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Human Resources

International Visitors

Queen Mary welcomes visitors from across the world to undertake a variety of academic activities, including giving lectures, conducting research, and acting as examiners. To ensure that Queen Mary is compliant with UK immigration law it is essential that a right to work check is undertaken for every person who is engaged as a visitor to ensure they are lawfully allowed to undertake the proposed work while they are in the UK.

If you are inviting an international visitor to the UK you should first establish whether they will be attending Queen Mary as a visiting worker or a visiting student.  HR are here to assist you with international visitors who are coming to the UK to undertake work based activities.  We cannot provide advice regarding visiting students.

Right to work

All visitors no matter their nationality are required to show their Passport or National Identification Card, and where necessary, a visa appropriate for the activity they are undertaking. 

All non-British visitors, who are not resident in the UK, will likely require a visa to undertake any work. 

Establishing the need for a visa

The type of visa an individual will require will depend on where they are resident and what activities they will be taking part in. 

Inviting a UK resident to work for Queen Mary 

  • British and Irish citizens do not require additional permissions to work in the UK;
  • EEA nationals who are resident in the UK will be required to provide confirmation of their status under the EU Settlement Scheme;
  • UK visa holders will need to ensure that their visa allows them to under take the activity you wish them to undertake.  Please obtain a copy of their visa and speak with HR before any work is undertaken. 
Inviting an international visitor not resident in the UK

If you are inviting an international visitor from outside the UK you should first establish with them what, if any, eligibility they have to be in the UK. They may already have permission but it is essential that an assessment is made as to whether that permission covers the purpose of their visit.

If they are not eligible to work then they will likely need a visa.  Your invitation should formally document precisely what it is they are being invited to do. This will support them in their visa application, however it will not guarantee a successful visa application / successful entry to the UK. 

Visitor Routes

To determine the appropriate visa for the required visit, we would advise first reading the document below.  The visitor visa route is broad with several subclasses. It is important that visitors identify the correct subcategory to cover their proposed activities as selecting an inappropriate subcategory may mean that they cannot fulful their planned visit.

Visitor Routes [PDF 540KB]

More information on what can be done on the visitor routes is available from the Home Office.

Visa and non-visa nationals 

Visitors coming to the University from outside of the Common Travel Area will be required to gain entry to the UK under an immigration category appropriate for the agreed activity.  A visitor's ability to enter the UK will depend on their nationality and whether they are considered a visa or non-visa national.  

Visa Nationals - Those considered visa nationals will need to apply for a visa before they travel to the UK. A list of visa nationals can be found in Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Visa national list

Non-visa Nationals - Those considered non-visa nationals can travel to the UK without a visa but they must obtain the correct stamp from the UK Border Force to allow them to work in the UK. On arrival in the UK they should ensure that they are clear in stating the purpose of their visit to ensure they are given the correct permission to enter the UK.

Non-visa nationals travelling to work for Queen Mary should not use the eGates.  

Please note: It is important to remember that visa free travel does not negate the need to have the correct permission to work in the UK.  Without the correct permission to be in the UK then the visitor will not be able to undertake the agreed activity. 

Visa Options

Those entering the UK for a short stay are limited in what activities they can do once in the UK. The Government consider that the primary purpose of the visit is tourism therefore the individual will not be able to work. 

This applies to both

  • Visa nationals who hold a standard visitor visa; and
  • Non-visa nationals utilising 6 months of visa free entry.

Activities that can be undertaken are

  • attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews; and
  • 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; and
  • negotiate and sign deals and contracts; and
  • attend trade fairs, for promotional work only, provided the visitor is not directly selling; and
  • carry out site visits and inspections; and
  • 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.

Individuals employed outside the UK may visit the UK to take part in the following activities in relation to their employment overseas:

  • A professor from an overseas academic institution accompanying students to the UK as part of a study abroad programme, may provide a small amount of teaching to the students at the host organisation (however this must not amount to filling a permanent teaching role for that institution).

Academic Visitors are a sub-group of the Standard Visitor category. To qualify as an Academic Visitor, the applicant must be able to produce evidence that they are highly qualified in their own field of expertise and are currently working in that field at an academic or higher education institution overseas.

