Visitors overview

Home Office 'Check if you need a UK visa page'

This page tells 'non-visa nationals' coming for less than six months that they do not need a visa, however, this only means that they do not need to obtain a visa in advance of travelling to the UK. They are still entering under one of the Visitor visa routes described in this guidance and therefore must meet the eligibility requirements, and abide by the conditions of, the relevant Visitor visa route.


Who is a visitor?

A visitor is a non-UK/Irish national who is coming to the UK, usually for up to six months, for a temporary purpose - for example as a tourist, to visit friends or family, or to carry out a business activity. Visitors are not permitted to undertake employment and can only carry out work which falls within the permitted activities of the category of Visit visa they hold.

Visitors to the University who have been invited or are being hosted by the University would come to the UK as an Academic or Business visitor or as a Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) visitor. The visitor would not require a Certificate of Sponsorship, but would instead require a formal letter of invitation from the University to evidence the purpose of their visit.

EU, EEA & Swiss nationals

From the 1 January 2021 all EU, EEA and Swiss nationals visiting a department/ faculty or college, that have not been resident in the UK before 31 December 2020, will need to enter the UK under the appropriate visitor visa route. The activities they undertake will need to meet the permitted activities and an invitation letter must be issued prior to their visit. 

Information for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals resident in the UK before the end of the transition period can be found on the Brexit pages.


What is the difference between a visa national and a non-visa national? 

The Home Office separates visitors into visa nationals and non-visa nationals depending on their nationality. 

Visa nationals are required to apply for (and obtain) a visa before travelling to the UK. A list of the countries can be found in the visa national list on the Home Office Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Visa national list.

If a visitor is from a country which is not on the visa nationals list, they are classed as a 'Non-visa national'. They are able to travel to the UK without holding a UK visa, but must instead present their documents at the border to an immigration officer. If they satisfy the conditions of the visa they are applying for, the immigration officer stamps the visitors passport. This stamp acts as the visitor's visa, as it grants the visitor entry clearance to the UK for a temporary amount of time.   

What can a visitor do while in the UK?

The activities which a visitor can carry out in the UK depend on the type of Visitor visa they hold and the sub-category they fall under depending on what they state is the main purpose of their visit in their visa application. For full details see Visitors - Permitted Activities & Restrictions.

The main purpose and additional activities should be discussed and agreed with the proposed visitor before an invitation letter is issued. If you are unsure advice should always be sought from the Staff Immigration Team.

A short Overseas visitor guide for Academics is available for academics who invite visitors from overseas which gives an overview of the rules and requirements of the visitor immigration routes. 

A visitor needs to obtain permission to enter the UK in the form of either a Visit visa or ‘leave to enter’ i.e. having their passport stamped under the correct Visitor category on entry to the UK.

A visitor visa would not be appropriate for the following engagement:

  • someone employed by the University will require a Skilled Worker or Global Talent visa.
  • Tier 5 temporary worker visa may be suitable for:
    • someone coming to give one, or a series of, lecture(s) for more than one month but they could not be filling an advertised vacancy and must be additional to normal staffing requirements
    • those holding the title of University Visiting Professor, if working on University-hosted formal research projects
    • someone coming to participate in collaborative research which would not be undertaken by anyone else if they did not come to the UK (a visit of up to six months for collaborative reseach may, however, be possible under an Academic Visitor visa)
    • students coming on internships specifically to undertake research, i.e. ‘research interns’ 
  • students coming on non-research internships or work placements should refer to the  Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme, or Tier 5 Internship Scheme.
  • students coming for short periods of study should refer to the Short-Term Students information.

Contact us

Medical Sciences / Humanities / GLAM / UAS / Continuing Education

Angelina Pelova, Email: 

Paul Deeble, Email:


MPLS / Social Sciences / Colleges

Lyn Davis, Email:

Richard Birt, Email:




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