Is it possible for a non-EU national to visit the UK (on a tourist visa) to participate in a hackathon? The definition of a hackathon is:

A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development and hardware development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects.


At the end of hackathons, there is usually a series of demonstrations in which each group presents their results. There is sometimes a contest element as well, in which a panel of judges select the winning teams, and prizes are given.

Winning in a hackathon means the participant would receive a certain prize (usually monetary), which could potentially be equivalent to work. Another complication is that some hackathons provide travel reimbursement, which is essentially a small stipend to cover the costs of getting to the event.

Therefore the following three questions arise:

  1. Is it legal for a tourist to participate in a hackathon?
  2. Can they claim a prize during the process?
  3. Can they receive travel reimbursement for coming to the event?
  • 1
    Related meta: meta.travel.stackexchange.com/questions/3654/…
    – JonathanReez
    May 30 '16 at 12:11
  • How is that Meta post about a question bounty promotion related to this question? At first I thought it was a bug bounty program, which would bt somewhat related, but this bounty program is for promoting questions with bounties. If you want to promote the promotion, that's fine, but a few words of explanation would help.
    – Johnny
    May 30 '16 at 16:08
  • 1
    @Johnny the meta post is about both bounties and a commitment to post questions during the month of June.
    – JonathanReez
    May 30 '16 at 16:32
  • But how is it related to this question about hackathons?
    – Johnny
    May 30 '16 at 20:36
  • 1
    @Johnny The link is sort of 'tagging' the post as a question that will be participating/involved in the Bounty Bonanza, so that people know this question will award a bounty as per the special event going on right now. May 31 '16 at 20:29

Yes, it is. Winning a competition at an event like this does not qualify as work, however, as described below, you are allowed to receive certain types of payments as a visitor.

I can cite Appendix V: Immigration Rules for visitors, Paragraph 4.7 "Payment":

V 4.7 The applicant must not receive payment from a UK source for any activities undertaken in the UK, except for the following:

(a) reasonable expenses to cover the cost of their travel and subsistence, including fees for directors attending board-level meetings; or

(b) prize money; or

(c) billing a UK client for their time in the UK, where the applicant’s overseas employer is contracted to provide services to a UK company, and the majority of the contract work is carried out overseas. Payment must be lower than the amount of the applicant’s salary; or

(d) multi-national companies who, for administrative reasons, handle payment of their employees’ salaries from the UK; or

(e) where the applicant is engaged in Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE) as listed at Appendix 4, provided the applicant holds a visa or leave to enter as a PPE visitor; or

(f) paid performances at a permit free festival as listed in Appendix 5.

Specifically points (a) and (b) for questions 2. and 3. in your OP.

As for question 1, while there is no explicit wording specifically for "hackathons", by themselves they fall into the category of "meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews" so you should have no problem entering the UK to attend one (bar the obvious checks the ECO and IO makes at the application and entry stages) and I can't see anything in the rules that would suggest otherwise.

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