If you are looking to visit the UK on multiple occasions over a number of years, you may want to apply for a UK long term visitor visa. Whilst this will not allow you to stay in the UK for more than 6 months at any one time, it will enable you to enjoy frequent visits over the course of several years, without having to re-apply for a visa each time you want to take another trip.
In this guide to the UK’s long term visitor visa, we look at the visa requirements and application process, as well as what is permitted – and not permitted – under this visa route.
What is the long term visitor visa UK?
The long term visitor visa is the permission given by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), the division of the Home Office responsible for the UK’s visa system, to be able to visit the UK for a prescribed period of time. This could be, for example, for the purposes of tourism and leisure, such as visiting friends and family, or taking regular holidays. It could also be to carry out a range of different business activities, such as attending meetings or conferences.
If you are a visa national, ie; a citizen of a country that does not qualify for visa-free travel to the UK, you will need to obtain a visitor visa in advance to obtain entry clearance before arriving at a UK port-of-entry. Even if you are a non-visa national, it can often be advisable to obtain a long term visa for multiple visits. Whilst this will not necessarily guarantee entry to the UK on each occasion, as you must still persuade border officials that you are a genuine visitor and the reason for each visit, it can help to ensure a smoother process.
What does the long term visitor visa allow?
The rules relating to visitor visas are set out under ‘Appendix V: Visitor’ of the UK’s Immigration Rules, including how long this visa will last. In most cases, you will not be permitted to stay in the UK for more than a maximum of 6 months.
However, where you are looking to visit the UK a number of times, for example, for the purposes of visiting friends and family, or taking several different business trips, you may be able to apply for a visitor visa with a validity period of either 2, 5 or 10 years. This means that you will be able to visit the UK multiple times, although each stay must not exceed the maximum length of stay endorsed on your visa, in most cases, a period of 6 months.
The UK long term visitor visa can therefore be ideal, for example, for parents whose adult children have settled in the UK, where they would like to regularly visit their children and grandchildren. It can also be well-suited to those who need to visit the UK regularly for the purposes of business meetings or attending conferences over the course of time.
Other activities permitted under the long term visitor route, as set out under ‘Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities’ of the Immigration Rules, include doing some volunteer work for a registered charity for a period of up to 30 days, provided this is not the main reason for your visit to the UK. It can also include undertaking a short course of recreational study, again for up to 30 days and as long as this is incidental to the main reason for any UK trip.
What are you not allowed to do under a long term visitor visa UK?
When applying for a long term visitor visa, UKVI will always carefully consider the reason for wanting a visa over a prolonged period of time. The UKVI caseworker dealing with your application must be satisfied that you will leave the UK at the end of each trip. They must also be satisfied that you do not intend to use your visa to live in the UK for extended periods through either frequent or successive visits, or to make the UK your main home.
Equally, the long term visitor visa is not designed for those looking to undertake paid employment in the UK. If you are planning to work, look for work or start your own business, you will instead need to apply for a visa under one of the various work routes.
Importantly, as you will not be allowed to work whilst in the UK on a long term visitor visa, you must have sufficient funds to support yourself throughout your stay. This is because you will not be granted access to public funds, even though you cannot legally get a job.
UK long term visitor visa requirements
The eligibility requirements for visitor visas are again set out under Appendix V of the Immigration Rules. To be eligible for any subcategory of visitor visa, you must show that:
- you are genuinely seeking to visit the UK for a purpose permitted under the visitor rules
- you are able to support yourself for the entire duration of each stay
- you are able to pay for reasonable costs relating to each UK visit, without undertaking paid work or accessing public funds, and can cover each return or onward journey
- you will not undertake any prohibited activities
- you will leave the UK at the end of each visit
- you will not seek to reside in the UK for extended periods of time through either frequent or successive visits, nor will you make the UK your main home.
When it comes to long term visitor visas, and the risk that this can be used to live in the UK for extended periods of time, you will need to persuade UKVI that you have stable finances, as well as strong ties to your home country. Essentially, UKVI must be satisfied that you are a genuine visitor, with good reason to regularly visit the UK over either 2, 5 or 10 years.
How to apply for a long term visitor visa UK
To make an application for a long term visitor visa, you must apply online from outside the UK using the GOV.UK website on form ‘Apply for a UK visit visa’. You must pay the relevant fee, submit your biometric information at an overseas visa application centre, where required, and provide proof of your identity and nationality. You will also need to provide various documents in support, depending on the reason for your multiple visits.
The earliest you can apply for a long term visitor visa is 3 months before you travel to the UK, and you should get a decision from UKVI within 3 weeks of attending a visa application centre. However, it is currently taking up to 5 weeks for decisions to be made.
