If you’re planning to visit the UK, either for personal or professional reasons, you will need to check whether you’re required to apply for a visit visa or if you can travel to the UK visa-free. This will ultimately depend on whether or not you are from a country on the ‘UK visa nationals list’.
In this guide, we outline the rules relating to the UK visa nationals list and what your status as either a visa national or non-visa national means for your plans to travel to the UK.
What is the UK visa national list?
Visa nationals are overseas nationals who need a visa to visit the UK, even if this visit is only short-term. The UK visa national list is therefore a list of visa national countries. This means that if you are national of a country that appears on this list, you will need to make an application to the UK Home Office for entry clearance in advance of travel to the UK.
The UK visa national list is found under ‘Appendix Visitor: Visa national list’ of the UK’s Immigration Rules. Under the Rules, this list is described as a “list of nationalities requiring entry clearance (a visa) prior to travel to the UK as either a visitor, or for any other purpose for less than 6 months where there is no mandatory entry clearance (visa) requirement”. This means that, regardless of the length of your proposed trip or its purpose, you will still need to apply for, and be granted a visa, before travelling to the UK.
Which countries are on the UK visa nationals list?
The UK visa national list provides a very long list in alphabetical order of over 100 visa national countries from all around the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
In addition to those countries expressly set out under the UK visa national list, the rules also require stateless people to apply for entry clearance in advance, as well as those travelling on any document other than a passport (or, where applicable under the rules, a national identity card when seeking entry to the UK through the Channel Tunnel), regardless of whether the document is issued by or is evidence of nationality of a place not on the list.
Nationals or citizens of the following countries or territorial entities:
|Central African Republic|
|People’s Republic of China*|
|Côte d’Ivoire (formerly Ivory Coast)|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo|
|Dominica (with effect from 3pm 19 July 2023)|
|Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)|
|Honduras (with effect from 3pm 19 July 2023)|
|Myanmar (formerly Burma)|
|Namibia (with effect from 3pm 19 July 2023)|
|North Macedonia (formerly Macedonia)|
|São Tomé and Principe|
|Timor-Leste (with effect from 3pm 19 July 2023)|
|United Arab Emirates*|
|Vanuatu (with effect from 3pm 19 July 2023)|
|People travelling on any document other than a national passport, or, in the case of a person to whom paragraphs 11A and 11B of these rules apply, a national identity card, regardless of whether the document is issued by or evidences nationality of a state not listed in VN 1.1. (a), except where that document has been issued by the UK.|
* Countries that are an exception under VN 2.2 to VN 6.5
Exceptions to the UK visa nationals list
Under the rules, as a visa national, you will need to obtain a visa in advance of travel to the UK as a visitor, or for any other purpose for less than 6 months where there is no mandatory visa requirement, unless you meet one of the exceptions.
The exceptions under the UK visa national list rules include:
- Rule VN 2.1: where you are a transit visitor travelling under an emergency travel document issued by, and evidencing the nationality of, any country not listed on the UK national visa list and the purpose of your transit is to travel to the country in which you normally reside.
- Rule VN 2.2, subject to VN 2.3: where you are a national or citizen of the People’s Republic of China holding a passport issued by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or the Macao Special Administrative Region; you have a passport issued by Taiwan which includes the identification card number issued by the competent authority in Taiwan; you have a service, temporary service or diplomatic passport issued by the Holy See; or you have a diplomatic or special passport as the national or citizen of one of various countries, including Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Kuwait, Bahrain, South Africa, Vietnam or Indonesia. However, in many cases, this exception does not apply if you are visiting the UK to either marry or form a civil partnership, or to give notice of this.
- Rule VN 3.1: where you are a national or citizen of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, and hold an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) document, provided your stay is for 6 months or less and there is no mandatory visa requirement based on the purpose of your stay. To obtain an EVW you must provide the required biographic and travel information at the GOV.UK EVW website 48 hours in advance of travel. Provided your biographic details match your passport, you will be issued an EVW in electronic form. The EVW will contain details of the mode of transport on which you intend to arrive in the UK, including the place of departure and arrival, and the scheduled dates and times.
UK entry requirements for visa nationals
As a visa national, the requisite entry requirements will partly depend on the reason for your trip, for example, for personal or professional reasons. However, in broad terms, you will need to meet the following eligibility requirements when applying for a visit visa:
- Be genuinely seeking entry to the UK for a purpose that is permitted under the visitor rules, for example, tourism, visiting friends and family, carrying out a permissible business activity, such as attending meetings or conferences, or undertaking a short course of study
- Be visiting the UK for a period of no more than 6 months
Have sufficient funds to both support and accommodate yourself for the duration of your stay, or have funding from someone else to support you
- Be able to pay for either your return or onward journey, or have funding from a third party to pay for this journey
- Intend to leave the UK at the end of your stay
- Not intend to live in the UK for extended periods through either frequent or successive visits, and not intend to make the UK your primary home.
