This question is a followon from What are the visa rules for US speakers, at UK conferences, who may be getting paid?

Let us assume the following givens:

  • a person would normally be admitted on arrival to the UK if visiting as a tourist (specifics in this case: a Canadian citizen with strong ties to Canada)
  • a person is both attending and speaking at a conference that is not run by a university, but also not run as a profit-making enterprise (examples relevant to me include ACCU and NDC London.) Admission is charged to these conferences
  • the speaker has been offered airfare, hotel (perhaps not even for the entire length of the conference), and conference admission, but not meals, incidentals, or an honorarium to cover these
  • the speaker is not running a lucrative workshop or precon to bring in revenue that approximates their daily bill rate, nor visiting consulting clients and billing a day or so, nor anything else that would make the time spent in the UK "billable time".

The advice from the UK government says that all visitors may

5 A visitor may: (a) attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews; (b) give a one-off or short series of talks and speeches provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser;

Setting aside the issue of whether these conferences meet the "provided" clause, there is some suggestion in the other question that it would be helpful if the immigration office understood that the applicant was an expert in the field, and recognized as such the world over. OK. How can I show that?

I have read elsewhere that a letter from your employer is a good idea. My employer is a company with two shares. I own one and my husband owns the other. If I was an immigration officer, a letter from the applicant or the applicant's husband would be worse than useless in establishing expertise. I know many of my fellow speakers are in a similar situation - we barely have employers in the usual sense, or our speaking is a side activity that our "day job" doesn't know much about.

I would like to think that the mere fact of having your talk accepted at the conference in question would suffice as proof of expertise. Would printing the "speakers" page be useful? Or the "congratulations we have accepted your talk" email? Should speakers request a letter from the conference specifically for the purpose of showing immigration what an expert they are? What would be good wording for that letter?

Others have said, in other contexts, that you should invite the officer to "google me". This seems insanely arrogant and I note that only men have claimed they would do this. I don't believe I could say it with a straight face. Is it actually good advice?

  • 1
    I can't imagine that trying to be a "big shot" in front of someone who really does have the power to "take you down a peg" is a good idea.
    – CMaster
    Aug 23, 2016 at 15:25
  • List of previous speaking engagements or published papers, perhaps.
    – mkennedy
    Aug 23, 2016 at 16:17

1 Answer 1


The expertise element you mention is not relevant to admission for mere attendance of the conference. It is relevant to the "permitted paid engagements" section, which says:


1 The following are permitted paid engagements:

  • (a) an academic who is highly qualified within his or her field of expertise may examine students and/or participate in or chair selection panels, if they have been invited by a UK Higher Education Institution or a UK based research or arts organisation as part of that institution or organisation’s quality assurance processes.
  • (b) An expert may give lectures in their subject area, if they have been invited by a UK Higher Education Institution; or a UK based research or arts organisation provided this does not amount to filling a teaching position for the host organisation.

As such proving expertise is not relevant to the situation you outline. This is of course assuming that provision of air fare and hotel is not seen as payment, but in general the UK happily separates between expenses and payment.

  • 3
    This comment travel.stackexchange.com/questions/77241/… quotes part of the answer to the linked question. That answer implies that proving you're an expert is relevant when what you're there to do isn't on the list of things you can do. Aug 23, 2016 at 15:29
  • @KateGregory I don't see how you reached that conclusion. Anyway, what you wish to do "attend a conference" is specifically on the list of permitted activities, and there are no qualifiers regarding expertise, or the academic nature of the conference. Those things only become relevant when one is being paid to attend/speak at the conference. If you carry on reading the rules (nb. not advice), you'll notice that purely commercial events like trade fairs are also permitted activities.
    – CMaster
    Aug 23, 2016 at 15:32
  • 4
    Entering the US, speaking - even if not paid - has been reason for people to be turned away. Sometimes the officer suggests the expenses are payment. Other times they say "well an American could have done it, you are a taking a job." I don't know why you're adamant that speaking and attending are the same. They wouldn't list speaking separately if it was the same. Aug 23, 2016 at 15:34
  • 1
    Downvoted because the question asked what invited / approved speakers need to show to prove "expertise."
    – mkennedy
    Aug 23, 2016 at 16:17
  • @KateGregory the US gives a lot of authority to border officers, and sometimes they exceed that authority, whether for reasons of ill will or poor training.
    – phoog
    Aug 23, 2016 at 17:16

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