transcripts, subject to them clearly showing the degree awarded and the date of completion.

If these documents were not obtained at interview, it will be necessary to provide certified copies. A certified copy is one that includes a signed statement, either by the issuing authority or by a solicitor or notary, confirming that it is an accurate copy of the original document. In the UK, the Post Office offers a certifying service. Please do not send original documents through the post, as we cannot guarantee their safe transit and you will need to retain the original documents for the visa application.  

Any documents that we request to see that are not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. The translator's credentials should be provided, along with their official confirmation that the translation is accurate.

The HR Immigration Team will email you the CoS and further details to complete the visa application online.

You will not be able to start work until the Skilled Worker visa has been obtained and we have had sight of this, to complete the right to work document check.

The University will meet the cost of the Certificate of Sponsorship and you will be able to claim the cost of the visa and immigration Health Surcharge (main applicant only) through the University's Visa Reimbursement Scheme.

Immigration Health Surcharge

You will be required to pay an immigration surcharge for you and any of your dependents. Please see the UKVI web pages for further information.

On 30th May 2022, the High Potential Individual (HPI) route was launched. This route is for individuals who are at the early stage of their career who have demonstrated that they have high potential to benefit the UK workforce, through the award of a qualification from an eligible overseas institution on the Global Universities List. Please see the UKVI website for an overview of this visa and the list of eligible awarding institutions. This route allows individuals to come to the UK, without a job offer, for 2 or 3 years depending on level of qualification. However, applicants must demonstrate that they have sufficient funds before applying (£1,270) and will need to switch to other visa routes to obtain settlement. This route does not require sponsorship, so it is up to the applicant to assess their eligibility and apply for the visa.

If your visa is for a shorter time than your contract of employment or your contract of employment is extended you may need to apply for an extension on your visa. If you have been in the UK for a continuous period of five years you may be eligible to apply for settlement. If you have not you will need to apply for an extension on your current visa or switch to another visa. Please contact the HR Immigration Team as soon as possible to discuss your options.

Please also use the UKVI website for further information.

The information on this page is necessarily general. For further information please consult the Visa and Immigration web pages of


To be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain you must complete a continuous period of five years (please see below) or two years if you are in the UK on a spousal visa in the UK in an eligible immigration category before you can apply for settlement. You must meet all the requirements of the Immigration Rules that are in place at the time when you apply for settlement, as these are subject to change we recommend that you check the Home Office website for updates.

Continuous period of five years

Please note that the Home Office have stated that within this period only time actually spent within the UK will be counted. You are allowed a limited amount of time to spend outside the UK for holiday or research over the five year period. However, 'in assessing whether or not an applicant has fulfilled the requirement to have spent 5 years in continuous residence in the same capacity, short absences abroad, for example for holidays (consistent with annual paid leave) or business trips (consistent with maintaining employment or self-employment in the United Kingdom), may be disregarded, provided he has clearly continued to be based here.'

Please ensure that you have read and understood the eligibility criteria before you apply.

If you are likely to spend any extended amount of time outside the UK, please contact the HR Immigration Team as soon as possible for guidance.

Biometric information

You must also now enrol biometric information and obtain a biometric residence permit. For more information please see the biometric information on the website.

How to apply

Please ensure you are applying using the correct form and have read the correct Policy Guidance on the website.

You must have enough English language skills and enough knowledge about life in the UK when you apply.

The University must certify in writing that we continue to require you for employment. A letter to this effect can be obtained from the HR Administration Team

When to apply

Do not apply more than 28 days before you are eligible, but you must make an application before your current leave to remain in the UK expires.


Some dependents are eligible to apply for settlement at the same time as you, provided they have lived with you in the UK for a minimum of two years before applying for settlement.

Children (up to the age of 18) are eligible to apply for settlement at the same time as you, provided the child meets the requirements of the immigration rules.

For more information, visit the visa and immigration pages of the website.

Knowledge of life and language in the UK

You may need to undertake a life in the UK test, see the Home Office website for more details. You may also be required to show you have a knowledge of language in the UK. Please see the website for more information.

