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The University of Southampton
Human Resources

Immigration and visas

The University must only employ people with permission to work in the UK. For many overseas workers, this will mean obtaining a visa under one of the UK's immigration routes. Whether a visa is required, and the type of visa, will depend on the person's individual circumstances, but the new Skilled Worker Route (formerly Tier 2), Global Talent (formerly Tier 1) and Temporary Work (formerly Tier 5) are the visa routes most relevant to the University.

From 1 January 2021, free movement ended and the UK introduced a points-based immigration system: The Skilled Worker Route (SWR). The new system will apply to both EU and non-EU citizens equally.

For a summary of the changes to the immigration routes please see the 'old vs new' summary document. 


Settled Status

Digital Immigration status

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Existing Tier 2

Skilled worker route

Global Talent Visa (GTV)

Graduate Visa

Frontier Worker Permit

Visa options for University Visitors 

Getting help

Policies and guidance documents

Quick links

EEA nationals and settled/pre-settled status

EEA nationals who arrive in the UK before the end of the implementation period (11.00 pm on 31 December 2020) do not need to be sponsored.  They do need to apply for settled or pre-settled status under the EUSS to continue living and working in the UK after 31 December and they have until 30 June 2021 to do this. The University can continue to accept EU passports and identity cards as proof of right to work for EU nationals up until 30 June 2021.  

The impact of Brexit on freedom of movement and the implications for EU staff is explained in this information sheet.

Please see the HR website and GOV.UK for more information.

It’s important that all personal details (name, address, passport information etc.) are kept up to date with the UKVI. Please see GOV.UK Update your UK Visas and Immigration account details for further information.

Digital Immigration status

If you have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme or have successfully applied for a UK visa, and your right to work is held digitally it’s important that all your personal details (name, address, nationality, passport, ID or travel document etc.) are kept up to date with the UKVI. If your travel document changes, it is important that these details are updated on your UKVI account to avoid any delays at the UK border. Please see GOV.UK Update your UK Visas and Immigration account details and GOV.UK Updating your details for further information.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) is a scheme administered by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and is aimed at preventing the transfer of information, knowledge or technology which could develop, advance or support an Advanced Conventional Military Technology and Weapons of Mass Destruction programme or their means of delivery. ATAS is a type of vetting scheme and we have a legal requirement to protect our research both as a University and internationally.

For Students and ATAS please see the Student and Academic Administration pages.

ATAS Requirement

A check for the ATAS requirement must be made for the sponsored Skilled Worker and Temporary Work - Government Authorised Exchange routes for new, switch and extension visa applications. A check must also be made if an individual changes research subject or role.

An individual will be subject to the ATAS requirement where all of the following apply:

It is the University’s responsibility to check whether the worker is subject to the ATAS requirement. HR Operations will undertake this check at the recruitment stage, at the COS extension stage and where a notification has been received to confirm the research subject area has changed.

If the individual is subject to the ATAS requirement, they must apply for and obtain a valid ATAS certificate before a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) is assigned. Once a valid ATAS certificate has been issued, the individual must provide this to their HR contact to progress with the COS. The COS will also confirm whether the role is subject to the ATAS requirement. A copy of the ATAS certificate must be retained in line with UKVI compliance. The individual must include a copy of the ATAS certificate with their visa application. If this is not included, their application will be refused, and our sponsor licence will be at risk.

The ATAS certificate will confirm that the applicant is permitted to apply for a Skilled Worker or Temporary Worker visa. The ATAS Certificate does not guarantee the visa application will be successful.

If an individual is not subject to the ATAS requirement, the COS will also confirm this.

ATAS Condition for visiting researchers

The ATAS Condition may apply for visiting researchers coming to the University.  An individual will be subject to the ATAS condition where the following apply:

It is the University host’s responsibility to check whether the visitor is subject to the ATAS condition.

If the individual is subject to the ATAS condition, the individual must apply for and obtain a valid ATAS certificate before the research starts. It is recommended that the visitor obtains an ATAS certificate prior to travelling to the UK. Once a valid ATAS certificate has been issued, the individual must provide this to their University host and the host must attach this to the Visitor HR Request (New or Extension). If an individual is subject to the ATAS condition, the HR request will not be able to be submitted and access to systems will not be granted.

