Academic Visa Requirements

The Editors

In his recent piece for the LRB on university privatisation, Stefan Collini mentioned that the UK Border Agency sees 'universities and colleges as an easy target in its efforts to cut immigration'. The ancient historian Josephine Quinn describes on her blog this week some of the often insurmountable hurdles facing academics from other countries invited to conferences in the UK. To get a visa, they have to 'demonstrate' they are not going to stay in the country, which means providing:

full bank statements for the last six months with explanations of any unusual deposits; a letter from their bank confirming the balance and the date the account was opened; documentation of the origin of any money paid into the account; payslips for the last six months; recent tax returns; and evidence of income from any property or land, including property deeds, mortgage statements, tenancy agreements, land registration documents and crop receipts. They also have to supply information on their visit, including travel tickets, accommodation bookings, and email correspondence about any planned trips or outings. ‘General visitors’ are also invited to submit documentation of the finances and immigration status of the person they are visiting, while ’business visitors’ have to provide 'evidence of previous dealings with the UK company they are visiting' – invoices, evidence of business meetings, email correspondence. All this, for a visit of perhaps 48 hours.

 Read the full post here.


  • 6 November 2013 at 11:31pm
    noel thomas says:
    Josephine Quinn shines a very necessary beam of light on the Border Agency's attitudes to bona fide academic visitors. As the UK 'sponsor ' of a Kenyan lady, invited to speak at a professional congress, I was recently obliged to provide six months of bank statements, letters from my solicitor and accountant and employer ( my self employed status was an almost insuperable obstacle ), confirming that I was not in debt, owned my house, no criminal record, and was compliant at work. Her application for a two week visa was turned down. The reason given was that I did not have a proven connection to the Kenyan organisation where she worked. The visa application papers had made no mention of this requirement.
    I happened to be in Kenya a month before the congress.
    We had paid for her return ticket to the UK, two months before that.
    A two day visit to Nairobi was therefore obligatory. No one conducts negotiations with a government dept in Kenya by phone , fax, mail or email. You take your concern to the Ministry, in Nairobi, in person, and join the queue.
    After a grim morning in the out sourced Visa dept, I asked to see someone in the adjacent UK High Commission. They had no visa dept, the armed gatekeeper assured me. We persisted, and after leaving all my belongings, apart from my clothes, outside the gate, I was allowed in. There was a huge, empty waiting room, beside the visa office, where I presented the evidence of my six previous extended visits to the Kenyan project.
    I left, thoroughly ashamed to be British.
    My colleague was given a visa with a week to spare.
    We had encountered dozens of visa applicants, from Somalia and Tanzania as well as Kenya. The application fee would have meant a few months pay for most of them. Many of questions asked were ambivalent to me - with a lifetime's experience of forms to read and complete.
    I doubt if any of those other applicants were successful. No right of appeal, no telephone help line, and no one was allowed help from officials or outside agents, to complete the forms- on pain of instant disqualification.
    Why do Kenyans, and other Africans, continue to treat wazungos like me, with friendship and politeness, when they are subjected to such appalling treatment ?
    We talk of being citizens of a global village.
    Maybe we are, if we have a western passport.