UK Visitor visas are for visa nationals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
Visit visa for the UK are split into a number of sub-categories. Namely:
- Standard Visitors;
- Marriage or Civil Partnership visitors;
- Transit visitors;
- Permitted paid engagement visitors;
You can apply for a Standard Visitor visa if you want to visit the UK:
- for leisure, for example on holiday or to see your family and friends
- for business, or to take part in sports or creative events
- to receive private medical treatment
If you are coming to the UK to get married or enter into a civil partnership then you must satisfy the decision maker you are 18 years or over. Your visit visa must also be endorsed for this purpose i.e. you must mention this as the reason for the visit when you apply from outside the UK. If your visa is not endorsed for this purpose then you are not permitted to enter into a marriage/civil partnership as a visitor.
At the time of applying therefore, the decision maker must be satisfied that:
- you intend to give notice of marriage or civil partnership; or
- you intend to marry or form a civil partnership; and
- you do not intend to give notice of or enter into a sham marriage or sham civil partnership, within the validity period covered by their visit visa.
You must return to your home country following the marriage/civil partnership, you cannot switch to remain in the UK, under the spouse/partner category, whilst in the UK as a visitor.
A transit visitor is a person who seeks to travel via the UK en-route to another destination country outside the common travel area.
Individuals seeking to transit the UK without passing through the UK border may need a Direct Airside Transit Visa. These are provided for by the Immigration (Passenger Transit Visa) Order 2014 (as amended).
To be eligible:
An applicant must satisfy the decision maker that they:
(a) are genuinely in transit to another country outside the common travel area, meaning the main purpose of their visit is to transit the UK and that the applicant is taking a reasonable transit route; and
(b) will not access public funds or medical treatment, work or study in the UK; and
(c) genuinely intend and are able to leave the UK within 48 hours after their arrival; and
(d) are assured entry to their country of destination and any other countries they are transiting on their way there.
Permitted paid engagements
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.
- (c) An overseas designated pilot examiner may assess UK based pilots to ensure they meet the national aviation regulatory requirements of other countries, if they have been invited by an approved training organisation based in the UK that is regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority for that purpose.
- (d) A qualified lawyer may provide advocacy for a court or tribunal hearing, arbitration or other form of dispute resolution for legal proceedings within the UK, if they have been invited by a client.
- (e) A professional artist, entertainer, musician or sports person may carry out an activity directly relating to their profession, if they have been invited by a creative (arts or entertainment) or sports organisation, agent or broadcaster based in the UK.
As a business visitor you can carry out limited business-related activities, for example:
- you're coming to the UK for a conference, meeting or training
- you want to take part in a specific sports-related event
- you're an artist, entertainer or musician and coming to the UK to perform
- are an academic and are doing research or accompanying students on a study abroad programme
- you're a doctor or dentist and are coming to the UK to take a clinical attachment or observer post
- you want to take the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test or sit the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
- you want to get funding to start, take over, join or run a business in the UK
Speak to one of our advisors today to find out if the business-related activities you wish to carry out under the Business Visitor visa are permitted.
If you're being paid by a UK company to visit as an expert in your profession, you should apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa.
What you can and cannot do
- take part in any of the business-related activities mentioned in the Visitor Rules
- study for up to 30 days, as long as it's not the main reason for your visit
- take part in an exchange programme or educational visit (if you're under 18)
- convert your civil partnership into a marriage
- pass through the UK in transit (on your way to another country)
- do paid or unpaid work
- live in the UK for long periods of time through frequent visits
- get public funds
- marry or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership
Speak to one of our advisors for more information about what you can and cannot do with a Standard Visitor visa.
How long will it take?
The earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel. Most visit visas are usually decided within 3 weeks from the date you apply from outside the UK. Priority visa processing is available at some centres. We can advise you of this before you apply.
How long you can stay in the UK?
You can usually stay in the UK for up to 6 months. You might be able to stay for longer if:
- you're coming to the UK for private medical treatment - up to 11 months (£190 fee)
- you're an academic on sabbatical and coming to the UK for research - you, your spouse or civil partner may be able to stay for up to 12 months (£190 fee)
If you're staying in the UK as an academic or to receive private medical treatment for longer than 6 months, you must apply for a biometric residence permit.
You might be able to get a visit visa for up to 30 days if you're a Chinese citizen visiting under the Approved Destination Status (ADS) Agreement.
If you need to visit the UK regularly or if you need to visit the UK regularly over a longer period, you can apply for a long-term Standard Visitor visa that lasts either 2, 5 or 10 years. You can stay for a maximum of 6 months on each visit.
If you're under 18 years old when you apply, your long-term Standard Visitor visa will only be valid for up to 6 months after you turn 18.
A Standard Visitor visa costs £95.
The fee for a long-term Standard Visitor visa depends on its length:
2 years - £361
5 years - £655
10 years - £822
Are there any eligibility requirement?