Experts who do not have the right to work in the UK who have been invited by a Higher Education Institution to give one or a short series of paid lectures in their area of expertise can work for up to one month at that HEI under a Permitted Paid Engagement.  This route does not allow overseas lecturers to cover the role of the usual university lecturer for one month - it is designed to bring in those who have particular expertise in a subject area and to share this with other academics.

A list of permitted engagements are listed below:

  • examine students and/or participate in or chair selection panels as a visiting academic, who is highly qualified within his or her own field of expertise, invited by a United Kingdom Higher Education Institution or a United Kingdom based research or arts organisation as part of that institution or organisation’s quality assurance processes;
  • give one or more lectures in his or her field of expertise as a visiting lecturer, invited by a United Kingdom Higher Education Institution or a United Kingdom based research or arts organisation;
  • and does not intend to take employment, produce goods or provide services within the United Kingdom, including the selling of goods or services direct to members of the public other than as permitted for by the pre-arranged paid engagement;
  • and will maintain and accommodate him or herself adequately out of resources available to the applicant without recourse to public funds or taking employment; or will be maintained and accommodated adequately by relatives or friends.

To simplify the administrative burden on both the individual and the University, individuals working at the University under PPE should be engaged on a self employed basis.  Individuals will need to complete an invoice on completion of the work in order to be paid.

The individual must leave the UK after the one month period and must not undertake any other paid engagement in the UK during this time.


The PPE is a separate route from the standard visitor visa, which includes business/academic visits), so the individual would need to arrive in the UK on

  • a standard visitor visa (unpaid work please see the website for more information)
  • OR under the Permitted Paid Engagements route. Individuals cannot switch into this visa if they are already in the UK on another visa.

Please see the website for details of how to apply.

Non-visa nationals (which includes nationals from the US and Canada) do not need a visa in advance of travelling to the UK, but can do so if they wish. If they do not have a visa in advance they should declare the reason for their visit at the point of entry in the UK. They will need to demonstrate that they are qualified to perform the paid engagements or that the paid engagements relate to their area of expertise, qualifications or occupation. If this is successfully demonstrated then they will be approved entry.

We cannot guarantee a successful visa application/ successful entry to the UK as the decision is at the discretion of the immigration officers overseas or at the UK port of entry. We, therefore strongly recommend that even non-visa nationals raise any concerns with their nearest Visa Application Centre/British Embassy to avoid any issues on arrival in the UK.

The UKVI strongly advise you to apply for a visa before travelling to the UK if:

  • you have any unspent criminal convictions in any country, including the UK;
  • you have previously been refused entry, deported or otherwise removed from the UK;
  • you have breached the terms of any previous entry to the UK (for example, by working illegally or staying here after your permission to stay expired);
  • you have previously applied for a visa and been refused; or
  • you have been warned by a UK official that you should obtain a visa before you travel to the UK.

You may not be allowed to enter the UK if you do not have a visa.


Individuals must demonstrate to the UKVI when they apply for leave to enter or at the point of entry (for non-visa nationals) that they are qualified to perform the paid engagements or that the paid engagements relate to their area of expertise, qualifications or occupation.  The Immigration Rules require the visitor to therefore have the following:

  • A formal invitation from the University (PPE letter template with Contract for Services) - this should be formal, from a senior figure such as the Dean, and on headed paper, and include information as to why the lecturer has been appointed to give the lecture (i.e. because s/he is an expert in xxx field); what lecturers they will be doing, where and for how long; that a fee will be paid and accommodation provided;
  • Documents to show that the lecture relates to his/her field of expertise and/or qualifications such as the production of publications by the individual in a particular field and any evidence of previous lectures given in that field of expertise.;
  • Documents to show that the subject relates to their full time occupation overseas (i.e a letter from the individual’s employer confirming their current employment and expertise in the relevant field).

The following link is from the website and shows the supporting documents that an individual will need.


If the invited person intends to be accompanied by their dependents, the dependents would need to apply in their own right for a 'standard visitor' visa (unless they qualify under another category of visitor).

Further information

For further information please see the webpages.