Visiting researchers on a visitor visa who will be attending meetings, conferences, seminars or interviews, or giving speeches, and will not be undertaking research during their time in the UK, will not need to apply for an ATAS certificate.


Relevant SOC (Occupation) codes (sponsored routes only)
Please see GOV.UK Relevant occupation codes for the list. The list includes our most used Occupation codes; 2119 and 2311.

Relevant Subject areas
Please see GOV.UK Relevant subject areas for the list with CAH3 codes.

Exempt nationalities
Individuals who are nationals from countries in the EEA and Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and USA, do not need to meet the ATAS requirement or the ATAS condition. Please see GOV.UK Exempt nationalities for the full list.

Applying for an ATAS certificate

Where ATAS applies, the individual will need the following from the University (to be confirmed by line manager / host) to include in their ATAS application:

There is no cost for the ATAS certificate and it can take a maximum of 20 working days (4 complete weeks) to obtain an ATAS certificate from the FCDO. It is recommended that recruitment activity, contract / COS extensions and visiting start dates are requested in advance as possible.

Apply and Further Information

Existing staff on a Tier 2 visa

No action is required for current Tier 2 visa holders. If we need to extend their visa or undertake a change of employment, this will be done under the Skilled Worker requirements.

Skilled worker route

The SWR replaced the Tier 2 (General) route from 1 December 2020.

The SWR allows employers to recruit workers from outside the UK and Ireland to fill a wide range of skilled vacancies in the UK. This will include EU nationals who do not have settled or pre-settled status.

People who wish to come to the UK on this route must meet:

The job advertised by the University must also be a genuine vacancy.

Check if a person is eligible for a SWR visa

What’s changed

Points criteria

For a person to be sponsored under the SWR, the job must normally be skilled to level 3 on the Regulated Qualifications Framework. This is equivalent to A-level standard. This does not mean the worker has to have A-levels or equivalent qualifications, but the work they do must be at that level. Eligible jobs are listed in the tables here.

The following roles are the most commonly sponsored occupations at the University:

Researchers (SOC 2119) - Academics undertaking independent research. Includes positions like 'Postdoctoral Researchers', 'Senior Research Associates' and 'Research Assistant’.

Higher Education Teaching (SOC 2311) – Teaching staff at undergraduate level or above, who may also undertake research activities.

Under the new Skilled Worker Route more roles at the University may now be eligible for sponsorship, than previously under the old Tier 2 system.

The applicant must score 70 points to be eligible. This includes 50 points for mandatory or ‘non-tradeable’ criteria, and 20 points for ‘tradeable’ criteria. The mandatory criteria are set out in the table below. All applicants on the Skilled Worker route must score 50 points from this table:

Points TypeDescriptionPoints Available
Sponsorship Must have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for the role, assigned by the University. 20
Job at appropriate skill level The job must be in an eligible occupation code. 20
English language Must have English language skills at level B1 or higher. 10

The applicant must also score 20 points for salary and other attributes from the table below. The applicant can score points against only one row in the table. Where reference is made to the ‘going rate’, this means the going rate for the occupation code in which the worker is being sponsored:

A: Salary only

Salary offered equals or exceeds both:

B: Relevant PHD

PhD in a subject relevant to the job and salary offered equals or exceeds :

C: Relevant PHD (STEM)

PhD in a STEM subject relevant to the job and salary offered exceeds:

D: Shortage occupation

The job is in a listed shortage occupation and the applicant’s salary equals or exceeds both:

E: New entrant

Applicant is a new entrant to the labour market and salary offered equals or exceeds:

F: Listed health or education occupation

The job is in a listed health or education occupation and the applicant’s salary equals or exceeds both:

  • £20,480 per year; and
  • the going rate for the occupation code

Other requirements

Financial Requirement

Applicants applying from outside the UK, or who have been in the UK for less than a year at the date of application, must show they have enough funds to support themselves and any family members in the UK.

As an A-rated sponsor, The University can certify this requirement is met when we assign a CoS to them (known as ‘certifying maintenance’).

Criminal Records Certificate Requirement

For some occupations, applicants need to provide a criminal record certificate from the relevant authority in any country in which they have been present for 12 months or more (whether continuously or in total) in the past 10 years, while aged 18 or over.  The list of occupations can be found here.

