UK Visas for International Visitors

UK Visa (c)Bizhan33

If you have invited an international colleague to visit the UK, then depending on their nationality, the reason for their visit, and the duration of their stay, they may require a visa. Although they will be the person making the visa application it is important that you are aware of the process so that you can help and support their application. That way, even if an application doesn’t succeed, your potential visitor knows that you and your institution has done all it can.

  • Before your colleague begins the visa application process, check to see if a visa is needed and which kind of visa they will need. You can find this information here.
  • There are a number of visa routes, so ensure your visitor applies for the right one and answers all the questions fully and honestly. For example, a visitor coming to the UK for two weeks to research your collection might require a different visa to an international colleague who is also staying for two weeks but who is going to undertake some paid work, for instance, give a series of lectures.
  • It is useful for visitors, if they haven’t applied for a visa in the past, to work with a colleague or contact who has.  So, if you have contacts in the country who have successfully applied before, put them in touch with your potential visitor so they can help them through the process in their own language.
  • Most visa applications need to be done on-line, so your visitor will need a credit card or access to one.  However, once they have created an account, they can send you their log-in details and you can log-in and pay for them.
  • Encourage your visitor to apply as soon as possible as some visas can take time to process. These vary significantly between application centres –it could be up to 120 working days in extreme circumstances. More information on processing times can be found here.
  • You may find that for some countries, for example, Iraq or Iran, it is better to use a local agent to help, because of the complicated visa process.  Using an agent will cost a little more, but they have a very good success rate.
  • Write a letter of invitation on your institution’s headed paper stating why you have invited your visitor and the reason for their visit to the UK. Your visitor should include this with their application, and they can also show a copy when they arrive into UK immigration. Note that some countries will accept a scanned copy of the letter of invitation, but others will still want an original, therefore it’s best to send the signed ‘hard-copy’ as well as a PDF.
  • It is also prudent for your visitor’s employer to write a letter detailing the visitor’s role, the reason for their visit, etc. The bottom line is it’s better to have too many supporting documents than too few. Further information on supporting documents can be found here.
  • Many countries, including India and China, require copies of the hotel/apartment booking and airline tickets to support a visa application, therefore these have to be done in advance
  • Some countries’ visa sections also need proof of travel insurance.  Make clear to your visitor that, if you aren’t providing insurance, they must take out cover for the entirety of their trip.  Failure to do so can prove very expensive. Proof of insurance may be needed both for the visa application and when they arrive into UK immigration.
  • Keep in mind that it can be more difficult for a visitor from a country where the wages are significantly lower to prove that they can support themselves financially during their trip. Again, it goes back to providing as much supporting evidence as possible.
  • While you cannot influence the visa application process, it can be helpful to make personal contact with the relevant consular section to explain fully why your colleague is visiting and to answer any questions or queries.
  • Immigration legislation and procedures change frequently. Keep yourself up to date by checking the UK government visa and immigration website during the period of your visitor’s visa application process.
  • If a visa is granted and not used (i.e. the trip doesn’t happen), be aware that this may cause serious problems for the visitor if they apply again in the future. Therefore, it is important that visas are used.
  • Finally, if your visitor has had their UK visa application refused, ask them to send to you their letter of rejection.  This will explain the reasons for the refusal and will help you to advise and support their re-application. Often an application is rejected because of some simple errors or omissions on the application form, which can be easily addressed.