Visas for Language Assistants and Lectors

by the British Academy

Front page of the 'Visas for language assistants and lectors' report
The British Academy
Number of pages


This briefing paper has been produced to clarify the situation regarding the employment of language assistants and lectors in UK higher education, in the light of current, post-Brexit visa regulations. (This applies only to those who are not British citizens or citizens of the Republic of Ireland.)

Language assistant and lector posts are a critical aspect of the teaching of modern languages in higher education. As native speakers, these language specialists are uniquely qualified to provide students with high-level language training, as well as deepening students’ understanding of the countries in which the language is spoken. Those holding these posts come directly from a country in which the relevant language is spoken. Their knowledge of the language and relevant socio-cultural context is therefore very much up to the minute and provides valuable, contemporary insight (often not provided by permanent, UK-resident employees, regardless of their ‘mother tongue’).

Moreover, language assistant posts in higher education that are part of an arrangement with an overseas institution are critical in enabling languages students from UK higher education institutions (HEIs) to gain valuable study and work experience at higher education institutions abroad, because the arrangement is conditional upon reciprocity or other types of exchange.

This briefing considers two different visa routes that are applicable to these roles, and explores some of the challenges and potential future options:

  • Temporary Worker GAE route, which is currently limited to positions lasting up to 24 months. Many language assistant positions are for 1 year, so this route is applicable to assistants
  • Skilled Worker route, which is necessary for roles lasting more than 24 months and applies to lector positions.

We hope that this paper provides information to HEIs and cultural partners that are involved with employing into these roles.

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