ATAS Requirement

Where an individual is subject to ATAS clearance, they must apply for an ATAS certificate before a COS is issued. Please see the ATAS section above for further details.

Length of visa

Sponsorship is provided in line with the duration of the appointment. The University can provide initial sponsorship for up to 5 years. There is no limit to the time that can be spent sponsored under the Skilled Worker visa, but individuals may be eligible to apply to stay permanently after 5 years residence in the UK.


The applicants partner and children can apply to join them in the UK as their ‘dependants’ if they’re eligible. If their application is successful, their visa will end on the same date as the applicants.

The process

Right to work and eligibility

An assessment of an individual's right to work will be undertaken by the Recruitment Team who will identify if the individual has the right to work in the UK and if not whether the person can be sponsored under the SWR (ie is the role eligible? does the advertised salary for the role satisfy the minimum requirements? etc.).

Once the Recruitment team are satisfied the requirements have been met they issue a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) to the individual.

This is an electronic document which lists the individual's personal details and information about the role. The CoS contains a unique reference number which must be included in the Skilled Worker visa application.

Applying for a visa

The applicant is responsible for submitting their own visa application.  The application is done online.  They must be issued with a certificate of sponsorship by the University before they apply.

They will be asked to prove their identity and provide:

*This information can be found on the CoS.

The applicant may be asked to provide additional information (such as proof of funds, a PHD certificate, a criminal records certificate etc.) Further information is available here.


Once the application has been submitted the applicant will be directed to book an appointment to submit their biometrics (photographs and fingerprints).

Once application has been granted

Once their application has been granted, the applicant will receive an Entry Clearance vignette (visa sticker) in their passport, as well as a decision letter which will also explain where they can collect their BRP.

The visa sticker will be valid for around 30 days, and will allow the applicant to enter the UK within that period. They must collect their BRP within 10 days of entering the UK.

When can an applicant apply?

The applicant must submit their application no more than three months before the start date in their Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS). Existing employees must submit their application before their existing visa expires.

Once it has been issued, a Skilled Worker CoS is valid for three months, and an applicant must submit their application before the date of expiry on their CoS. If an applicant does not submit their application before that date, the CoS will no longer be valid and cannot be used.


Once the full visa application, including online application, payment of fee, and registering biometric details, has been completed processing times are normally:

Priority services, are available at additional cost.

Once a decision is made, it can take another 1-2 weeks for:

the passport containing the entry vignette to be returned to the applicant overseas

the new biometric residence permit (BRP) to be posted to the individual's UK address


Issuing Sponsorship

When issuing a Skilled Worker Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) the Recruitment Team has to pay the following, which are then charged back to the employing department/ faculty:

The Immigration Skills Charge is not payable for jobs in certain occupational codes (such as 2119 and 2311).

Visa Application

When submitting their visa applications online (after they have been issued a CoS) applicants and their dependants have to pay the following:

Visa application fees will vary depending on the length of the CoS, and whether the job is on the Shortage Occupation List.  Nationals of some countries pay a reduced application fee. More information about costs can be found on GOV.UK.


These costs will need to be met by the applicant themselves but they may be eligible for reimbursement for some of the costs, as per the University’s Visa Reimbursement Policy.

You can apply for reimbursement once you've received a successful outcome from your visa application, we've checked your right to work, and - if you're a new employee - you've commenced employment with us.


When a Skilled Worker visa holder approaches the end of their visa (permission to stay) and their contract is being extended, they need to apply for a visa extension. For this, their department or faculty should raise a ticket to request a CoS extension.

To be considered for an extension, applicants must be continuing to work in the same or similar job and meet the salary requirements.

If an employee is seeking a CoS extension and currently holds a Tier 2 visa, please see the information below.


Change of circumstances

The University has a duty to report any changes in circumstances to the UKVI, usually within 10 days – it is very important that the University meets its statutory duties. Failure to do so can result in the University being fined and/or losing its sponsorship licence and the University having to end sponsorship of the employee.  Types of changes that need to be reported include:

To report a change in circumstance, please contact Ask HR as soon as you become aware of the change.

Line manager responsibilities

The line manager of a sponsored employee has certain responsibilities and obligations. Line managers must notify HR if the sponsored worker fails to start their employment, is absent without permission, or there are any significant changes to the nature of their work or salary.  

