Visitors - Permitted Activities & Restrictions

The activities which a visitor can carry out in the UK depend on the type of Visitor visa they hold and the sub-category they fall under, which in turn depends on what they stated was the main purpose of their visit in their visa application or application for ‘leave to enter’.

The Permitted Activities under the Visitor routes which are relevant to visitors to the University and the Restrictions for Visitors are laid out below and should be considered when determining the main purpose of, and additional proposed activities during, a visit. The main purpose and additional activities should be discussed and agreed with the proposed visitor before an invitation letter is issued. If you are unsure advice should always be sought from the Staff Immigration Team.

Standard Visitor visa

The main purpose of a visit to the University under a Standard Visitor visa must always be made clear and would normally fall under the Business or Academic Visitor sub-categories:

Business Visitor – Permitted Activities

  • attending meetings, including interviews that have been arranged before coming to the United Kingdom, or conferences;
  • arrange deals or negotiate or sign trade agreements or contracts and carrying out fact finding missions;
  • conducting site visits and inspections;
  • giving a one-off or short series of talks and speeches provided these are not organised as commercial events and are not making profit for the organiser;
  • employees of foreign manufacturers or suppliers installing, dismantling, repairing, servicing, or advising on equipment, computer software or hardware where there is a contract of purchase, supply, or lease;
  • employees of overseas companies or organisations receiving training in specific work practices or techniques which are required for their employment overseas and this training is not available in their home country (this could be receiving training in a research or analysis technique as long as they were not carrying out research during the visit)
  • those acting as interpreter or translator for visiting business persons, provided the interpreter/translator is employed by the overseas company and is coming solely to provide this service for the visiting company member;
  • board-level Directors attending board meetings in the UK provided they are not employed by a UK company, although they may receive a fee for attending the meeting.    

Academic Visitor – Permitted Activities

Those employed by academic or higher education institutions overseas in teaching or research roles are eligible to apply to come to the UK as an Academic Visitor if they are:

  • on leave from their overseas academic institution coming to the University to carry out their own private research (e.g. research for a book, for example);
  • taking part in arranged exchanges e.g. where the University is collaborating with an overseas university on research and exchanges personnel for some or all of the duration of the project. Any salary should continue to be paid by the academic's own overseas institution;
  • coming to share knowledge or experience or to hold informal discussions with UK counterparts (but not conducting research on University hosted projects);
  • taking part in a conference or seminar that is not a commercial or non-profit venture, or giving a one-off unpaid lecture which does not form any part of the teaching requirements;
  • eminent senior medical 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.

Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) Visitor visa – Permitted Activities

The main purpose of a visit to the University under a PPE Visitor visa would be to carry out one of the following activities:

  • Visiting lecturers – lecturers invited to give one or a short series of paid lectures in their field of expertise, as long as this is not a part-time or full-time role;
  • Visiting examiners or assessors – academics who are highly qualified in their field of expertise to examine students or participate in and/or chair a selection panel as part of the institution’s quality assurance processes;

Other activities Visitors may undertake

Other activities which may be undertaken by visitors to the University in addition to the main purpose of the visit fall under the following Standard Visitor sub-categories:

Tourism & Leisure

  • visiting friends and family and undertaking tourist activities while in the UK


  • undertaking ‘incidental volunteering’ provided that it:
    • lasts no longer than 30 days in total;
    • is not the main purpose of their visit; and
    • is for a charity registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales, the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, or the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator

Please note that unpaid work is not considered to be voluntary work and we would not envisage these activities to be relevant within the University. Advice should be sought from the Staff Immigration Team before discussing Visitors volunteering.

Religious activities

  • Religious workers preaching or undertaking pastoral work, however, if this is the main purpose of their visit this should be made clear when applying for their Visitor visa


  • amateur or professional artists, entertainers or musicians giving performances as an individual or as part of a group, however, if this is the main purpose of the visit they would need to apply under the Entertainment Visitor sub-category of the Standard Visitor visa route where additional information must be submitted when applying. See Home Office Guide to supporting documents.


  • sports persons taking part in a sports tournament or sports event as an individual or part of a team, however, if this is the main purpose of the visit they would need to apply under the Sports Visitor sub-category of the Standard Visitor visa route where additional information must be submitted when applying. See Home Office Guide to supporting documents. Sports Visitors would most likely have to be hosted by a relevant sporting organisation rather than the University. Those being employed as a professional sports person by a team based in the UK would require a work visa such as a Tier 2 of Tier 5 visa and could not come as a visitor.

Permitted Study

Visitor visa holders may also undertake a course of 'incidental study' as long as it:

  • does not exceed 30 days in duration (either alone or taken together with any other course and whether continuous or otherwise i.e. taken as a single period or a number of smaller periods); and
  • is not the main purpose of the visit; and
  • is a recreational course that is only for leisure purposes and not to gain a qualification (e.g. horse-riding, painting, pottery, sailing); or is provided by an institution which holds a licence under Tier 4 of the Points Based System or which is accredited by a Home Office-approved body in the case of an English language or academic course.

Further information including details of required accreditation for institutions to meet these requirements can be found in the Home Office Permitted study guidance.

Please note that if the purpose of the visit(s) to the UK changes to being mainly for study the individual would instead need to apply for a Short-term study visa. Please see the Student Visa and Immigration guidance and relevant Home Office guidance for information in relation to Short Term Study visas.

Restrictions on Visitors

As well as satisfying immigration officers that they are coming to undertake one or more of the above permissible activities, those intending to enter the UK as Visitors must also satisfy immigration officers that they:

  • are genuinely seeking entry as a Visitor to undertake the activities they have stated as the main purpose of their visit;
  • only want to visit the United Kingdom for up to 6 months (or up to 12 months as an Academic Visitor);
  • intend to leave the UK at the end of the period of the visit;
  • can maintain and accommodate themselves (and any dependants) without using public funds;
  • can meet the cost of an onward or return journey;
  • will not receive pay from a UK source, unless entering as a PPE Visitor where they must be paid, (please note payment of reasonable expenses to cover the cost of travel and subsistence from a UK source is permitted);
  • do not intend to live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits;
  • do not intend to take paid or unpaid employment (other than as permitted if a PPE Visitor);
  • do not intend to produce goods or provide services within the UK;
  • do not intend to undertake a course of study as the main purpose of the visit (any incidental study must not exceed 30 days in total)*;
  • are not a child under the age of 18, unless they are accompanying an adult Visitor;
  • do not intend to marry or form a civil partnership, or give notice of a marriage or civil partnership (a Marriage/ Civil Partnership Visitor visa would be needed in this case);
  • do not intend to receive private medical treatment (a Visitor for Private Medical Treatment visa would be needed in this case);
  • are not in transit to a country outside the common travel area (a Transit Visitor visa would be needed in this case).

* for conditions under which study can be undertaken see Permitted Study above.