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 non-EEA nationals to come to the UK for a short stay for a number of permissible reasons, including:
- Leisure – for tourism, visiting family and friends
- Partake in business-related activities or sporting or creative events
- Other reasons such as receiving private medical treatment
The visitor rules specify activities that are allowed under the route.
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.
How long does a UK visitor visa last?
The visitor visa generally lasts for 6 months. 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.
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.
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.
Permitted visitor activities:
- Business-related activities under the Visitor Rules
- Study – this cannot be the main purpose of the visit and is limited to a maximum of 30 days
- Participate in exchange programme or educational visit – you must be under 18 to be eligible
- Convert a civil partnership into a marriage
- Transit the UK on your way to another country
Prohibited visitor activities:
- Paid or unpaid work
- Claim benefits or access public funds
- Reside in the UK by way of regular, extended visits
- Get married or register a civil partnership
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
Visitor visa processing usually takes around 3 weeks. 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 £95 for the standard 6 month stay with long-term Standard Visitor visas costing:
- 2 years – £361
- 5 years – £655
- 10 years – £822
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 June 2020