It is important these responsibilities are met as failure by the University to carry out its sponsor duties could have implications for the employee’s right to remain in the UK and for the University’s sponsorship licence.

Line manager responsibilities are detailed in this guidance document.

Sponsored worker responsibilities

Sponsored workers are responsible for keeping their personal information up-to-date and reporting absences (normally through MyHR Dashboard) and any change of circumstances.

Sponsored worker responsibilities are detailed in this guidance document.

Global Talent Visa

The Global Talent Visa (GTV) allows the most highly skilled individuals within a certain eligible field to come to the UK as either a leader or potential leader.

Key Points

The GTV is an alternative to the Skilled Worker visa for eligible international applicants including EU and EEA nationals (excluding Irish nationals), with more flexibility and without the requirement for University sponsorship. Under GTV, there is no minimum salary requirement, no language requirement, and as GTV is non-sponsored, the University does not have the same additional reporting requirements as Skilled Worker.

There are two stages for the application for GTV: endorsement stage and the visa itself. The applicant decides whether to apply for the endorsement first and then the visa, or to apply for both endorsement and the visa at the same time. The application must be made online and depending on the endorsement route, the University may need to provide supporting written confirmation.

There are three fields the individual can be endorsed if they are leader or potential leader:

The six Home Office engaged endorsing bodies are as follows and differ depending on which of the above fields the individual applies under (see Eligibility for further details):

For the field of Academia and Research, there are four routes for endorsement:


Individuals who are at least 18 years of age can apply for this visa if they are endorsed as a leader or potential leader in one of the three fields noted above.

Under ‘Academia or Research’ the individual will need to be a leader or potential leader in one of the following four fields: Science, Medicine, Engineering or Humanities. The endorsement routes for ‘Academia or Research’ are subject to eligibility as follows:

Route 1: Academic and research appointments: Fast-track endorsement for individuals who have accepted a position at an approved UK higher education institution (HEI) or research institute with responsibility either for academic, research or innovation leadership and development, or for directing or leading an individual or team in a research or innovation project or programme of work. Endorsing bodies: The British Academy, The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Royal Society

Route 2: Individual fellowships: Fast-track endorsement for individuals who have been awarded an individual fellowship on the list approved by the British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society. The fellowship must be current or within the last 5 years.

Endorsing bodies: The British Academy, The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Royal Society

Route 3: Endorsed funders:  Fast-track endorsement for researchers and specialists whose name or job title is specified in a successful grant application from an endorsed funder approved by UKRI. In order to be eligible, researchers must be hosted or employed by an eligible institution approved by UKRI.

Endorsing body: UK Research and Innovation

Route 4: Peer review:  Standard endorsement for individuals submitting an application for full peer review.

Endorsing bodies: The British Academy, The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Royal Society

Please see for further details.


Subject to eligibility, an applicant’s partner and children can apply to enter or stay in the UK. Please see for further details.

Application process

There is normally a two-step process which the applicant can either apply for separately for each stage or at the same time. Step one is the endorsement and step two is the visa itself.  Applications must be made online.

Depending on the endorsement route, applicants will also need to provide supporting documents. For example, under Academic or Researcher and UKRI routes, a letter is required from the Director of HR. The Recruitment team will support with providing this letter if all statements can be verified by the employing department.

For further details on endorsement requirements per route under ‘Academia and Research’ please see the following links:

Decision Timeframes

The endorsement decision is normally made within eight weeks, unless a fast-track route is available in which case it will take one week.

The visa decision is normally made within three weeks if applying from outside the UK, or within eight weeks if applying from inside the UK.

Priority services may be available. Please see for further information.


There is a fee for each of the following which the applicant pays for:

For the full breakdown of fees, please see 

If successful, the applicant may be able to claim some of these costs back under the University's Visa Reimbursement Policy.

Further information

For more information about the GTV please refer to the University's own guidance document.

Graduate visa

International students who have completed an eligible course at a UK higher education provider can apply for the Graduate route to continue to stay in the UK and work. Applicants must have a valid Tier 4 or Student visa, and must be in the UK when applying for the Graduate visa. The maximum period for this visa is 2 years for Bachelor’s or Master’s level study, or 3 years for Doctoral students. This visa cannot be extended but eligible individuals may be able to switch to another visa such as Skilled Worker.

This route is non-sponsored which means applicants do not need a job offer to apply for this route, there are no minimum salary requirements, and there is no cap on numbers. This also means individuals with this visa can switch jobs, and work flexibly, and the University does not have additional reporting requirements for changes to individual’s circumstances.

Please see GOV.UK Graduate visa for further details including eligibility, cost and how to apply.

Frontier Worker Permit

European staff who live outside the UK but travel back and forth to the University to work, and who have been doing this prior to 31 December 2020, may be deemed 'Frontier Workers'. They can now apply for a Frontier Worker Permit to evidence their right to continue working in this way. A frontier worker will not require sponsorship by the University.

A person will be deemed a Frontier Worker if they:

Frontier Workers can still travel to the UK as normal until 30 June 2021 but will need to have been granted a Frontier Worker permit to enter the UK to work from 1 July 2021 onwards.

A digital permit will be issued rather than a physical document. It will be valid for 5 years, or 2 years for retained rights if they are currently not working, and can be extended as long as work in the UK is continuing.

There is no application fee and the application can be made from inside or outside the UK. Please see GOV.UK for more information.

Visa options for University Visitors

The following section provides a summary of the different visa routes that may be available to an overseas visitor to the University. 

See the bottom of this section for a flowchart to help identify which visa route may be suitable.

For more detailed information please see Guidelines - Visa Routes for International Visitors.

Temporary Work - Government Authorised Exchange (formerly Tier 5)

Under the Temporary Work - Government Authorised Exchange route, the University can sponsor people coming to the UK, on a temporary basis, to take part in one or more of the following activities:

Sponsored researchers include academics, researchers, scientists, research engineers or other skilled research technology specialists.

The role they are filling must be supernumerary (i.e. in addition to the faculty's normal requirements).

More information about this visa route can be found on GOV.UK.

Permitted paid engagements (PPE)

In certain circumstances, overseas academics may be able to visit the UK for up to a month to undertake a paid engagement, without requiring sponsorship.  They need to be invited by a UK institution as an expert in their professions. Examples of PPE include:

More information about this visa route can be found on GOV.UK.

Visitor Visas

Depending on the purpose of their trip some overseas visitors to the University maybe to enter on a visitor visa as a Business or Academic Visitor:

Business Visitor:

Maximum Stay: Six months. A multiple entry visa for 2, 5 or 10 years is available (each visit duration maximum is six months).

Payment: No salary. Only reasonable travel and subsistence expenses.

Academic Visitor:

Maximum Stay: 12 months

Payment: No salary. Only reasonable travel and subsistence expenses.

For more information about visitor visas see Gov.UK.

Visitor Visa Options
Visitor visa options
Click to enlarge







Getting help

For general information and support on employing an international worker or visa extensions for existing staff please contact Ask HR in the first instance.  They will try to answer your query, sign post you to the relevant information or escalate it to another HR team to action or respond to.

For questions about the visa application process and for general immigration advice please contact the UKVI Customer Contact Centre on 0300 790 6268 (call charges may apply). The contact centre is open Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4:45pm and Friday, 9am to 4:30pm.

Policies and guidance documents

Visa Reimbursement

POLICY - Visa Reimbursement

FORM - Request for Reimbursement of Visa Costs

Sponsored worker and sponsoring line manager responsibilities

GUIDELINES - Tier 2 / SWR Employee Responsibilities

GUIDELINES - Tier 2 / SWR Line Manager Responsibilities


GUIDELINES - Maintenance

FORM - Application for Maintenance Loan (PDF)

FORM - Application for Maintenance Loan (Word)

Global Talent Visa

GUIDELINES - Global Talent Visa

T5 visitor and supervisor responsibilities

GUIDELINES - Tier 5 / Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange Visitor Responsibilities

GUIDELINES - Tier 5 / Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange Manager Responsibilities

Brexit information for EU nationals

GUIDELINES - Brexit information for EU Nationals

International visitors

Guidelines - Visa Routes for International Visitors

Temporary Work - Government Authorised Exchange - COS Personal Details Form

Quick links

Going rate for job

Check the minimum going rate for a job (i.e., the going rate for the occupational code)

Shortage occupation list

Check if the job is listed as a shortage occupation and what 80% of the going rate is for that job

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