Yes, you must always show that:
- you'll leave the UK at the end of your visit
- you're able to support yourself and any dependents for the duration of your trip
- you're able to pay for your return or onward journey and any other costs relating to your visit
- you have proof of any business or other activities you want to do in the UK, as allowed by the Visitor Rules
If you're applying for a long-term Standard Visitor visa
You must evidence that:
- you'll only ever need to come to the UK to visit, for example to go on holiday, see family or attend a meeting
- you plan to leave the UK at the end of each visit
You may be given a visa for a shorter period than requested if you do not do this. You will not get a refund of the application fee if you get a shorter visa or your application is refused.
Your visa may be cancelled and you may get a long-term ban on visiting if your travel history shows you're repeatedly living in the UK for extended periods.
Additional eligibility requirements for Academic visitors
If you're applying as an academic then you can stay in the UK for 12 months if you're applying as an academic.
You must evidence that you are highly qualified within your field of expertise, on sabbatical leave from your home institution and visiting to either:
- take part in a formal exchange with a UK counterpart
- carry out your own research
- take part in someone else's research, teaching or clinical practice - as long as this does not involve filling a permanent teaching post
Additional eligibility requirements for Medical visitors
If you're applying to visit for private medical treatment then you must evidence that you:
- have a medical condition that needs private consultation or treatment in the UK
- have made or paid for arrangements for consultations or treatment
- have enough money to pay for your treatment, support yourself without using public funds and pay for your return or onward journey
- will leave the UK once your treatment is completed, or when your visa expires
- are not a danger to public health if you're suffering from an infectious disease, such as leprosy
Additional eligibility requirements for Organ Donors
If you're applying as an organ donor then you can only visit the UK to donate organs to:
- a family member who you're genetically related to (for example your sibling or parent)
- someone you have a close personal relationship with (for example your spouse or friend)
You must prove that the person you're donating an organ to is legally allowed to be in the UK.
What documents do I need to provide?
Documents you must provide include, but not limited to, the following:
- your current passport or other valid travel identification. You need a blank page in your passport for your visa. Your passport should be valid for the whole period of your stay in the UK.
- a certified translation of any documents that are not in English or Welsh.
We can guide you about your documents when you apply. Generally, it is advisable to provide the following:
- previous travel documents/passports, which show previous travel.
- financial documents showing that you have sufficient funds available. These must clearly show that you have access to the funds, such as:
- bank statements
- building society book
- proof of earnings such as a letter from employer confirming employment details (start date of employment, salary, role, company contact details)
- where a third party (who is either in the UK or who will be legally in the UK at the time of your visit) is providing financial support to you e.g. a business, a friend or a relative, documents to show they have sufficient resources to support you in addition to themselves and any dependant family should be provided
- confirmation of legal residence, if you are not a national of the country in which you are applying or your right to reside there is not included in your passport
- details of employment or studies where you have stated in your application that you are either employed or in full-time studies. This could include:
- a letter from your employer on company headed paper, detailing your role, salary and length of employment
- a letter from your education provider, on headed paper, confirming your enrolment and leave of absence
- if self-employed: business registration documents confirming the business owner's name and the date the business started trading
- business activities - where you are coming to the UK in order to undertake activities relating to your occupation/employment outside the UK you should submit documents showing what you will be doing in the UK, including any letters from inviting organisations. For example:
- any business activities, e.g. letter from your employer outlining the reason for your visit, who you will be meeting and details of any payment/expenses
- for performances and entertainment visitors, whether you work in this area as a professional or amateur, and what and where you will be performing
- under 18s - we strongly recommend you submit the following information otherwise it may delay consideration of your application:
- a Birth Certificate or legal document (such as adoption papers) showing the relationship between you and your parent or guardian
- if travelling unaccompanied or with someone other than your parent or guardian you should provide:
- a signed letter from your parent(s) confirming details of anyone accompanying you, and details of care and accommodation arranged in the UK
- a copy of your parent(s) or legal guardian's biographical page of their passport, which includes their signature and passport number if your parent(s) do not have a passport then you must provide another official document which bears their signature
Additional documents for specific types of visitors
This section sets out additional types of documents that you must submit if you are visiting for one of the following reasons.
Academics coming to undertake research (12 month visa)
- a letter from your current employer on official headed paper, detailing the period of your sabbatical, exchange or outlining the research to be undertaken
- letter from UK host organisation confirming the arrangements for your research or exchange
- If you are from a country listed in Appendix T of the Immigration Rules, you must provide a valid medical certificate issued by a medical practitioner listed in Appendix T of the Immigration Rules.
Family accompanying academics coming to undertake research (12 month visa)
- If you are from a country listed in Paragraph 39 of part 1 of the Immigration Rules, you must provide a valid medical certificate issued by a medical practitioner listed in Appendix T of the Immigration Rules.
