These are a few of the frequently asked questions that we get in relation to international visitors. Please feel free to contact us if you do not find the answer to your query in this list.

 It is important that all invitation letters are issued by the Visa Compliance Team as we assess the information provided by the visitor via the Questionnaire  prior to composing any invitation letters. This is very important as we must comply with all Home Office legislation.

We gather as much information as possible and liaise with the Visitor at every step of the process, advising them of the most appropriate visa they should be applying for. It is important that the information they give us coincides with the information they provide the British Consulate/Embassy for their visa application. If this is not the case, the visa application could be refused.

Since the Home Office rules changed on 24th of April 2015, there are now 4 main types of visas instead of 15. The ones that will be dealt with by the VCT are:

  • Standard Visitor Visa - This type of visa has now replaced the majority of visas including, business and academic visitor visas. The majority of our visitors will fall under this category.
  • Permitted Paid Engagement Visa - This type of visa is specifically aimed at visitors whom we intend to pay for specific services that they provide such as external examiners invigilating at exams, teaching etc but only for a period of up to1 month. Anything exceeding this period will have to go through the Tier 2 route. Please also note that payment for services does not mean accommodation, transport or subsistence fees.
  • Short Term Study Visa - This is for visitors who are here to study for a course that does not exceed 6 months, unless it is to study English language, in which case it is extended up to 11 months. Usually, this type of visa is issued to students from outside the EU who carry out research relevant to their PhDs in their home institutions, are resitting exams  or are collaborating on projects which are related to their degree/course back in their home institutions.

Tier 5 and Tier 2 visas are dealt with by HR. For more information on these, please contact Jane Tyrrell.

For more detailed information on each type of visa and the criteria required, please visit the Home Office website.


Under the new rules, professional visitors must prove that they’re highly qualified within their field of expertise, on sabbatical leave from their home institution and visiting to either:

  • take part in a formal exchange with a UK counterpart
  • carry out their own research
  • take part in someone else’s research, teaching or clinical practice - as long as this doesn’t involve filling a permanent teaching post

If the above criteria are met, visitors can be issued with a 12 month visa as opposed to the 6 month Standard Visitor Visa.


They are individuals from these countries and they must apply for their visa before traveling to the UK. They apply for a visa upon successful completion of the Questionnaire

Non-Visa Nationals are those who have the option of either applying prior to entering the UK or when arriving at any UK airport. It is important, however, that these visitors provide the Border Control Officers with all the supporting documents including invitation letters to ensure that their passport is endorsed with the right visa stamp. 

All international visitors will need an invitation letter to ensure that they obtain the correct visa to enter the UK and to participate in the activities they are being invited for.

Not all UK Embassies/Consulates deal with visa enquiries. For a list of all Visa Application Centres, please see here. Please note that it may take up to 3 weeks for a visa application to be processed, depending on location and time of year. Some centres and embassies offer a premium service for an expedited process, however, it is up to the visitor to make all the necessary enquiries. Visitors can apply for their visa up to 3 months prior to their intended date of travel.

 As of the 9th December 2013, citizens of these countries can obtain an electronic visa waiver (EVW) online for travel on or after the 1st January 2014.  The EVW allows visitors to visit and/or study in the UK for up to 6 months without a visa.  It is only valid for one entry, and a new EVW must be obtained each time the visitor wishes to enter the UK.

 As of 1st of April 2015, all invitation letters must be signed by the Executive Deans. The letters will be sent to the Executive Deans through their PAs. The Executive Deans have nominated individuals within their respective Schools to sign invitation letters in their absence. For a list of the acceptable signatories, please contact VCT.

 ID cards are issued to all visitors, depending on their length of stay and type of activity they would be involved in. Visitors who are here for less than a week and do not need unsupervised access to labs will not be issued with an ID card. The supervising Academic/department will need to complete the ID Card Request form  prior to the arrival of the visitor(s). Please note that if visitors stay longer than initially planned (providing their visa allows it), VCT will need to be informed as IT will not extend or re-issue an ID card without VCT's approval and authorization.

 Yes, another letter can be issued, provided all and any relevant changes are communicated to the VCT in time.

 If the visitor is returning to Aston University for the same purpose and the visa is still valid for the length of future journeys, he/she will not have to complete the Questionnaire. If the visitor intends on coming to Aston University more frequently, he/she can apply for a long term business visitor visa. Please note that the visitor can only stay up to 6 months on each visit and that VCT is informed of any repeat visitors for ID card purposes. For more information, please click here.

 Last updated by Kelly Mengistu on 25/08/2015