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Tier 5 (GAE) visa requirements

Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) category “is for those individuals coming to the United Kingdom through approved schemes that aim to share knowledge, experience and best practice through work placements, whilst experiencing the wider social and cultural setting of the United Kingdom.” In practice, as a Higher Education Institution, we are permitted to use Tier 5 (GAE) for the following types of roles:

  • Sponsored researchers

Broadly defined as: "a person who wishes to come to the UK to lead or to take part in any formal research project. Formal research projects are those hosted but not necessarily funded by a UK research institution including universities, non-commercial research organisations, charitable organisations and national research councils (such as the Medical Research Council). The sponsored researcher fills a research post and works under the full or partial control of the institution, which will itself benefit from the research. Sponsored researchers can be funded from sources in the UK or overseas." (Source)

  • Visiting academics

Only those who are giving lectures, acting as an examiner or working on a supernumerary research collaboration will qualify under this category.

  • Internship/Work Experience

Tier 5 (GAE) can also be used by individuals looking for an internship or period of temporary work experience in the UK. However, for these types of roles, the University of Cambridge cannot be the sponsor. Further details can be found on our webpages here.

CoS application procedure

Any indivdual seeking to come to the University through the Tier 5 (GAE) route must first be issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from the University. It is for faculties and departments, not individuals, to request a CoS. To apply for a Tier 5 CoS, departments should supply the following documentation:

  • Tier 5 application form
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Photo page of a valid passport
  • Copy of degree certificate plus certified translation if not in English
  • A copy of the letter from the organisation that is going to sponsor their stay whilst they are at the University of Cambridge. The letter should include details on the dates for their stay and the total amount of funds they will receive.

For employees, these must be sent to the HR New Appointment Team with the new appointment paperwork. For visitors, these can be sent directly to the HR Compliance Team. Upon receipt, the Compliance Team will apply for a CoS via the Home Office and, once issued, will pass the CoS reference number to the institution. Institutions are sent further instructions and asked to pass the number on to the individual concerned, who can then apply for entry clearance.

Individuals cannot apply for their visa more than 3 months before the CoS start date. However, the CoS must be used within 3 months of being assigned.

Tier 5 (GAE) conditions

For sponsored researchers and visiting academics, the following restrictions apply:

  • The individual must not fill a genuine vacancy in the UK workforce.

  • Funding can come from any source, including from the University or a third party, but the individual cannot fund themselves.
  • The individual can be paid weekly/monthly/annually or in one lump sum. There are no restrictions, provided they are paid at national minimum wage rates.

  • The Individual can be our employee, if necessary.

  • To confirm the skill level is appropriate, we must assign a relevant SOC Code to each Tier 5 application. In practice, as we can only appoint ‘sponsored researchers’ or ‘visiting academics’ to Tier 5 roles, the SOC Code will never be anything other than PhD level.
  • The Job title must relate to the relevant SOC Code, but there are no other rules on Tier 5 job titles. For sponsored researchers, we most commonly use ‘Visiting Scientist’, ‘Visiting Researcher’ or ‘Sponsored Researcher’. This is not an exhaustive list.

  • The visa is valid for 2 years maximum and cannot be extended beyond this date.

Applying for a visa

An application for a Tier 5 (GAE) visa must be made from outside the UK in the applicant's country of residence. The only exception are those individuals holding a Tier 4 visa, who can swtich to Tier 5 (GAE) but only if they are to undertake a period of internship or period of temporary work experience in the UK.

If an individual wishes to apply for a Tier 5 (GAE) visa, they will need to be awarded a minimum of 40 points. This is calculated as follows:

  • 30 points for a valid CoS. This will be met if:

If these requirements are not met then the individual will not be issued a Tier 5 visa.

Sponsor duties

To hold a sponsor licence, the University must adhere to the required record keeping and reporting duties. These duties apply equally to individuals sponsored under Tier 5 (GAE), even if they are not University employees. These duties include:

  • Reporting late arrivals to the UKVI
  • Keeping a record of the individual’s contact details while in UK.
  • Keeping a record of the individual’s absences
  • Reporting unauthorised absence to UKVI
  • Reporting when an individual finishes work before the CoS end date

The HR Immigration webpages prove further guidance on the required record keeping and reporting duties.

Before an individual who is sponsored under Tier 5 starts work, institutions must tell them about their responsibilities under the points-based system. A sample letter is below; institutions might like to tailor this to fit better with local arrangements. The Compliance Team is available to give advice on this if necessary.

Family Members

Visitors’ dependants are allowed to work if they are accompanying or joining them in the UK provided they have the correct visa to do so. See the section on dependant visas for further guidance.


From 6 April 2015, the fee for a Tier 5 Certificate of Sponsorship is £21.

The cost of the visa fee will depend on the length of the proposed Tier 5 visa. Please see the UKVI visa fees tool for further guidance and information regarding the Immigration Health Surcharge.