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Tier 5 (GAE) visa requirements

Tier 5 Government Authorised Exchange (GAE) category “is for 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) 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 HEI Tier 5 GAE scheme can be found here.

Tier 5 (GAE) conditions

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/institutions'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 researcher 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 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 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.

Applying for a 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:

Tier 5 (GAE) applicants will require a minimum of 40 points. This is calculated as follows:

  • 30 points for a valid CoS. This will be met if:
    • The individual is not filling a genuine vacancy in the UK workforce.

    • The employment conforms to (or is exempt from) UK employment legislation and any funding/salary received meets national minimum wage requirements (as above).

    • The work is skilled to at least RQF level 3 on the National Qualification Framework.

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 thecost of the visa and the Immigration Health Surcharge.