Staff Immigration Service

You have been invited to visit the University of Edinburgh

Visitors coming to the University of Edinburgh may need a visa to come to the UK. 

Ensure you are in the correct visa category

It is very important that you are in the UK under the correct visa category for your intended activity at the University. 

There are specific restrictions on what you can do, allowed payments and the length of your visit – depending on what visa you have.

Please note, those who enter the UK as a tourist will only be able to take part in general tourist activities such as sight-seeing or visiting museums. You will not be able to take part in any business or academic activities at the University of Edinburgh on this visa.

What are the categories?

Standard visitor route – Academics (including visiting researchers and scientists)

  • You should be an academic in employment with an overseas institution (research students and retired academics are not eligible under this route); AND
  • Coming to the UK to carry out one of the following activities:
    • To collaborate, gather information and facts, or conduct research, either for a specific project which directly relates to their employment overseas, or independently; and
    • Taking part in a formal exchange with the University (salary must continue to be paid by overseas institution); or
    • An eminent senior doctor or dentist coming to take part in research, teaching and/or clinical practice

Academics (including researchers and scientists) can come to the UK to carry out these activities for up to 6 months.

Academics can also apply for an academic visitor visa for up to 12 months, if they meet the following requirements:

You intend to undertake one (or more of the following activities):

1. Take part in formal exchange arrangements with the University of Edinburgh; or

2. To carry out research for your own purposes whilst on sabbatical leave from your home institution; or

3. If you are an eminent senior doctor or dentist you can take part in research, teaching or clinical practice, provided this does not amount to filling a permanent teaching post.

Academics applying for a 12 month visa must be highly qualified within their own field of expertise; and currently be working in that field at an academic institution or institution of higher education overseas; and

A Tuberculosis test may also be required, check if you need a Tuberculosis test for your visa application:

Tuberculosis tests for visa applicants

Standard visitor route – business activities

  • Business activities will normally be linked to a person's employment overseas and include:
    • Attending conferences or seminars - it is expected that these would last no more than a couple of weeks
    • Attending a meeting or interview
    • Speaking at a one-off conference - provided these are not commercial events and the organiser is not making a profit
    • Translating for a business person
    • Conducting site visits and arranging/signing trade agreements
    • Board-level directors attending board meetings.

PhD students who wish to come to the UK to complete research for their thesis should consider applying for a short-term study 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. 

More information about student routes can be found here:

Immigration service - applying for a visa

How do I apply for the visitor visa?

How and where they apply for a visa will depend on whether you are a visa national or a non-visa national, and, in some circumstances, for how long you are coming to the UK.

Visa Nationals

A list of visa nationals can be found in Appendix 2 of the Visitor Immigration Rules:

Gov.UK - Visa nationals

This includes nationals of China, Colombia, India, Pakistan and Russia.

Visa Nationals need to apply for a visa from outside the UK in advance of their travel.

A non-visa national is anyone who is not on this list.

This application is made online:

Apply as a visa national

You will need to submit a letter of invitation from the University of Edinburgh, as well as other supporting documentation.  

Non-Visa Nationals coming for up to 12 months (i.e. Academic Visitors)

A non-visa national who is coming to the UK for up to 12 months (i.e. an Academic visitor) will need to apply for a visa before travelling to the UK. You should follow the same procedure as visa nationals (above).

Non-visa national coming for up to 6 months

You do not require a visa in advance of travel to the UK. Instead, you would announce the purpose of your visit to the Immigration Officer at the airport on arrival at the UK airport – i.e. that you are coming to the UK under one of the above categories. You should carry the letter of invitation from the University of Edinburgh, and additional supporting evidence, in their hand luggage and present this to the Immigration Officer on arrival. 

If you are a non-visa national and are concerned that there is a risk of refusal, you should consider making an online visitor visa application before travelling to the UK, to avoid being refused entry at the airport.

Please note, those coming to the UK as PPE visitors must not use the eGates. 

Evidence required

You will need a letter of invitation from the University of Edinburgh. Please speak to the School or department that you wish to visit for more information.

You will also need additional supporting documents and a list can be found here:

Visitor visa - supporting documents                              

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) requirement

Since 21 May 2021, visiting academic researchers (other than exempt nationals) who are carrying out or taking part in research at postgraduate level or above in certain sensitive subjects must hold an ATAS certificate before they begin any such research.

Although this certificate is only needed before research begins, it is strongly advised that the visitor obtains this before travelling to the UK.

Exempt Nationalities: Those from EU/EEA, United States of America (USA), Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, and South Korea.

More information on applying for the ATAS certificate can be found here: 

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)