Note that this information does not constitute official advice, merely outlines experiences previous hackathon organisers have gone through when trying to handle LOIs. You should always reach out to your university or students' union for advice regarding visas. The gov.uk website also has some useful advice.
You might get a request to provide a letter of invitation (LOI) for a hacker who needs a visa.
Most events except large ones don't try to handle this as it can be quite a lot of hassle and risk.
If you do intend to offer this, you need to consider the following:
- Have an earlier closing date for signups for those who require a visa. This ensures they have plenty of time to apply for the visa and find cheap transport, 2-3 months before was suggested.
- Verify their student status properly (If you are student hackathon).
- Confirm everything with your student union!
This is much easier to handle if your event is application only.
There have been suggestions of asking for proof of transport, etc.
There is potentially some risk if they arrive in the country but don't go to your event, which is why some events will only confirm them having a ticket and not issue a full invitation.
Example of a supporting document
The template used for HackTheMidlands is the following:
To whom it may concern,
We are pleased to confirm that $NAME is in possession of a ticket for our $EVENT event, which will be hosted on $DATE at the following address,
The event will run from $START_TIME until $END_TIME.
This only confirms they have a ticket and not a formal invitation.