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UK Visitor Visa for Academics

Foreign academics and researchers looking to visit the UK for academic and research purposes for up to 12 months must obtain an Academic Visitor Visa.

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    What is an Academic Visitor Visa?

    Academic visitors to the UK fall under the Standard Visitor Visa route sub-group. Depending on the purpose of the visit, an academic visitor will qualify for any of the following visa sub-categories:

    • Academic Visitor Visa: For academic visitors coming to the UK for educational or research purposes for 6 to 12 months.
    • Permitted Paid Engagement Visa: For highly-qualified international academics invited by a UK higher education institution to examine students, chair selection panels, give expert lectures, or as part of the quality assurance process of a UK-based research or art organisation. This visa is valid for one month.
    • Business Visitor: For academics visiting the UK to undertake activities related to their overseas job. These activities include no-profit seminars, meetings, conferences, interviews, and short talks.
    • Sponsored Researcher (Government Authorised Exchange Visa): For academics visiting the UK to participate in collaborative research between their overseas academic institution and a UK institution.

    An Academic Visitor visa admits a person into the UK for temporary and specific academic activities such as:

    • Conducting private research whilst on sabbatical leave from their overseas institutions
    • Participating in exchange arrangements with UK counterparts
    • Sharing knowledge and experience, or holding informal discussions with UK counterparts
    • Participating in non-commercial seminars and conferences
    • Taking part in research, teaching, or clinical practice as an eminent senior doctor or dentist, provided you’re not filling a permanent teaching role.

    Professors from higher education institutions overseas accompanying students to the UK on a study abroad programme are allowed to provide a few lectures to students of the host organisation.

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    Eligibility Criteria for UK Academic Visitor Visa

    You must meet specific criteria to qualify for a UK visitor visa, whether you’re seeking an Academic Visitor Visa, Business Visa, or PPE. The Home Office will only grant your visa application if they’re convinced you’re a genuine visitor. To persuade the Home Office of the genuineness of your visit, you must:

    • Show that the visitor visa route permits your purpose of entry
    • Prove that you do not intend to live permanently in the UK and will leave at the end of your visit
    • Prove that you will not extend your stay in the UK through frequent or successive visits.
    • Have sufficient funds to cover the cost of your stay in the UK, including your return trip, without receiving funds from within the UK.
    • Show that you will not participate in any activity restricted from your visa category.

    Suppose a third party is covering the entire cost of your visit to the UK; the Home Office will check to ascertain that you have a genuine professional or personal relationship with that person. The third party must prove that they can and will cover the cost of your visit. The third party, who is your sponsor, must also not breach any UK immigration rule at the time of your application, entry, and during your stay.

    The following persons are ineligible for an Academic visa:

    • Recent graduates
    • Named researchers on grants
    • Research students
    • Retired academics
    • Persons being paid to deliver a series of lectures
    • Sponsored researchers
    • Persons on sabbatical from private research companies.
    • Persons coming in to fill a vacancy or take up a job role in a UK institution.

    Additional Criteria for Academic Visitors

    In addition to the standard requirements for an academic visa, you’ll need to meet other specific criteria to qualify for a 12-month visitor visa for academics. You must prove that you’re coming to the UK to engage in one or more activities permitted for academic visitors. The Home Office must also be satisfied that you are:

    • an expert in your field, having obtained the highest possible qualifications (Ph.D. or more).
    • currently working in the same field at an academic institution or a higher education overseas institution.

    If you’re coming to the UK on a Permitted Paid Engagement visa (PPE), your engagements must be among the permitted activities stipulated in the PPE guidelines. The Home Office also requires that:

    • Your engagements are scheduled before you travel to the UK
    • You declare your engagements as part of the application process
    • You provide evidence of such engagements, such as a formal invitation letter from a UK institute of higher education or a UK research or art organisation.
    • Your engagement aligns with your field of expertise and employment overseas.

    Applying for a UK Academic Visitor Visa

    You can apply for a UK Academic Visitor Visa online from your country of residence. You’ll have to pay an application fee as part of the process. After completing the online application, you’ll be scheduled for an appointment at the Visa Application Centre (VAC)  in your country.

    Your biometric information (photograph and fingerprints) will be captured, and you’ll pay a biometric fee during this appointment. You’re also to provide the relevant supporting documents in this meeting.

    If you’re coming along with family members, each one is to complete a separate Standard Visitor Visa application and pay the attendant fee. They’ll also have to attend their appointment at a VAC.

    Documents Required When Applying for a UK Visitor Visa for Academics


    Your application will only be granted if the Home Office is satisfied that you meet the eligibility criteria for this visa route. You’ll need to provide relevant supporting documents alongside your application to prove your eligibility for a visitor visa. You must provide the following documents along with your visa application.

    • Valid passport
    • An official letter (on letter-headed paper) from your current overseas employer containing details of your sabbatical leave (including start and end dates) and details of the formal exchange or research you’re participating in.
    • A letter from your UK host organisation confirming your research or exchange arrangements.
    • Proof of qualification (if you’re applying for a 12-month visitor visa for academics) showing that you’re an expert in your field.
    • Evidence that you’re currently working in the stated field of expertise.
    • Formal letter of invitation from a UK research or arts institution or a UK academic institution (for PPE visa application).
    • Proof of financial capacity to fund your visit. This includes financial records such as bank statements and salary payment slips.
    • Written undertaking from a third party stating that they are responsible for your travel, accommodation, and maintenance during your UK visit (if a third party is funding your visit)
    • Details of your itinerary, including accommodation arrangements and flight details
    • Proof that you intend to leave the UK after your stay (such as proof of family commitments or property ownership in your home country).
    • A medical practitioner or a recognised medical institution issued a medical certificate verifying that you do not have pulmonary tuberculosis. This is only applicable if you are from the UK tuberculosis testing country list.

