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Visa requirements

From 1 January 2021, this route can be accessed by EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who were not resident in the UK by 31 December 2020.

This visa route was formerly known as Tier 5 (GAE).

The Temporary Worker - Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) visa category “is for individuals coming to the United Kingdom through approved schemes that aim to share knowledge, experience and best practice.”

In practice, as a Higher Education Institution, we are permitted to use the GAE visa route to sponsor 'researchers' (which includes academics, researchers, scientists, research engineers or other skilled research technology specialists) for a maximum duration of 2 years to undertake the following activities:

• A formal research project or collaboration

• A period of work-based training/work experience/internship/placement;

• Skill development/knowledge transfer;

• A series of lectures, which doesn’t amount to a formal teaching post;

• External examinations.

The full criteria for the Higher Education GAE visa scheme can be found here.

GAE visa eligibility

The manner in which we can engage with an individual through one of the above activities is governed by a strict set of parameters, set out below.

  • The work or activities undertaken must never amount to ‘a genuine vacancy’ (that being, the work/activity must be over and above the department/institution's normal staffing requirements, and the role would not be automatically refilled once the individual leaves)

  • The individual may be funded by the University, their overseas employer, or an independent UK or non-UK funding body;
  • The individual cannot be self-funded;
  • The individual is permitted to receive funding on a weekly/monthly/annual basis, or in one lump sum.

  • The Individual can be our employee, if necessary.
  • The individual does not have to be employed overseas to be eligible for sponsorship under this scheme
  • The visa is valid for 2 years maximum and cannot be extended beyond this date.

CoS application procedure

Any indivdual seeking to come to the University through the GAE visa 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 GAE visa CoS, departments should supply the following documentation:

  • GAE CoS application form
  • CV
  • Photo page of the individual’s valid passport
  • Copy of qualifications held, plus certified translation if not in English
  • Evidence of funding – a copy of the letter from the organisation (or the department/institution, if internally funded) 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.

- ATAS requirements

From 21 May 2021, relevant international researchers applying for a GAE visa must have obtained an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate as part of their visa application. The ATAS requirement only applies to certain nationalities, and in certain roles and research fields.

As part of the ATAS application process, the individual will be required to submit information about their programme of research including the relevant 'CAH3' code. This must be arranged by the recruiting department/institution, via the HR58 form.

For further guidance on the ATAS scheme and making an application, please see the guidance here:

Also see our guidance webpages. A video briefing was held in May 2021, accessible here: (requires Raven)

Applying for a GAE visa

The University provides an FAQ to all CoS recipients regarding the processes and procedures to obtain a visa. These are provided by e-mail to the applicant alongside the CoS, and are replicated below for ease of reference:

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 GAE visa, even if they are not University employees. These duties include:

  • Reporting late arrivals to the UKVI
  • Reporting visa refusals
  • 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 GAE 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.


A GAE CoS will cost the department £21.

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