Recent graduates, people on sabbatical leave from private research companies, named researchers on grants, those being paid to give a/ series of lecture(s) and sponsored researchers do not qualify as Academic Visitors and should find an alternative immigration route.

Who can come to Queen Mary as an Academic Visitor?

Only those employed by academic or higher education institutions overseas in teaching or research roles are eligible to apply to come to the UK under the Academic Visitor sub-category of the Standard Visitor visa route. Research staff should therefore be eligible under this route, but research students would not.

Visitors would fall under the Academic Visitor sub-category of the Standard Visitor visa route if they are:

  • carry out private research whilst being on leave from their overseas academic institution (e.g. research for a book, for example)

  • share knowledge or experience or to hold informal discussions with UK counterparts (but not conducting research on University hosted projects)

  • take part in a conference or seminar that is not a commercial or non-profit venture

  • where the visitor is an eminent senior doctors or dentists, (i.e. those considered to be top of their field of expertise) coming to take part in research, teaching or clinical practice

  • take part in arranged exchanges e.g. where Queen Mary is involved in a formal exchange with an overseas university where researchers and other personnel are spending time at each other's institution for some or all of the duration of a project

Any salary should continue to be paid by the academic's own overseas institution.

Academics who are coming to Queen Mary to participate in collaborative research projects are likely to be classed as sponsored researchers.  They should not apply as an Academic Visitor; they will require a Tier 5 visa instead.

Applicants under the Academic Visitor route must be employed by an academic institution outside the UK. Applicants who are retired are not eligible under either the Academic or Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) route.

How long can an Academic Visitor and their dependants spend in the UK?

While a Standard Visitor visa is issued for a maximum of 6 months an Academic Visitor can apply for a visa for up to 12 months.

Dependant spouse/partners and children of Academic Visitors can obtain Standard Visitor visas to accompany them in the UK for up to 6 or 12 months in line with the Academic Visitor’s visa.

Where dependent children of Academic Visitors are coming to the UK for 12 months the restriction that they must not intend to study at a state-funded school does not apply.

What can an Academic Visitor (up to 12 month visa) do while in the UK?

An Academic Visitor can undertake other activities under their Standard Visitor visa in addition to the activities which form the main purpose of their visit. 

The Permitted Paid Engagement visa allows individuals to visit the UK for up to 1 month to undertake work activity not permitted by the visitor visa. 

Visa nationals must apply for a visa before they enter the UK, while non-visa national can apply at the border.  

Where an application is made at the border the individual must see a Border Agency officer to get their passport stamped.  Without a passport stamp the individual will not be able to under take the work in question. 

Using the eGate when travelling to the UK and Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) route.

The UK has expanded who can use eGates (automated self-service barriers) to enter the UK to include nationals of EEA countries, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States of America.

PPE visitors require a specific, one month grant of leave, which has to be granted in advance of travel (for visa nationals) or by an immigration officer upon arrival into the UK (for non-visa nationals).

Visitors using the PPE route should follow the signs for “See an officer” to get their passport stamped with a permitted paid engagement visa. The following document can also be shown to staff: Border Force Exceptions Request for Stamp [PDF 155KB].

If the individual uses an eGate, then they will not receive the correct grant of leave, and will be prevented from undertaking the planned engagement. If activities requiring a PPE visitor visa are undertaken without the correct stamp this will be considered by the Home Office to be illegal working.

The Temporary Work - Government Authorised Exchange scheme enables Queen Mary to sponsor researchers, including academics, researchers, scientists, research engineers or other skilled research technology specialists, to come to the UK on a temporary basis.

The work or activities undertaken must never amount to what the Home Office terms ‘a genuine vacancy’. In accordance with the Home Office rules, the role must be over and above the University's normal staffing requirements, and the role would not be automatically refilled once the post holder leaves.

  • The researcher may be funded by
    • Queen Mary;
    • Their overseas employer; or
    • An independent UK or non-UK funding body.
  • The researcher cannot be self-funded and must be in receipt of funding in line with, or above, the National Minimum Wage. 
  • Visitors under this scheme can come to the UK for a maximum of two years and will require sponsorship by the University.

Who can use the scheme?

