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Which Home Office Visa?

Should you wish to visit the UK, you may need to make an application for a Home Office visa to permit you to travel to the UK and undertake your planned activity.

Do you need a visa?

Currently, (September 2019) nationals of EU countries, European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland do not need a Home Office visa to enter the UK.

The 26 EEA countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Persons from countries other than these will generally require a visa to visit the UK. The visas listed in this article are for persons outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland.

What are the different types of UK Home Office visa?

Which Home Office visa you apply for will be dependent on your reasons for visiting the UK and the length of your stay.

Standard visitor visa

The Standard visitor visa was introduced to simplify the process of visiting the UK by replacing certain visas such as the Family visitor visa, the Business visitor visa and the Prospective Entrepreneur visa.

The Standard visitor visa is suitable for a visit to the UK for up to 6 months for the following reasons:

  • holidaying in the UK
  • visiting family who live in the UK
  • short-term business visits (e.g. to attend a conference or a business meeting)
  • short-term private medical treatment
  • converting civil partnership to a marriage

Where you have been invited to take up a paid engagement by an organisation or individual based in the UK without entering into the points-based system, a Permitted Paid Engagement visa may be more suitable.

Marriage visitor visa

The Marriage visitor visa is suitable where you wish to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK, or give notice that you will marry or enter into a civil partnership.

The Marriage visitor visa does not allow you to remain in the UK after your marriage or civil ceremony.

This type of visa is not suitable for converting a civil partnership to a marriage. The Standard visitor visa should be applied for instead.

Transit visa

If you will be travelling through the UK but not stopping off for more than 48 hours and you don’t hold a Standard or Marriage visitor visa, you will generally need to apply for one of the two types of Transit visa.

A Visitor in Transit visa will allow you to pass through UK border control and stop over in the UK for less than 48 hours.

A Direct Airside Transit visa is suitable where you will not pass through UK border control.

If your journey requires that you stop off in the UK for more than 48 hours, it will be necessary to have a Standard visitor visa.

Student visa (Tier 4)

This visa is suitable for persons over the age of 16 who wish to study in the UK. Again, you must prove that you have a confirmed place on the course. 

The length of the visa will depend on the length of the course you attend, but it may be possible to extend the length of the visa if needed.

This visa may also allow you to bring dependant relatives with you.

A Child student visa is suitable for young students aged between 4 and 17 years old enrolled to study at a UK independent school. 

Proof must be provided that they have a confirmed place at the school and that their parents or guardians have given their consent.

The length of the visa depends on the age of the child. A Child student visa for a 16 to 17 year old may last up to 3 years and 4 months. Where the child is under 16, the visa will last up to 6 years and 4 months as a maximum.

Where the parent of such a child wishes to travel to the UK, there is a Parent of a Tier 4 child visa available, which is either 6 or 12 months in length.  

Work visas

The majority of long-term work visas sought are General work visas (Tier 2), suitable for persons who have been offered skilled employment by a UK-based organisation who is recognised as a licensed sponsor.

This type of visa may last up to 5 years and 14 days but is generally for a minimum of 3 years and should then be extended to take the visa’s holder leave to remain up to the 5-years qualifying period for UK indefinite leave to remain. 

Other long-term work visas include the Intra-company Transfer visa, Minister of Religion visa, and Sportsperson visa.

Short-term work visas

Short-term work visas are more specialised in their nature and there is therefore no ‘general’ short-term work visa. Persons using a short-term work visa are usually referred to as temporary workers.

Short-term work visas available in the UK include:

  • Temporary Worker – Charity Worker visa (Tier 5)
  • Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting visa (Tier 5)
  • Temporary Worker – Government Authorised Exchange visa (Tier 5)
  • Temporary Worker – International Agreement visa (Tier 5)
  • Temporary Worker – Religious Worker visa (Tier 5)
  • Temporary Worker – Seasonal Worker visa (Tier 5)
  • Youth Mobility Scheme visa (Tier 5)

All of the short-term work visas require an offer of work from a UK based licensed sponsor.

The Charity Worker visa and Creative and Sporting visa may last for up to 12 months. The Government Authorised Exchange visa may last for 1 or 2 years, depending on the placement. The International Agreement visa and Religious Worker visa may last up to 2 years. The Seasonal Worker visa may last for up to 6 months.

The Youth Mobility Scheme visa is suitable if you are aged between 18 and 30 years and wish to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years. You must, however, be a British overseas citizen, British overseas territories citizen or an overseas British national, or be from one of the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • Hong Kong
  • Republic of Korea
  • Taiwan

Investor visa (Tier 1)

This visa is suitable if you would like to invest £2 million or more in the UK. The investment funds must belong to you and be free to spend, rather than being tied up in property or other assets.

This type of visa lasts up to 3 years and 4 months but may be extended for another 2 years.

The Investor visa allows you to study or work during your time in the UK and apply to settle here after 2 years if you have invested a minimum of £10 million. You may apply to settle after 3 years, if your investment has been £5 million, and after 5 years, if £2 million has been invested.

Entrepreneur visas

Entrepreneurs should choose from either the Start-up visa – for those establishing their first business in Britain – and the Innovator visa – for experienced business owners. Both types of visa allow you set up a business in the UK that is seen as ‘innovative’ or new but also require endorsement by an authorised body before the visa application can be made. 

A Start-up visa lasts up to 2 years. An Innovator visa lasts up to 3 years and also requires that you have £50,000 as a minimum to invest in your new business.

Exceptional Talent visa (Tier 1)

This type of visa is suitable if you work in one of the qualifying fields, such as science or medicine, and are recognised as a leader with exceptional talent or an emerging leader with exceptional promise. This recognition must be endorsed by an authorised body process before you make your visa application.

The maximum number of Exceptional Talent visas made available each year is 2,000.

This type of visa may last up to 5 years and 4 months.

Family visa

If you wish to visit the UK to live with a relative for a maximum of 6 months, you should apply for the Family visa.

The type of relative you may live with under a Family visa include a husband, wife, civil partner, fiancé, fiancée, proposed civil partner, child or parent.

You may also use a Family visa if a relative in the UK will care for you on a long-term basis.

The UK Ancestry visa may be an option if you are a national of a Commonwealth country with a grandparent born in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man and want to live and work in the UK for up to five-years.


If you are a dependant of a UK visa holder, you may be able to apply or a visa on the basis of their grant of leave in the UK. Dependant visas are only available where the principal visa holder is in certain categories of visa, such as the Tier 1 investor or the Tier 2 General visa.

Do you have a question about a Home Office visa?

Selecting the most appropriate immigration route for your needs and circumstances is the critical first step in any Home Office application. With so many routes available, including specialist programmes and schemes aimed at niche cohorts, it will be important to ensure you have explored all potential routes that you may be eligible for.

At DavidsonMorris we have the experience to advise you on the most appropriate UK visa for your circumstances and have the insight to make the process as smooth as possible.

As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, we have an established reputation for effective and efficient management and processing of visa applications, and for providing expert visa-related advice to suit your needs.

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