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Academic Visitors

Explaining the visitor rules for scientists, researchers, academics and senior doctors and dentists

The higher education sector thrives by sharing knowledge, research and skills with scientists, researchers and academics from international institutions. International scientists, researchers and academics contribute to the higher education sector by bringing world-leading expertise to colleagues and students at UK institutions. Senior doctors and dentists can share innovative skills, procedures and knowledge with specialist practitioners in the UK.

Arguably the most straight forward route for academics and senior doctors and dentist from overseas to come to the UK is on the Academic Visit visa route. The Academic Visit visa route is a subcategory of the standard visit visa route and it permits academic visitors to stay for 12 months rather than the usual 6 month period, and permits them to engage in additional permitted activities.

When applying for an Academic Visit visa, an academic must meet all the standard visit visa requirements plus the additional requirements for an academic visitor. The additional requirements mean that the academic must prove that they are:

  • Highly qualified in their field of expertise – this usually requires that they hold a PhD or higher.
  • Currently working in that field of expertise at an academic institution overseas.
  • Not filling a permanent teaching post in the UK.
  • Visiting to do research or a formal exchange, unless they are a senior doctor or dentist.
  • If they are a senior doctor or dentist, then they must prove that they are visiting to do research, clinical practice, a formal exchange or to teach.

What can an academic visitor do in the UK?

Academic visitors can do all the general business activities permitted for visitors to the UK, as follows:

A visitor may:

  • attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews;
  • give a one-off or short series of talks and speeches provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser;
  • negotiate and sign deals and contracts;
  • attend trade fairs, for promotional work only, provided the Visitor is not directly selling;
  • carry out site visits and inspections;
  • gather information for their employment overseas; and
  • be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer, provided any work for the customer is done outside of the UK.

In addition, visitors in this can undertake the following activities:

Scientists and researchers may:

  • gather information and facts for a specific project which directly relates to their employment overseas, or conduct independent research; and
  • share knowledge or advise on an international project that is being led from the UK, provided the Visitor is not carrying out research in the UK.

Academics may:

  • take part in formal exchange arrangements with UK counterparts (including doctors);
  • carry out research for their own purposes if they are on sabbatical leave from their home institution; and
  • if they are an eminent senior doctor or dentist, take part in research, teaching or clinical practice provided this does not amount to filling a permanent teaching post.

A senior doctor or dentist can also:

  • take part in research;
  • teach (as long as it’s not a permanent teaching post); and
  • undertake clinical practice (as long as it’s not a permanent position).

An ATAS certificate may be required for research in certain fields.

A valid TB certificate may be required if the applicant is from one of the countries listed here

It is important to understand the limitations on visitors in the UK, to ensure the visa conditions are complied with at all times. Detailed information can be found here

How can Freeths help?

Our expert business immigration team can assist you if you are a higher education provider or similar and would like to know whether the Academic Visitor visa will be a viable route for people to come to the UK to undertake activities with your organisation. We can also be on hand help applicants with their visit visa application to ensure that all the requirements are met.

Our fees are transparent. We offer a fair pricing structure which will be agreed with you at the outset.

If you would like to know more about the visit visas for scientists, researchers, academics and senior doctors and dentist, or need help with any immigration matter, then please contact our immigration team, who are on hand to help.   

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