This guidance is aimed at departments, but may be useful to share with individuals who are making arrangements to visit the University as 'academic' visitors.

A visitor is an academic or researcher who is not a University employee, worker or consultant and generally comes from another academic institution, for a single specific visit to Oxford, typically lasting from at least one month to one year during which time they are based and work in the department and are permitted to use or access departmental and University facilities.

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Visitors can bring many benefits to the University and to colleagues, for example by sharing skills and experience, knowledge exchange and enabling collaboration in research, and there may also be many benefits to the visitor of participating in the life of the University of Oxford and having access to departmental / University facilities for a short period of time.

However, departments should also weigh the costs in terms of departmental / University time and resources against these benefits when deciding whether to offer visitor status to someone. 

The relevant department/faculty may have their own procedures for individuals to apply to come as a visitor and for the application to be considered, and departments will be the first source of advice for individuals.

A visitor:

  • will be at Oxford for a limited (and defined) period of time (normally up to 1 year, although certain defined fellowships may, exceptionally, require a visitor to be at Oxford for up to 3 years) and is permitted to use or access a department’s facilities, and 
  • normally is associated with another institution (usually this means as an employee), and 
  • normally will be returning to their own institution upon completion of their visit to Oxford, and 
  • does not receive any payment from the University, and 
  • is NOT carrying out a University job or performing any work at the direction or under the supervision of the University, nor are they required by the University to attend the University or perform any services. 

Visitors do not have a contract of employment, worker agreement or consultancy contract with the University and therefore never receive a salary or other payment for services from the University. However, visitors need to have completed and signed a formal, University visitor agreement before they arrive at the University (see 'Resources' below).

There are many different types of visitor across the University, and different parts of the University will attract different types of visitors – although they mostly tend to be individuals from another academic institution (if they are from industry see ‘guidance for departments’).

Separate guidance on appropriate visa routes for overseas academic visitors is available

An alternative for those with a longstanding connection to the University might be an Honorary Research Agreement (HRA).

It would not be appropriate to use a visitor agreement when:

  • The individual is an employee of a third party and will be working under the supervision or direction of the University, or on a project being run by the University. Instead, an Inbound Secondment Agreement should be used. See information on secondments for further guidance. Please contact your HR Business Partner for a copy of a template Inbound Secondment Agreement.
  • The individual will:
  • receive any payment from the University (including by the University acting as an intermediary for external funding) or
  • perform any work for or at the direction of the University or under the supervision of the University or in a project for which the University is the sponsor/organiser (as opposed to the individual just using the department’s facilities to perform their own separate project) and the arrangement is not an inbound secondment (see first bullet point above).
  • The individual is a University of Oxford employee who will be a visitor at a third party (instead, the third party would normally provide the proposed access agreement for the University’s review).
  • The individual would use University premises outside of England and Wales (as there may be local law considerations).

If in any of the circumstances above, you still think that the individual should be a visitor, then your HR Business Partner can advise further.

Visitors should make contact with the relevant department as soon as possible. Visitors are required to sign a formal visitor agreement before their visit begins, and provide evidence of Right to Work/immigration status etc. Visitors should be aware if they are coming to Oxford from overseas that there can be a significant lead time (potentially of several months) in order to make the necessary arrangements.

As set out in the template visitor agreements, visitors need to agree to abide by applicable policies and procedures. These may include but not be limited to:

  1. the University’s Statutes and Regulations
  2. the University’s policies concerning academic integrity in research, data protection, health and safety, equal opportunities, bullying and harassment, University rules for computer use including Information Security, confidentiality, and conflicts of interest as listed in section 5 of the academic-related staff handbook
  3. Departmental rules and policies

Visitors may need to apply for an appropriate visa (which may take some time), and may also need to check whether they need clearance via the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Departments may also ask that:

  • an Oxford academic provides a letter of support for a visitor
  • the visitor pays bench fees.

The host department may have their own procedures and any potential visitor should contact the relevant department.

Further information on other topics relevant to visitors can be found on the ‘resources’ tab.

As well as completing Right to Work checks in all cases, and dealing with any immigration and ATAS requirements for visitors from overseas where applicable, visitors will need to be provided with an appropriate Visitor Agreement by their host department.

  • Departments may use either the short or long form visitor agreements depending on the length of the visit, what the visitor will be doing whilst at Oxford and the department’s assessment of risk.   
  • The long form visitor agreement should normally be used where the visitor will remain an employee of a third party company or institution and will be performing their own independent project without University supervision whilst acting as a visitor to the University. If the visitor is participating in a University project or being supervised by the University, the Inbound Secondment Agreement should be used.
  • In limited circumstances the short form visitor agreement can be used where the visitor remains an employee of a third party whilst acting as a visitor at the University, where the Visitor's use of University facilities does not give them access to confidential information or personal data and the visit is not for a prolonged time.
  • The short form visitor agreement can be used where the visitor is not an employee of a third party employer, although refer to the section on when a visitor agreement should not be used in this circumstance. However, if the purpose of the arrangement is for the visitor to be provided with and use stores of personal data held by the University (for example, to work with sensitive personal data from clinical trials), please seek guidance from your HR Business Partner.
  • When a visitor who has already used the ‘short form agreement’ prolongs their visit, or the focus of their visit changes, departments should put/consider putting the long form visitor agreement in place where the visitor is an employee of a third party employer.
  • Departmental HR colleagues can obtain short and long form visitor agreement templates from their HR Business Partner. After advice has been sought from your HR Business Partner, departments and faculties are responsible for putting in place the appropriate visitor form and arranging for its signature and filing.
  • An honorary research agreement is more appropriate for those who have a longstanding connection with the University, such as former employees who have retired. It may also be used for researchers whose formal secondment arrangements have come to an end but who require a short additional period of time to complete the writing up and publication of their research outcome.
  • If there are questions about the interplay between the visitor agreement and a research agreement, Research Services can provide assistance.
  • Visitors are required to sign the visitor agreement as a condition of working on University premises, in which they agree to abide by University/departmental regulations and to adhere to relevant University policies. Any departmental visitor policies should make this clear.
  • Departments should put in place a system for keeping track of all of the active visitor agreements in their department, including start and end dates and the related visa record keeping. This should be accompanied by a review system where agreements are renewed.
  • Departments should consider what appropriate due diligence they wish to carry out before approving visitors, and in particular the appropriate sign-off for visitor agreements (for example some departments consider all applications together on a termly basis at a meeting and have a published application process). Appropriate assurance of visitors (and others with associations with the University), which could include background checks and referencing, is important for the University's reputation.

For visiting researchers who fall into the following categories departmental HR teams should always seeks advice from their HRBP:

  1. visitors from industry who remain company employees for the duration of their visit 
  2. those who are contributing background intellectual property to a University-led research project 

Research Services can provide advice and input on intellectual property, confidentiality and publication, and check there is no conflict with funders’ terms or contracts. 

Further information on other relevant topics can be found in ‘resources’ below.


The following links provide further useful information: