Family Visitor Visa UK (Rules & Eligibility)


The Family Visitor Visa UK is for foreign nationals looking to visit family living in the UK.

Suitable only for short-term stays, the family visitor visa is strict in what it does and does not allow holders to do during their time in the UK, and you must apply from outside the UK.

We look at the rules for the family visitor visa and the eligibility criteria you will need to prove to convince the Home Office that you are a genuine visitor.

What is the Family Visitor Visa UK?

A Family Visitor Visa UK is intended for nationals from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries or Switzerland wanting to travel to the UK to visit friends and family.

This type of visa is also known as the Standard Visitor Visa, and can be used to visit the UK for other purposes, such as for business activities, to take part in sports or creative events, or to even undergo private medical treatment.

You can also use this visa to transit through the UK if you are visiting friends and family in another country but need to pass through the UK. However, how long you can stay and how much the visa will cost depends on whether you pass through UK border control.

Under a Family Visitor Visa, your stay will usually be limited to a period of up to six months.

To visit the UK regularly over a longer period, you can apply for a long-term Standard Visitor Visa that lasts either two, five or ten years. You can stay for a maximum of six months on each visit. For children, the long-term Standard Visitor Visas will only be valid for up to six months after they turn 18.

If you want to stay for a period that is longer than 6 months, take advice on your visa options. For example, if you are looking to visit your child who attends an independent fee-paying day school in the UK, you may be eligible to stay for up to twelve months under the Parent of a Tier 4 Child Visa.

What does the Family Visitor Visa UK not allow?

Under a Family Visitor Visa UK various activities are prohibited. In particular, you must not intend to work in the UK during your period of leave as a visitor. This includes:

  • Taking employment in the UK
  • Doing work for an organisation or business in the UK
  • Establishing or running a business as a self-employed person
  • Doing a work placement or internship
  • Directly selling to the public
  • Providing goods and services.

You cannot enrol on a full-time course of study, although you may be able to participate in a short course of study for up to thirty days, provided this is not the main purpose of your visit.

Further, except as permitted under the Visitor Rules and where any additional requirements have been met, you must also not intend to study in the UK, access medical treatment other than private medical treatment or to donate an organ, or to marry or form a civil partnership in the UK, or to give notice of this.

If your reason for travel is not permissible under the visitor visa, take advice on the alternative immigration routes that could be open to you such as if you want to get married here, start a business or undertake a course of study.

Who is eligible for a Family Visitor Visa UK?

To be eligible for a Family Visitor Visa UK you must satisfy the Home Office that you are a genuine visitor by showing you meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • You are genuinely seeking entry for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes, ie; to visit friends and family
  • You will leave the UK at the end of your visit
  • You will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK your main home
  • You will not undertake any prohibited activities as set out under the rules, for example, undertaking paid employment
  • You must have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to your visit without working or accessing public funds. This includes the cost of the return or onward journey, as well as any costs relating to dependants that will be travelling with you.

How do I prove I have sufficient funds for a Family Visitor Visa UK?

Your visa application will need to include documentary evidence of your funds to meet the financial maintenance requirement.

When seeking to prove that you have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs for a Family Visitor Visa UK, you can rely on expenses, maintenance and accommodation provided by a third party.

However, you must show that any personal relationship with the third party is genuine, and that the third party is not, or will not be, in breach of UK immigration laws at the time of decision or your entry to the UK.

You must also show that the third party will be able to offer you financial support for the intended duration of your stay.

The third party may be asked to give an undertaking in writing to be responsible for your travel costs, maintenance and accommodation.

How do I apply for a Family Visitor Visa UK?

An application for a Family Visitor Visa UK must be made while you are outside the UK. You will need to submit an online application and pay a fee. You will also need to provide a valid travel document, supporting documentation and, where applicable, biometric information, ie; your fingerprints and a digital photo.

The earliest you can apply is three months before you travel, and you should get a decision within around three weeks – although you should check the guide processing times to find out how long getting a visa might take in the country in which you are making your application.

If you have a right of abode in the UK and can travel to Britain without restriction, you should ensure you have either valid UK passport or a certificate of entitlement prior to travel. You should not apply for the family visitor visa.

What is the cost of applying for a Family Visitor Visa UK?

The cost of your visa will depend on how long it’s valid for. As at July 2019, the fees can range from anything between £95 for a standard six month short-term Family Visitor Visa UK, up to £822 for a 10 year long-term visit visa.

As previously indicated, you should get a decision within about three weeks of your appointment date, although you may be able to expedite this process by paying an extra £220 for a decision within five working days, or £956 for a decision within one working day.

Again, check this with the visa centre where you are making your application.

Will a Family Visitor Visa UK guarantee entry?

The grant of a Family Visitor Visa UK will not guarantee entry into the country. It is in fact possible that you may be refused entry by border officials in the event that they are not satisfied that you fulfil all of the eligibility criteria.

It is therefore important that you carry with you any documentation to prove that the reason for your visit is genuine, and that you have sufficient funds to maintain and accommodate yourself adequately for the whole of your planned visit to the UK, either personally or via a third party.

Do you need advice applying for a family visitor visa UK?

DavidsonMorris’ team of immigration specialists are on hand to advise on the family visitor visa, including support with the application process to give you the best chance of successfully securing permission to visit your loved ones in the UK. Contact us for advice.



Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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