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UK Visitor Visa

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Visitor Visa overview

There are a number of Visitor Visa types that have been designed to allow people to visit the UK, usually on a short-term basis. The main categories of Visit Visas include:

  • Standard Visitor Visa
  • Marriage Visitor Visa
  • Permitted Paid Engagement Visa
  • Parent of a Child Student Visa
  • UK Transit Visa
  • Visit the UK in a Chinese tour group

If you wish to travel to the UK and you are from a country that requires a visa to enter, there is a process you must follow to apply for a UK visa.

For most applicants, the visa process will begin by checking whether you need to apply for a visa. Next, identify the correct type of Transit Visa you need.

Following this, you should prepare the documents required to prove why you should be granted a visa.

Next, apply for a Transit Visa (including paying a fee). In most cases, you will need to find a visa application centre to attend an appointment with an immigration official.

At this appointment, your biometric information will be taken (facial photograph and fingerprints). Following your appointment, you will be informed whether your visa application has been successful and if you have been granted permission to visit the UK.

The final step is to travel to the UK. Depending on your circumstances, there are documents you will need to provide at the UK border to gain entry.

It is important that you follow all the conditions of your visa and do not overstay past the expiry date.

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Who can apply for a Visitor Visa?

People who wish to come to the UK for a short time may apply for a Standard Visitor Visa. This category of Visit Visa allows the holder to visit the UK for a number of purposes.

This visa allows for tourism, some business activities (e.g., attending a meeting or signing a contract), a short study abroad programme, academic research or exchange programmes, and private medical treatment.

You are not permitted to work in the UK if you hold a Standard Visitor Visa. Similarly, you may not claim any public funds (or benefits), marry, study for longer than six months, or live in the UK for an extended period on the Visit Visa.

Eligibility requirements

You should provide proof of the following:

  • You will leave the UK
  • You do not intend to make the UK your home
  • You can support yourself financially during your trip
  • You can pay for your journey home

If you are coming to the UK for academic, private medical treatment, or short-term study course, you will also be asked to provide evidence of this.

Length of stay

If you are coming to the UK on a Standard Visit Visa, it is likely that you will be allowed to stay for up to six months.

It is possible to apply for a long-term Standard Visitor Visa lasting a period of either 2, 5, or 10 years at a time if you need to visit the UK regularly. The holder may stay in the UK for a maximum of 6 months per visit.

How to apply for a Visitor Visa

You should apply for your visa (also known as Tourist or Holiday Visa) before you plan to travel to the UK. The application process is straightforward.

It is recommended to make yourself familiar with Immigration Rules Appendix V: Visitor. This outlines in greater detail what you may or may not do if granted this visa.

Use the online application form to apply for your visa. You will be asked to complete the form, submit your supporting documents, pay the application fee, and sign a declaration stating that the information submitted is true to your knowledge.

Unlike other visa categories, there is no need to provide evidence of your English language abilities if you wish to visit the UK.

Depending on your country of residence, you may be asked to provide evidence of a clear tuberculosis test.

Cost of the visa

Currently, the Tourist Visa costs £95. However, the long-term visa costs more, depending on the duration of the visa.

Costs of long-term Standard Visitor Visas:

  • 2 years: £361
  • 5 years: £655
  • 10 years: £822

Required documents

Before you begin the online application process for the UK Visitor Visa, you should familiarise yourself with the documents you will be asked to provide.

You will be asked to provide your passport or valid travel document. You should ensure that there is at least one blank page (front and back) in the document for your visa stamp. Your passport should not expire before the end of your intended trip to the UK.

You will be asked to provide proof that you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit. Providing evidence of work or educational commitments in your home country can be used as a form of evidence.

Further, you may submit payslips or bank statements as evidence of your ability to support yourself financially during your stay in the UK.

Information required for the online application:

  • Dates of intended travel to the UK
  • Details of places where you intend to stay
  • The estimated cost of the trip
  • Your address and length of time spent living there
  • Names and dates of birth of your parents
  • Annual earnings
  • Criminal, civil, or immigration record
  • Travel history (for the last 10 years)
  • Employer’s details
  • Partner’s details
  • Names, address, and valid passport numbers of family members living in the UK

How long does a Visitor Visa application take?

In most cases, if you submit your application online, you should receive an official decision from the Home Office within three weeks.

The waiting time begins when you attend your immigration appointment in an approved application centre to provide your biometric information.

Alternatively, you may use the UK Immigration: ID Check smartphone app to provide proof of your identity.

You will receive an email or letter on the decision of your application. The letter will explain whether your application has been accepted or refused as well as information on the next steps in the process.

How to get your Visitor Visa faster

If you wish to receive a decision in a quicker timeframe than three months, you may be able to access a priority service.

In order to use the priority service, you should verify your identity at an approved visa application centre in your country and select this service (if available). There is an additional cost for this, but you will receive your Visit Visa decision within five working days.