There are also three other types of visit visa for which specific requirements apply for visa nationals. These non-standard visit visas include a marriage or civil partnership visa (if you want to either get married or form a civil partnership in the UK, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership); a permitted paid engagement visa (if you are an expert in your field who has been invited to undertake specific paid engagements for a period of up to a month); and a transit visa (if you want to transit the UK en route to another country outside of the Common Travel Area and will enter the UK for up to 48 hours — unless you can transit visa-free under the special rules for visa nationals transiting the UK land-side without a visa).
For all types of visit visa, the same eligibility requirements will apply to non visa nationals seeking to be admitted to the UK on their arrival at a port of entry.
How to apply for a visit visa
As a visa national, to apply for a visit visa, you must make an online application and pay the relevant £100 fee. However, you should always first check that you need a visa. You can use the ‘Check if you need a UK visa’ online tool at GOV.UK. You will be asked for your nationality, as shown on your passport or other travel document, and what you are coming to the UK to do. You will then be given a short written response based on your answers, although you should always seek legal advice from an immigration specialist in the event of any uncertainty.
Provided you do need a visa to visit the UK, and having submitted your online application, you may need to attend an overseas visa application centre to provide a scan of your fingerprints and a photograph of your face. This is known as your biometric information.
You will also need to submit a number of documents, including a valid passport or travel document, together with documentation to show that you meet the eligibility requirements. This can include evidence of where you will be staying in the UK and any travel itinerary, together with proof of earnings or savings to show that you can support yourself, and evidence of any personal, professional and economic ties to your country of residence.
When applying for a standard visit visa, this will usually be for a period of just 6 months. However, you can apply for a visa with a longer validity period of either 2, 5 or 10 years — to cover any additional trips to the UK — although each stay in the UK must not exceed the maximum permitted length of stay endorsed on your visit visa. It will cost you £376 to apply for a 2 year visa, £670 to apply for a 5 year visa and £837 to apply for a 10 year visa.
What is a non-visa national?
A non-visa national is someone who does not usually need a visa to visit the UK, provided their trip is for no more than 6 months and the purpose for the trip falls within any of the activities permissible under the visitor rules.
Travelling to the UK as a non-visa national
The UK is introducing an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme in phases from end of 2023. The ETA will require certain travellers, including some non-visa nationals, to apply for pre-authorisation to travel to the UK through an online application system. The application costs £10 per traveller and permission is valid for two years or until the traveller’s passport expires, whichever is soonest.
The ETA rules will apply to nationals of Qatar from 15 November 2023. Qatari visitors can apply for an ETA from 25 October 2023. From 15 February 2024, the ETA scheme will apply to nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. More countries are expected to be added to the scheme at a later date.
Under current rules, non-visa nationals who are visiting the UK for a holiday, or to visit friends and family, do not need to apply for a visa in advance of travel, but instead seek entry clearance on arrival in the UK at a port of entry.
Where the ETA does not apply, when seeking entry clearance as a non-visa national, for example, at an airport or seaport, you will still need to explain to Border Force officers the reason for your visit and how long you are looking to stay in the UK. You may also be asked to provide documentation to prove, among other things, the reason for your stay. If immigration officials are not satisfied with the reasons given by you for the purpose of your stay, or if they suspect that you may be living in the UK through frequent or successive visits, they may refuse you entry.
If you have a criminal record or have previously been refused entry into the UK, you may want to apply for a visit visa prior to travelling to the UK. However, even if you apply for entry clearance in advance of your arrival in the UK, the grant of a visa does not guarantee entry. This is because immigration officials are still likely to seek to establish whether your purpose for travelling to the UK is different to that for which permission was granted by the Home Office, and whether there has been any subsequent change in your circumstances.
If you are looking to stay in the UK for more than 6 months, or the purpose of your trip requires prior entry clearance, for example, to undertake paid employment, you will have to apply for a visa in advance under the appropriate immigration route. Again, the grant of a visa will not necessarily guarantee you entry to the UK, where a visa will only entitle you to travel to a UK port of entry to seek admission. It is therefore always advisable to travel with sufficient documentation to be able to prove your reason(s) for coming to the UK, and that you meet all of the other eligibility requirements under the route in question.
UK visa nationals list FAQs
What countries are visa nationals?
Visa nationals include anyone from a country listed on the UK visa national list under the Appendix Visitor of the UK’s Immigration Rules. This is a list of over 100 countries in alphabetical order, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
What's a non visa national?
A non visa national is someone who doesn’t usually need a visa to visit the UK, provided their visit is for less than 6 months and the purpose of that visit falls within the activities permissible under the visitor rules.
What countries need a visa to enter the UK?
The UK visa national list under Appendix Visitor of the UK’s Immigration Rules provides a list of over 100 visa national countries, where visa nationals will usually need to apply for a visa in advance to enter the UK.
Last updated: 20 July 2023