Long term visitor visa supporting documents
The type of documents you will need to support your application for a long term visitor visa will depend on the reason for your visits to the UK. However, in all cases, you will need to satisfy UKVI that your intentions are genuine and you intend to return home after each trip. This means that you will need to provide a passport or other valid travel ID, together with additional documentation to prove the purpose of your proposed trips to the UK.
Additionally, you must show that you have enough money to cover all reasonable costs in relation to your visits, and that any funds you rely upon are held in a regulated financial institution in relation to which the UKVI caseworker is able to make satisfactory verification checks as permitted under Appendix Finance of the Immigration Rules. For long term visitor visa applications, UKVI are looking for those with a stable income or sufficient wealth.
Importantly, as being granted a long term visitor visa does not guarantee entry to the UK, on your arrival at a port-of-entry you must also be in possession of sufficient documentation to persuade border officials that you are a genuine visitor, and that you are able to support yourself without undertaking work or accessing public funds during your stay.
How much is a long term visitor visa UK?
The cost of your visa will depend on how long you apply for. To apply for a standard single or multiple-entry visa lasting up to 6 months, the cost is £100. For a 2-year long term visitor visa the cost is £376; for a 5-year long term visitor visa the cost is £670; and for a 10-year long term visitor visa the cost is £837. However, if you would like to expedite the time taken for UKVI to make a decision, there will be an additional fee for premium processing.
You may be able to get a decision from UKVI within as little as 5 working days using the priority service, at an additional cost of £250, or even by the end of the next working day using the super priority service, at a cost of £956. You will need to check with the visa centre at which you are making your application to see if these services are available.
If UKVI believe that you cannot meet all of the eligibility requirements for the duration of the visa applied for, you may be granted a shorter visa than that requested. If you are granted a shorter visa, you will not receive a partial refund of the application fee. Equally, if your application is refused, you will again not be entitled to a refund. Importantly, paying for one of the priority services does not guarantee a favourable outcome to your application for a long term visitor visa, nor the grant of a long term visa for the intended duration.
What happens if your long term visitor visa application is refused?
There are various reasons as to why your application may be refused. This could be because you fail to satisfy UKVI that you meet all of the requirements as a long term visitor for your intended purpose. UKVI must also be satisfied that you are a genuine visitor and that you intend to leave the UK after each trip. For example, if you are not able to show that you have stable finances and strong ties to your home country, an adverse inference may be drawn that you intend to work in the UK. Equally, if it is clear from any previous travel history that you are planning to make the UK your home, your application will be refused.
Additionally, you could fall for refusal under ‘Part 9: grounds for refusal’ of the Immigration Rules. In some cases, your application could be refused on mandatory grounds, whilst in others, this will be at the discretion of the UKVI caseworker deciding your application. For example, if you have been to prison for a criminal offence in the UK or overseas, where your sentence was for 12 months or more, your visa application ‘must’ be refused. In contrast, if you have been convicted of an offence for which you received a prison sentence of less than 12 months, or a non-custodial sentence, your application ‘may’ be refused.
If your application for a long term visitor visa is refused by UKVI, you will not be permitted to travel to the UK. In these circumstances, you should seek expert legal advice from an immigration specialist with a view to submitting a fresh application. It can be tricky to make a successful application following a refusal, but with a detailed explanation and proper evidence in support to address the reasons given for the refusal, it is possible.
Importantly, even if you are granted a long term visitor visa, this cannot be used as a means of living in the UK by spending 6 months, leaving and immediately returning, as this will breach the rule not to live in the UK for extended periods. Several long stays which reach the 6-month limit each time may arouse suspicion that your intentions are not genuine. In these circumstances, you may be refused entry. You also run the risk that your visitor visa will be cancelled altogether, presenting very real difficulties in applying for a new one.
Travellers to the UK should note that even with a valid visitor visa in place, you may still be questioned at the UK border by immigration officials, to verify that you are a genuine visitor and will comply with the visitor visa rules. Where officials are concerned that you may stay longer than your visa date, or if your activities are prohibited under the visitor rules, you may be denied entry. For specialist UK visa and immigration advice, contact us.
Long term visitor visa FAQs
How do I get a UK long term tourist visa?
To make an application for a long term tourist visa, you must apply online from outside the UK. You must also pay the relevant fee, submit your biometric information, where required, and provide proof of your identity and nationality.
How much is a long term standard visitor visa UK?
For a 2-year long term standard visitor visa the cost is £376; for a 5-year long term visitor visa the cost is £670; and for a 10-year visa the cost is £837.
How long visitor visa can stay in UK?
A standard visitor visa is typically for 6 months, although you can apply for a visa with a validity period of either 2, 5 or 10 years for regular visits of up to 6 months each time.
How much is a 2 year visitor visa UK?
The cost of applying for a 2 year long term visitor visa is £376, although you can pay an additional fee to expedite the time it takes to get a decision.
Last updated: 6 December 2022