I'm Brazilian and worked twice in UK under Tier 5 visas.

The last time I was there, I was invited to speak at a symposium, having all my expenses paid by a British fund. I told the organisers I would be back to my country and they offered covering part of my travelling expenses as well.

I am not gonna be paid for my talk, but my flight tickets were already refunded by the organisation. They also provided me with an invitation letter informing my expenses were covered.

I had a look at the UK border website and it seems I don't need a visa for this trip.

Could you please help me making sure that is the case? Also, do I need any other document?



This depends a lot on what the exact circumstances of "speak in a symposium" are. This brief description can match both completely unproblematic situations and situations that will get you into trouble.

  • The unproblematic case: You're attending an academic conference, funded by a grant from the conference organizers. At some point during the conference you're going to stand in front of a crowd of all or some of the attendees for somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes and present some of your research -- just like 80 % of people who attend academic conference do.

  • The asking-for-trouble case: You're a star-billed speaker at the conference, and attendees are paying for separate tickets to hear Lucas P teach them everything about widgetology. Even if you're not earning cash from the gig, you do get a first-class vacation out of it, nice hotel rooms, expensive dining, etc -- and the organizers hope to make a profit from having you there.

In the first case you will be an ordinary visitor for business, and should not encounter major problems. Have documentation for your source of funding, contact information for the funders and so forth ready when you approach the immigration desk -- but don't present this documentation except when asked for it; probably you won't be.

In the second case, what you're proposing to do will probably count as working, and you would likely be denied entry and removed from port.

Somewhere in between? You, and later the immigration officer, will need to determine whether it is most like the easy case or most like the troublesome case. Some variation from the completely vanilla case could still be okay (such as: "I'm an invited plenary speaker, so I have 60 minutes instead of 30, and my name appears higher on the conference website than ordinary paper authors") -- but if you're in doubt and have the time, it would be prudent to apply for entry clearance (i.e. a "visa") from the UK consulate in advance. Having entry clearance will not allow you to do anything you wouldn't be allowed to without it, but since your story will have been checked in advance, the risk of being rejected at the border decreases dramatically.

If you do go without a visa, it is important to remember to describe your purpose of travel as attending a conference rather than speaking at a conference. You may not attach much importance to the distinction, but the latter is much more likely to send alarm bells ringing for the immigration officer. Even if you can clear it up eventually, it could be the difference between "very well, stampstampstamp welcome to the UK" and several hours of questioning.

  • Couldn't OP's purpose fall under the "Permitted Paid Engagement" visa? Because for purposes covered by that visa, non-visa nationals are visa-exempt gov.uk/permitted-paid-engagement-visa
    – Crazydre
    Sep 11 '17 at 2:00
  • @Crazydre: Based on the OP's story, it is far from clear that there is any "paid engagement" (according to those rules) going on -- and if there is a paid engagement, it is far from clear that it would be permitted. If the OPs participation does not count as a "paid engagement", it would be distinctly counterproductive to attempt to characterize it as such in the landing interview. Sep 11 '17 at 10:55
  • Like I said, "permitted paid engagement" stays are visa-free for non-visa nationals gov.uk/check-uk-visa/y/brazil/work/six_months_or_less. Both on the actual visa and the visa exemption, the max stay is 1 month. Just for your information
    – Crazydre
    Sep 11 '17 at 11:32
  • @Crazydre: Like I said, it is not clear that there is a "paid engangement" here at all -- and if there is one (or if you pretend there is on when there is not) it not clear whether it would falls within the "permitted" category. You're arguing for a strategy that would, in the common case, be a lot more risky and bothersome for the OP than telling the truth would. Sep 11 '17 at 12:01
  • Thank you for the answers. I have an oral communication and my invitation letter states "This is to confirm that Dr LP is an invited speaker at the above meeting which will be held at... The title of his presentation is... Full accommodation charges for Dr P at the hotel will met by ... Prize Funds. We also have contributed to his airfare." I am far from a key speaker at the conference and neither the organisers nor myself are profiting on my talk. I just don´t want to make waves in the interview and want to be sure everything goes smoothly.
    – Lucas P
    Sep 11 '17 at 16:28

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