With COP26 edging ever closer, and Glasgow making preparations to host this global climate change summit, delegates will now be planning their journey to Scotland.

Some delegates to COP26 may be exempt from immigration control when travelling to the UK for the conference, even though they do not have a right of abode in the UK.

This means that they will not be subject to the Immigration Rules as other foreign nationals are.

Those exempt from immigration control include:

  • heads of state and eligible members of their households;
  • serving government ministers and equivalent on an official visit and their eligible family members;
  • members of certain international organisations.

How to check your immigration status

The FCDO or UNFCCC will be able to inform delegates on whether they are exempt from UK immigration control for the purposes of attending COP26.

Diplomats posted outside the UK and senior government officials travelling to the UK on official business are not exempt unless they are eligible through a separate category of exemption.

Visa national delegates who are exempt from immigration control are strongly advised to apply for an exempt vignette. This is the vignette issued to confirm that someone is exempt from immigration control and is free of charge.

Exempt individuals may demonstrate their exempt status by submitting a note verbal or official letter from their employing organisations. See here for further guidance

Most people are not exempt from immigration control and must meet the requirements set out in the UK Immigration Rules.

UK Immigration rules guidance

Visa nationals require a visa before travelling for visits to the UK. Non-visa nationals do not need a visa to visit and can ask for permission to enter at the UK border.

However, aside from visas, the requirements of the UK Immigration Rules are the same for all visitors.

Permitted Activities Standard visitor visas, including COP26 visitor visas, are valid for six months and for multiple entries to the UK. Guidance is found here.

Long-term standard visitor visas are available, but are not free of charge and cost more than six month visas.

Those who already have a valid visit visa or are in the UK with valid permission, will be covered for COP26 and do not need to apply for a new visit visa.

Holders of Official UNFCCC acknowledgement

Those who have a UNFCCC official acknowledgement of their nomination / visa support letter will be given a unique reference number.

With this number, the delegate can apply for a COP26 visitor visa free of charge, with six months validity, using the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) attendee route on GOV.UK.

The UK will ask the delegate to enter their unique reference number in order to access the free application and the UK will cross-reference applications against the UNFCCC online registration system. The usual requirements of the UK Immigration Rules will still apply.

Other attendees Visa nationals without a UNFCCC official acknowledgement of their nomination / visa support letter must pay for a standard visitor visa.

They should not use the free COP26 route - any applicants who do may be refused a visa.

If you are attending COP26 and would like to discuss your visa options please contact Grace McGill or our immigration team who can help.

Source:  United Nations Climate Change Secretariat