Visitor Invitation Process

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Where a college or department wishes to invite a non UK/ Irish national as a visitor, administrators within the department/ faculty or colleges should be included in the discussion from the start. This is to ensure a smooth process for all parties involved and considerably reduces the changes of a visa refusal.

The administrators in the host department/ faculty/ college will use the Staff Immigration (SIT)'s invitation letter templates when drafting the invitation letter to ensure that the correct letter of invitation is issued and the activities the visitor will be doing are compliant with the visa route they are entering under.


SIT recommends that departments and colleges asks prospective visitors to fill in a 'Visitor form'. These may include the following points:

  • Personal information about the visitor
  • Information about the visitors current status (for example: PhD student/ journalist/ researcher/ government official/ eminent doctor etc).
  • The main purpose of their visit to University of Oxford
  • An outline of the activities they will be undertaking during their visit
  • Confirmation whether they will be doing any collaborative research with their host department or college
  • The duration of their visit
  • Confirmation whether the visitor is bringing any family members
  • Information how they intend to support themselves financially while in the UK


Departments and colleges must ensure they have a robust process in place to avoid that individual within the department or college invite non UK/Irish nationals without having run this by the HR office first.


Please note that where a University department or college is inviting a non UK/ Irish national, they are facilitating their entry to the UK

The host department/ faculty or college must be satisfied that the visitor is compliant with the Home Office's visitor visa regulations.



When the college or department administrator receives the completed visitor form, they can assess which visitor visa route would be most suitable by referring to our Standard visitor visa type pages.

There is also an overview of visitor visa routes and guide for academics here

Where an administrator is unsure which visa route is best suited for their prospective visitor, they should contact the Staff Immigration Team and provide us with an overview of the visit and the details of the visitor.

Individuals undertaking an element of research at PhD in certain sensitive subjects must obtain an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) prior to commencing their visit.

This applies to researchers visiting under the standard visitor visa and undertaking science and academic activities including:

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


The following nationalities are exempt from the ATAS requirement:

  • UK, EU/EEA and Swiss nationals
  • Nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, or the United States of America.

Dual nationals who hold one of the listed nationalities above will also be exempt. This is not based on country of residence, but nationality only.


The Staff Immigration Team (SIT) will work with Department, Faculty and College colleagues to identify if the individual will need to obtain an ATAS certificate. If this is required a template letter will need to be issued to the visitor.  


If an ATAS certificate is required the visit must not be permitted to start, and no access to facilities or systems can be provided, until the ATAS certificate has been provided. As failure to obtain a required ATAS certificate will prevent a visit from commencing, applying in good time and before travelling to the UK is strongly recommended.


Full details can be found on the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) page.

Once it has been established which visitor visa category is the best suited to accommodate the visitor, the HR team or other administrators in the host department or college must issue a letter of invitation to the visitor. Staff Immigration provides templates for each category which can be found below:









The letter of invitation should be letter headed paper, be signed and dated and then sent to the prospective visitor via email. They will require this letter of invitation for their visa application (if they're a visa national) or they will need to bring a copy of it to present if questioned by an Immigration Officer when they enter the UK (if they are a non-visa national). The letter of invitation should include contact details that the Home Office caseworker deciding the Visitor visa application, or the Immigration Officer at the UK border, can use to verify details about the visit.

All visitors must report to the HR office at their host department or college before their visit commences so the following steps can take place:


  • Record keeping for all visitors (except Business visitors coming for one day or less):
    Take a copy of the visitor's passport and vignette (paper visa in their passport used to enter the UK) and/or entry stamp. Sign and date the passport details and visa/immigration stamp and retain these for the duration of visit along with a copy of the letter of invitation and any information confirming intended activity. Those who did not receive an entry stamp will instead need to provide their boarding pass (or other document showing then they entered the UK) which will be copied and held instead to know their entry date and from this when they must leave the UK in six months time, if not before.


  • ATAS Certificate checked (if applicable): Where it has been identified that ATAS clearance will be required, the department/ faculty or college must check the ATAS certificate to ensure this matches the letter issued to the visitor.  The visit cannot take place, and no access can be given if the visitor does not yet have the ATAS certificate or has received an ATAS refusal. Please refer to the policy on ATAS refusals.
  • Gaining access to department/ faculty or college: The department/ faculty or college goes through necessary procedures to allow the visitor to gain access to their facilities.


  • Reminded to collect BRP: Academic visitors and other individuals visiting for over 6 months are reminded to collect their BRP from the post office. Once the BRP has been collected, the host department or college must take a copy of it to be included in their records.


  • Visa conditions: All visitors should be aware of the conditions of their visa which can be found on the second page of their letter of invitation. These can also be found on the Visitor visa conditions page.


Contact us

Medical Sciences / Humanities / GLAM / UAS / Continuing Education

Angelina Pelova, Email: 

Paul Deeble, Email:


MPLS / Social Sciences / Colleges

Lyn Davis, Email:

Richard Birt, Email:




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