There are many reasons why you might require a UK visitor visa to come to the UK, from seeing the sights to seeing friends or family.
If you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, the Standard Visitor Visa allows you to visit the UK, usually for a period of up to 6 months.
The UK Visitor visa requires an application to be made from outside the UK, which will be assessed to assess whether you meet the requirements under the visitor rules and qualify as a genuine visitor. You will need to provide supporting documents that prove you qualify for a visitor visa. Failure to show that you meet the visa requirements will result in a refusal and loss of your application fee.
What is a UK visitor visa?
The UK Standard Visitor visa replaced a number of previous categories of visitor visas. It allows visitors to come to Britain for a short stay for a number of permissible reasons, including leisure (for tourism, visiting family and friends), for business-related activities or sporting or creative events, and other reasons such as receiving private medical treatment.
It is not possible to switch into a different visa category from the visitor visa once you are in the UK; you would need to return to your home country and apply from there for a different visa.
How long does a UK visitor visa last?
The visitor visa generally lasts for 6 months.
You can apply to stay longer if you’re coming to the UK for private medical treatment (up to 11 months) or you’re an academic on sabbatical and coming to the UK for research (up to 12 months) but you will also need to apply for a biometric residence permit.
Under the Approved Destination Status (ADS) agreement, Chinese nationals are allowed to enter the UK with an approved tour group for up to 30 days.
Long term visitor visa
The long-term visitor visa may be available if you are looking to make frequent visits over a longer period, such as 2, 5 or even 10 years, however you can only stay in the UK for up to 6 months at a time.
What are the permitted activities for visitors?
The visitor rules specify activities that are allowed under the route. The following are permissible activities:
- Tourism, for example on a holiday
- Visit family or friends
- Volunteering for up to 30 days with a registered charity
- Transiting through the UK to travel to another country
- Certain business activities, for example attending a meeting or interview
- Taking part in a school exchange programme
- Undertake a recreational course of up to 30 days, for example a dance course
- Study, do a placement or take an exam – this cannot be the main purpose of the visit and is limited to a maximum of 30 days
- Visiting as an academic, senior doctor or dentist
- For medical reasons
You are not allowed to do the following under a visitor visa:
- Undertake paid or unpaid work for a UK company or as a self-employed person
- Claim benefits or access public funds
- Reside in the UK for long periods using frequent and/or successive visits
- Get married or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership (instead, apply for the Marriage Visitor Visa)
It may be that the visitor visa is not appropriate and alternative immigration options will need to be considered. For example, the permitted paid engagement visa may apply if a UK company is paying you to come to the UK as an expert in your profession.
Visitors should also prepare to travel with supporting documents as they may be asked to present proof of eligibility by UK border officials.
UK visitor visa requirements
The visitor visa is limited in its eligibility. Your stay must generally be for no longer than 6 months and you have to leave the UK by the expiry date.
Your reason for travel will also be critical to your eligibility and it will be important that you understand what is allowed under the UK visitor visa to ensure you do not breach these conditions for the duration of your stay in the UK.
Applying for the UK visitor visa
Applicants must ensure they comply with the regulations and evidence their eligibility through the visa application process.
To apply for the UK visitor visa, you will need to be outside the UK. You complete the online application form and provide supporting documents to evidence your status as a genuine visitor. You will be required to attend an appointment at a visa appointment centre in your country of residence, where you will be interviewed about your application and your biometric information will be taken.
As part of your visa application you will need to prove to the caseworker that you will not be staying for more than 6 months and that you have enough money to maintain yourself (and any dependants travelling with you) during your time in the UK and to fund your return travel.
Your circumstances will dictate the exact documents to provide with your application to support your case. As a minimum, you will need to verify your identity with your current passport or other valid travel identification, valid for the whole of your stay in the UK and with a blank page for the visa.
Additional supporting documents should also be provided to prove:
- Planned travel dates and itinerary including accommodation details
- Personal information such as home address and parents’ names
- Travel history (past 10 years)
- Work information such as your employer’s name and address
- Contact information of the people you will visit
- You have a genuine relationship with the person you are visiting
- Details of any convictions
- Intention to leave the UK on visa expiry. Evidence could include proof of a job or studies in your home country, or family living in your home country.
- Sufficient funds to support you and your dependants in the UK for the duration of your visit. This could be funded by you of the person you are visiting in the UK. You will not be allowed to access public funds. Proof should include recent bank statements and payslips. An estimate of the total cost of the trip should be provided, as well as details of your income.
Any documents not in English or Welsh must be provided as certified translations.
After completing the form, you will need to attend a visa application centre overseas to have your fingerprints and photograph taken.
Visitor visa processing times
Under normal Home Office processing standards, visitor visa applications from overseas usually takes around 3 weeks. However, ongoing delays in processing services mean visit visa applications are currently taking 6 weeks, and in some cases longer.
You can apply up to three months before your intended date of travel. Fast tracked processing within 5 working days is available in some visa application centres for a premium fee.
How much does a visitor visa cost?
Currently, the UK visitor visa costs £100 for the standard 6 month stay. If you are travelling for medical reasons, the cost is £200 for six months, or £200 for academic visitors.
Longer-term visit visas cost £376 for the 2-year visit visa, £670 for the 5-year visit visa or £837 for the 10-year visit visa.
Can you stay in the UK for longer than six months?
Generally speaking, all Standard UK visitor visas are short-term visas with a six-month maximum stay cap. Immigration regulations also prevent you from getting around this restriction by utilising a guest visa or making many, frequent, or consecutive trips, although you are free to enter and exit the UK whenever you like while your visa is still in effect.
However, citizens of China, Pakistan, India, and other non-EEA nations can apply for a long-term visit visa in order to go to the UK. These are chargeable extras that can be reserved for terms of two, five, or 10 years.
Be aware that you are still limited to a single visit lasting no longer than six months with these visas. You may, however, enter and exit the UK more than once throughout the permitted time. If you know you’ll need to visit the UK repeatedly over the course of a set amount of time, applying for a long-term visitor visa in the UK is a terrific option.
Academic visits from outside the EEA and people seeking private medical care in the UK do have another option for a longer stay. The Biometric Residence Permit is what it is called (BRP). You will need to provide biometric data about yourself, including your fingerprints, a photo, your immigration status, and more, but doing so will extend your stay in the UK over six months. This procedure, called biometric enrolment, still necessitates the presentation of proof of adequate financial support for your stay.
Visitor visa application refused?
If your UK visitor visa application. has been refused, your options could include reapplying and making a new application; submitting an appeal, where the grounds are on human rights; applying for a Judicial Review of the decision.
Your options will depend on your specific circumstances. Take professional advice to decide what you should do next.
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.
As a team of immigration lawyers and former Home Office employees, we have an established reputation for advising on the most appropriate immigration route for your needs, and supporting you with effective and efficient processing of your visa application. We also understand the stresses involved with making a visa application, and take great pride in playing a supportive role to ease the pressure. Contact us for advice.
Visitor visa FAQs
How much funds are required for UK visitor visa?
You will need to show you have sufficient funds to cover the cost of tickets, travelling, living and accommodation expenses while you are in the UK.
What documents do I need for UK visitor visa?
Your visitor visa application will need to include your current passport or other valid travel identification, as well as other documents that prove you meet the visa requirements, such as your intention to leave the UK and that your planned activities come within the visitor visa permissible activities.
Last updated: 2 October 2022