If your local visa application centre offers a super priority service, you will be able to receive a decision on your application within 24 hours.

Check if your local visa application centre offers these services.

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What is a long-term Visitor Visa?

Also known as the 2, 5, or 10-year visa, the Long-Term Visitor Visa allows certain people to enter the UK on a short-term basis for a set period of time.

In order to be granted a Long-Term Visitor Visa, you must show that there is a genuine and continuing need to enter and re-enter the UK for a sustained period.

This could include meeting family members, business contacts, or tourist reasons. It is not acceptable to use this visa for the purposes of marrying or medical care.

Further, you should provide evidence that you have adequate financial resources, strong ties to your country, and stable life in your home country.

If granted this category of visa, you are allowed to stay in the UK for up to 180 days per visit.

Older forms of Visitor Visas

In the past, there were a number of different forms of UK visa for tourists. These categories have been replaced and have now merged into the Standard Visitor Visa.

They included the UK Child and Family, UK General, UK Private Medical Treatment, UK Prospective Entrepreneur, UK Approved Destination Status, and UK Business Visas.

Business activities on a Visitor Visa

As we have seen, there are a number of general business activities that are permitted while in the UK on a Business Visitor Visa (falls under the standard visitor visa). Some of these activities include:

  • Attending business meetings, conferences, interviews
  • Providing a series of lectures (with no profits involved)
  • Negotiating business deals and signing contracts
  • Discussing business requirements with a UK-based client
  • Undertaking site visits and inspections
  • Attending trade fairs for promotional work only and not for sales purposes

You may not undertake any paid or unpaid work while holding a Visit Visa. It is possible for an employee of an international company to visit and advise UK employees of that company.

In this scenario, they may only advise, consult, troubleshoot, train, or share skills and knowledge with the employees of the company.

The Gov.uk website provides information on all permitted activities for people with a Visitor Visa.

Private medical treatment on a Visitor Visa

Under certain conditions, you may be granted this visa if you wish to come to the UK for the purposes of medical treatment or to donate an organ.

As well as completing the standard visa application form, you will be required to submit evidence that you have a medical need for treatment in the UK.

You should provide proof of a pre-booked consultation or appointment with a registered medical professional. As with the UK visa requirements to access medical treatment, you will need to provide proof that you are able to financially support yourself for the duration of your stay in the UK.

You should provide evidence that your medical needs will not endanger the health of others when entering the UK (e.g., an uncontrolled infectious disease).

Can you extend a Visitor Visa?

There are strict rules surrounding the extension of this visa. The total length of time you can spend in the UK as a visitor is six months. If you have been in the UK for four months, you may apply for a two-month extension.

In order to be eligible for this extension, you must be based in the UK and your current visa must be valid. There must be a valid reason for extension, and immigration officials must be satisfied that you do not intend to stay for longer than the visa permits (a ‘genuine’ visitor).

If you wish to extend your stay longer than six months, you may only do so if you are to receive private medical treatment, if you are an academic visitor who meets the eligibility criteria, or if you are a graduate taking the PLAB exam.

If you wish to find out how you can come to the UK on a Visitor Visa, our experts can help you with your case Learn more

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Related pages for your continued reading.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is only one type of Visit Visa in the UK. It is also known as a Holiday Visa or a Tourist Visa. There are eligibility conditions attached to visa. The purpose of the Visitor Visa is to allow short-term visits to the UK.

It is possible for a UK resident or company to sponsor someone coming to the UK on a Visitor Visa. This person may be responsible for overseeing your travel arrangements, supporting you with maintenance or accommodation.

In this case, you should submit proof of this sponsorship when making your UK Visa application. This will be used by the caseworker reviewing your application to make a decision. Some of the documents you should provide as part of providing evidence of your Visitor Visa sponsor includes:

  • The relationship between you and the sponsor
  • Whether the sponsor is a legal resident of the UK
  • The nature of the support from your sponsor
  • The method by which the support is provided

No, you are not legally permitted to marry in the UK on a tourist visa. If you wish to marry, register a civil partnership, give notice of a marriage or civil partnership, you must apply for a Marriage Visitor visa.

If you want to come to the UK to convert your pre-existing civil partnership into a marriage, you may do so on a standard Visitor Visa.

The Home Office has not outlined how much funds a person is required to have for a UK Tourist Visa. However, if you are applying for a Visitor Visa, you should be prepared to provide evidence of how you will pay for your visit to the UK.

You may be required to provide payslips and bank statements to prove you can support yourself financially. The more information you can provide about your situation and ability to support yourself will be taken into account by your caseworker.

The Child Visitor Visa allows individuals below the age of 18 to visit family members or friends in the UK or be educated in the UK. It’s valid for up to six months and falls under the standard visitor visa category. As with any UK Standard Visitor Visa, there are immigration rules, other supporting documents, and visa fees required for a successful application.