    You are to submit these documents during your visa appointment at the VAC in your country. Also, you should plan to provide certified translations of any document not written in English or Welsh.

    Cost of Application

    The application fee for a 6-month standard academic visitor visa is £100. It costs £200 if you’re applying for a 12-month visa. Long-term Standard Visitor Visas fees are higher depending on the visa term.

    Application Processing Time

    The earliest you can apply for an academic visa is 3 months before your travel date. You’ll get a decision on your application within 3 weeks of your VAC appointment. You’ll receive a letter or email with the decision and explaining what you’re to do next.

    Depending on your country, you can get a visa decision faster if you use a priority service. Check if your country is eligible for a priority service at your VAC. Note that this service will cost you an extra fee if available.

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      Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

      In May 2021, the British government introduced a new requirement for academics visiting the UK for research purposes. Anyone visiting the UK for research (independent research or as part of an exchange program) in specified science and technology must obtain an ATAS certificate before applying for an academic Visa.

      The Scheme is run by the UK’s Foreign, Common Wealth and Development Office. It is designed to prevent the spread of information or technology that could be used in developing Advanced Military Technology (ACMT) or weapons of mass destruction. Your visa application might be rejected or refused if you do not attach an ATAS certificate, especially if your field falls within ATAS-sensitive subject areas.

      These sensitive subject areas include Biological Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering, Computer Science, Physical sciences, Agriculture, and Medicine. ATAS only applies to those seeking an Academic Visitor Visa to participate in research. Academics coming into the UK on a PPE visa, Business Visa, and other Standard Visitor Visa routes do not need an ATAS certificate.

      If your visa application requires an ATAS, you’ll have to obtain a statement of research containing a summary of the research you’ll be involved in from your host organisation. You’ll attach this document to your ATAS certificate application. Processing an ATAS application usually takes 10 to 15 working days.

      Exemptions are available for UK, EEA, Switzerland, USA, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korean citizens.

      Extending an Academic Visitor Visa

      If you wish to stay longer in the UK than your visa allows, you can apply for a visitor visa extension, but you must do so before the expiration of your current visa. The Home Office will also check to ensure you still meet the eligibility criteria before approving an extension application.

      An academic visitor whose visa duration is less than six months can apply to have it extended to 6 months. The original visa duration and the extended stay must fall within  6 months.

      If you’re on sabbatical leave in the UK and carrying out private research, you can have your visa extended to 12 months if your original visa was less than 12 months. You’ll not be able to extend your visa for longer than 12 months. Visa extension is not permitted for academic visitors on PPE visas.

      You’ll be booked for an appointment at a UKVCAS (UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services) service point for biometric capturing and submitting relevant supporting documents. An academic visitor visa extension costs £993 plus a £19.20 biometric capturing fee.

      Long-term Visitor Visa Options

      An academic visit visa is usually issued for a maximum of 12 months validity period (including extensions). You can leave and re-enter the UK within 12 months but cannot enter the UK after 12 months unless you go through another visitor visa route.

      If you want to be able to visit the UK for a longer duration, you should apply for a long-term visitor visa. Long-term visitor visas are available for 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years validity periods, allowing you to visit the UK for 6 months at a time. A 2-year long-term visitor visa costs £376, 5 years costs £670, and 10 years costs £837.

      UKVI might issue you a shorter duration visa if they believe you do not meet the requirements for the duration you applied for. They can also cancel your visa if they discover you’re continuously staying in the UK for extended periods.

      How to Write Your Long-term UK Visitor Visa Supporting Letter?

      If you are applying for a Long-term UK Visitor Visa, you must provide a supporting letter alongside your application form.

      Your supporting letter should explain why you’re visiting the UK and how long you plan to stay. It should also include the following information:

      • Your name, address and passport number.
      • The purpose of your visit, including details of any family ties or work commitments in the UK.
      • The length of your stay in the UK and where you plan to stay during this time.
      • Your financial means, such as proof that you can afford your trip and accommodation while you are there.

      To increase your chances of Long-term UK Visitor Visa approval, you should also provide evidence of your ties to your home country, such as proof that you have a job and a place to return to when your stay in the UK is over.

      How Can London Immigration Lawyers Help You?

      Our London Immigration Lawyers can help you with your Academic Visitor Visa application. We have a team of experienced immigration lawyers who are experts in UK immigration law and have a proven track record of success in helping people secure their visas.

      We understand the process can be daunting and time-consuming, and the needs of each applicant differ. So, we tailor our advice to your circumstances, and we’re here to guide you through every step of the way in securing your visa quickly.

      Our team is available to answer any questions or concerns you may have about submitting your Academic Visitor Visa application. Give us a call at 020 4502 8582 for a free initial consultation today. Allow us to help you get the visa you need quickly and efficiently.

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                Frequently Asked Questions

                An academic visitor is a highly-qualified academic visiting the UK for a short time to conduct research or engage in other educational activities such as conferences, seminars, informal discussions, teaching, or clinical practice.

                An academic visitor visa holder cannot engage in paid  work in the UK.  However, you may work for a UK company or organisation as an expert in your profession if you are on the Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) Visa. The PPE Visa is designed for individuals who are being paid to visit the UK for a period of up to one month in order to work as an expert in their field. This includes roles such as visiting examiner, assessor, and lecturer.

                Yes, they can. But each dependent has to apply for a Standard Visitor Visa matching the academic visitor’s visa duration.