As an A-rated sponsor, Queen Mary University of London is able to sponsor individuals to undertake the following activities:

  • A formal supernumerary research project or collaboration (peer to peer)
  • A period of work-based training/work experience/internship/placement
  • Skill development/knowledge transfer
  • A series of lectures, which doesn’t amount to a formal teaching post
  • External examinations

How does my visitor obtain sponsorship

In order to apply for a Temporary Work - Government Authorised Exchange visa the individual will require a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). This is an electronic document issued by the Home Office.  It is the responsibility of the host department, not the individual, to request a Certificate of Sponsorship from Human Resources.

Each CoS request will be assessed by HR to ensure it meets the terms of the sponsored researcher scheme.  To enable HR to process a request for a CoS the individual and department will need to provide additional supporting documents describing the purpose and length of the visit, information regarding the funding of the visit, and the individual’s personal information.

The below form Temporary Work - Government Authorised Exchange application form will need to be completed by the department and the visitor.

GAE Application Form [DOC 147KB]

PhD Students

Please note that PhD students are unlikely to be eligible for this route. There are alternative immigration routes available to students. Please see below tab ‘Visiting PhD students’

While the sponsored individual has a duty to keep the University updated, the University also has a duty to maintain these details and report any changes. As the manager of a sponsored worker, you are responsible for ensuring that the University is meeting our reporting and recording duties as described below:


Please ensure that you (or the sponsored employee that reports to you, where appropriate) tell Human Resources immediately if:

  1. The sponsored individual does not arrive to start work on the first day of employment, and the reason if known (e.g. a missed flight).
  2. They take unauthorised absence for more than ten consecutive working days.
  3. If significant changes to their employment are being planned or considered. For example, change of role, job title, duties, hours, location or salary (except for annual increments and cost of living) or TUPE transfer. Depending on the change, we may have to notify or seek approval from the Home Office before it can take place.
  4. If the University is no longer required to sponsor the individual. For example, because:
    • Their contract of employment has been terminated for any reason (including resignation)
    • They wish to take more than one month’s unpaid leave (other than maternity, paternity, adoption or sick leave)
    • They have changed immigration status (for example, obtained indefinite leave to remain, acquired British Citizenship or moved to an immigration tier that does not require a Sponsor). You must see documentary evidence (passport stamp and/or letter from the Home Office) of any change in immigration status and send copy to the Compliance Team (with printed name, signature and date).
  5. If the individual loses a professional registration or accreditation which is required for their job.
  6. If the employee wishes to take up other employment whilst still being sponsored and employed by the University.
  7. Any suspicions that the employee is breaching the conditions of their leave to reside in the UK.
  8. You have any information which suggests that they may be engaging in any criminal activity.

Record Keeping

The University must also keep up-to-date records of sponsored individuals’ contact details and when they are absent from work, which means that we need you to:

  1. Remind the individual to inform your departmental administrator immediately if you are aware that their contact details (including home address, home telephone number or mobile telephone number) are changing. Alternatively, they can update their own details on MyHR which is found at
  2. Ensure that the individual follows your department/institution’s procedure for booking annual leave and their leave is always recorded, using the method that has been agreed locally.
  3. Ensure that the individual contacts you (or other appropriate person in your department/institution) if you they need to be absent from work for any other reason (e.g. sickness, bereavement) and that their absence is always recorded. Either you or a designated person in your department/institution must record sickness absence on MyHR; please ensure you know what your local arrangements for this are.

From 21 May 2021 the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) will be extended from students to cover academics and researchers. 

ATAS is for security clearance from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) for researchers working is subjects where the employee’s knowledge could be used in programmes to develop Advanced Conventional Military Technology (ACMT), weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or their means of delivery. 

Academics and researchers in certain science subjects, mathematics, engineering, technology or medicine who require sponsorship under the Government Authorised Exchange route may need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) clearance certificate. 

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.

Please note that when an ATAS certificate is required, an application for a certificate must be made before Queen Mary can issue a Certificate of Sponsorship. 

Find out more about the subjects and occupations that are affected by the scheme on our ATAS Pages

PhD students who wish to come to the UK to complete research for their thesis may be eligible to apply for a Standard Visitor Visa, which is valid for up to six months or a Student visa if their research is part of the PhD degree course and will take longer than six months. 

The student may need to register as an associate student and further information about visiting students can be found on the Advice and Counselling Service webpages.  

HR cannot provide assistance with student visas, we recommend you speak to student service and your hiring department for further guidance. 

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