He gained a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1970. He was a graduate of the London School of Economics, gaining an Master of Science in Economics 1972. He gained a Doctor of Philosophy in Economics from Brunel University in 1976.
From 1971 to 1996, he was a lecturer at the North East London Polytechnic, which became the University of East London. Vis was elected as Member of Parliament for the newly drawn constituency of Finchley and Golders Green in the 1997 general election, defeating the Conservative John Marshall (who had been an Member of Parliament in the previous Parliament) with a majority of 3,189. This was one of Labour"s more unexpected victories — part of the constituency formed the Finchley constituency once held by Margaret Thatcher — and Vis had not even taken leave of his post as an economics lecturer prior to the victory.
His constituency was one of the top Conservative targets at the 2010 general election, needing only a swing of 0.2% to the Tories.
Knowing he was suffering from cancer, Vis stood down at the 2010 general election. Vis sat on the Council of Europe.
His views were generally, though not dogmatically, to the left of the party. He abstained in the mayoral candidate selection of 2000.
He opposed the use of PPP for the London Underground, the war on Iraq, top-up fees and foundation hospitals.
However, he voted in favour of the government"s controversial counter-terrorism legislation. On 5 April 2009 The Times reported that he had used his parliamentary expenses to help buy a £520,000 home for his retirement near the Suffolk coast having taken out a mortgage on his London home to pay for the country property. By informing the parliamentary authorities that his main home had moved to Suffolk, he was able to claim the interest payments on the loan secured on his London home.
Over the previous two years, he had claimed more than £40,000.
"The rules are questionable," Vis said, "but this is well within the rules and I would have been advised if it wasn"t."
He was also discovered to have claimed £5,292 for 15,168 miles of travel between Parliament and his home nine miles away. Rudi Vis died in his sleep on 31 May 2010 from cancer diagnosed five months earlier.
He was re-elected in 2001 with a slightly increased majority of 3,716, again defeating John Marshall, but in 2005 his majority was drastically cut to 741, following an increase in support for the Liberal Democrats in the constituency.
52nd United Kingdom Parliament. 53rd United Kingdom Parliament. 54th United Kingdom Parliament.