Private Medical Treatment (6 and 11 month visa)
You must provide a letter from your doctor or consultant in the UK, which includes:
- details of the condition requiring treatment or consultation
- estimated cost and duration of treatment
- details of where treatment or consultation will take place
- If you are applying for an 11-month visa and are from a country listed in Paragraph 39 of part 1 of the Immigration Rules, you must provide a valid medical certificate issued by a medical practitioner listed in Appendix T of the Immigration Rules.
Where you are applying for an extension of stay as a visitor for private medical treatment you must provide the following documents:
- a letter from a registered medical practitioner at a private practice or NHS hospital, who holds an NHS consultant post or who appears in the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council, detailing the medical condition requiring further treatment documents to show that you have met the costs of any treatment already receive
In addition, organ donors must provide a letter confirming:
- that you genuinely intend on donating an organ to a named individual who you have a genetic or personal relationship with, and that you are either a confirmed match to the identified recipient or are undergoing further tests to establish this
- details of when and where the planned transplant or tests will take place
- The letter must be from one of the following:
- the lead nurse or co-ordinator of an NHS Trust's living donor kidney transplant team
- a registered medical practitioner who holds an NHS consultant post, or who appears in the specialist register of the General Medical Council
Organ donors also need a document showing that the intended recipient is legally resident in the UK, such as a copy of their British passport or residence permit. If they are applying for a visa at the same time, you must provide their details (name, nationality, date of birth).
Letter of support from:
- one or more registered venture capitalist firms regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority
- one or more UK entrepreneurial seed funding competitions
- one or more UK government departments
Failure to provide these documents will prevent subsequent switching into Tier 1 (Entrepreneur).
- Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board or Objective Structured Clinical Examination Tests - a letter from the General Medical Council & Nursing and Midwifery Council confirming arrangements for the test
unpaid clinical attachments or dental observer posts -confirmation of your offer to take up this post and that you have not previously undertaken this activity in the UK
Performers at one or more permit-free festivals
- Letter of invitation from the organisers of each event, setting out dates required and details of any payments you will receive for taking part.
Permitted Paid Engagements
- Invitation letter from a relevant UK-based organisation, such as:
- a Higher Education institution
- an organisation in the creative arts or entertainment industries
- a sports organisation
- a research organisation
- an aviation training organisation regulated by the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority
You must also provide evidence of professional status in your home country, depending on the engagement you are doing.
- publications in a particular field of expertise
- evidence of previous lectures given in that field
- a letter from your employer confirming where you work and your area of expertise
- publicity material for performances, screenings concerts, talks, readings and exhibitions
- evidence of awards
- media coverage and reviews
- proof of recent performances
Air pilot examiners:
- a document to show membership of your country of residence's national aviation authority, e.g. the Federal Aviation Authority in the USA
- a practicing certificate or certificate of good standing or equivalent document
Visitor (Marriage/Civil Partnership)
- If you have been married or in a civil partnership before, you must provide documents to show that you are free to marry or form a civil partnership.
- Evidence that arrangements have been/are being made to marry or form a civil partnership or give notice of your intention to this during your visit, such as a letter from a registry office.
- Evidence that your onward journey from the UK has been booked/confirmed, and that it is either within 24 hours of arrival in the UK for Direct Airside Transit or 48 hours of arrival in the UK for Visitor in Transit such as:
- travel booking confirmation (can be email or copy of tickets)
travel agent confirmation
- Evidence that you are assured entry into the onward country that you are travelling to, such as:
- residence permit
- 'green card'
- valid visa
If you are not a national or resident of the country of destination, you may wish to provide evidence of reason for travel, such as:
- holiday booking confirmation
Documents you should not send unless specifically requested
This section provides guidance on the types of documents that are not required to consider your application.
- if you are applying as a family/group you do not need to provide multiple copies of the same documents
- bank statements or letters issued more than 1 year before the date of application
- credit card statements
- driving licence
- photographs (passport photographs required in section 1)
- notarial certificates
- business cards
- hotel bookings
- flight bookings
- photocopies of bank cards
- certificates relating to leisure activities
- evidence of car ownership
- travel insurance
- sponsor's utility bills
- sponsor's council tax bills
- educational certificates
Is there any other further information I should provide?
Yes, you will need to provide the following information:
- the dates you're planning to travel to the UK
- details of where you'll be staying during your visit
- how much you think your trip will cost
- your current home address and how long you've lived there
- your parents' names and dates of birth
- how much you earn in a year
You might also need:
- details of your travel history for the past 10 years (as shown in your passport)
- your employer's address and telephone number
- your partner's name, date of birth, and passport number
- the name and address of anyone paying for your trip
- the name, address and passport number of any family members you have in the UK
- details of any criminal, civil or immigration offences you have committed