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Human Resources

Visitor Visa (Academic)

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 reasearch projects are likely to be classed as sponsored researchers.  They should not apply as an Academic Visitor, and will require a Government Authorised Exchange 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. 

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Researchers coming to the UK as a visitor will also need to obtain an ATAS before beginning any relevant research activity once they arrive in the UK, but will not need to do so before making a visa application. 

Researchers on a Standard visitor visa who are attending meetings, conferences, seminars or interviews, or giving speeches and will not be undertaking research during their time in the UK do not require ATAS clearance. 

Researchers on a standard visitor visa who are undertaking science and academic activities, such as (non-exhaustive list):

  • gathering information and facts for a specific project which directly relates to their employment overseas, or to support independent research;
  • taking part in formal exchange arrangements with UK counterparts
  • carrying out research for their own purposes or as a group.

Will, if engaged in an ATAS categorised sensitive subject, require an ATAS certificate, regardless of the length of the visit.

Those who require an ATAS certificate as a visitor do not have to obtain this before making a visa application but it is strongly recommended to obtain it before travelling to the UK. Queen Mary is required to check the ATAS certificate before allowing the research to commence, and if this is not provided yhem you will not be able to commence your engagement with the University

Researchers already in the UK

Individuals who are already conducting research in the UK will not need to apply for an ATAS certificate unless they apply for a new Visa or apply to extend their current visa.

Those who were a visitor conducting research in the UK before the ATAS requirement was introduced on 21 May 2021 will not need to apply for an ATAS certificate to continue this research. They will however need to obtain an ATAS certificate the next time they return to the UK to conduct research.

Those who change their field of research or change where they conduct their research will need to apply for a new ATAS certificate.

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