United Kingdom Visa Information:
|How do I qualify to travel to the UK as a visitor?
You must be able to show that:
- you want to visit the UK for no more than six months
- you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit, and
- you have enough money to support yourself and live in the UK without working or needing any help from public funds.
What is a visa?
A visa is a certificate that is put into your passport or travel document by an Entry Clearance Officer at a British mission overseas. The visa gives you permission to enter the UK.
If you have a valid UK visa we will not normally refuse you entry to the UK unless your circumstances have changed, or you gave false information or did not tell us important facts when you applied for your visa.
When you arrive in the UK, an Immigration Officer may ask you questions, so take all relevant documents in your hand luggage.
Back to questions
Do I need a visa to visit the UK?
You will need a visa if you:
- are a national of one of the countries listed in the Visa and Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV) nationals page on this website
- are stateless (you do not have a nationality)
- hold a non-national travel document (a travel document which does not give you the nationality of the country that issued it), or
- hold a passport issued by an authority that is not recognised in the UK.
Does my child need a visa to visit the UK?
Your child will need a visa if they:
If a child visitor is travelling to the UK without an adult (someone over the age of 18) you will need to provide:
- evidence to show that suitable living arrangements have been made for their stay in the UK, and
- contact details of the parent or guardian in the child’s home country.
If a child visitor is travelling with an adult (someone over the age of 18), the adult must be identified when the child’s visa is applied for. The adult’s name will appear on the visa and if the child arrives in the UK without that adult, they will be refused entry. Up to two adults can be identified, as long as the parent or guardian has given their consent (permission).
The child’s visa is only valid if the child travels with at least one of the adults identified on their visa.
How long will my visa be valid for?
With a visit visa you can usually enter and leave the UK any number of times while the visa is still valid. You cannot stay for longer than six months on each visit. Visit visas can be valid for six months, one year, two years, five years or 10 years. You can apply for a visa valid for any of these periods. The Entry Clearance Officer may decide to make your visa valid for a shorter time than you have asked for, for example if you are not a regular traveller or have never visited the UK before.
How do I apply for a visa?
You can apply in a number of ways, for example, by post, by courier, in person and online. The visa section of your nearest British mission overseas will tell you about the ways in which you can apply.
Some visa sections will only accept applications made online. To find out if you can apply for your visa online plesse visit www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk
If you cannot apply online you will need to fill in a visa application form (VAF 1 - Visitor). You can get a form free of charge from your nearest British mission overseas where there is a visa section or from this website.
You can apply for a visit visa or EEA family permit at any full service visa-issuing office. If you are applying from within the EEA, you will need to show that you are living legally in an EEA member state.
Living legally includes having a visit visa for the member state. For all other types of visa, you should apply in the country of which you are a national or where you legally live.
In some countries, if you are applying for a visa to stay in the UK for more than six months, you may need to be tested for active tuberculosis before we will accept your application. You can find out if you need to be tested by using the Do I need a UK visa? on this website, or by contacting your nearest British mission overseas which has a visa section.
What are visa application centres?
In some countries, we are working with commercial companies to run visa application centres (VACs). The VACs are in largely populated areas, making it easier and more convenient for people to apply for a UK visa. Trained staff at each VAC deal with all visa enquiries and applications. They collect your biometric information (see the relevant section of this leaflet) along with the relevant fees, and provide unbiased, face-to-face advice on the application process, including whether or not you have included all the necessary documents. Entry clearance staff at the British mission will then consider your application and decide whether to issue or refuse your visa. VAC staff have no say in this decision.
What do I need to make my application?
You will need to make your application online or fill in the following visa application form:
You will also need the following.
- Your passport or travel document.
- A recent passport-sized (45mm x 35mm), colour photograph of yourself. This should be:
- taken against a light-coloured background
- clear and of good quality, and not framed or backed
- printed on normal photographic paper, and
- full face and without sunglasses, hat or other head covering unless you wear this for cultural or religious reasons.
- The visa fee. This cannot be refunded, and you must normally pay it in the local currency of the country where you are applying.
- Any supporting documents relevant to your application.
What is 'biometric' information?
In some countries currently - and in all countries by April 2008 - you will need to provide 'biometric' information as part of the visa application process. This biometric information consists of scans of all 10 of your fingers and a full-face digital photograph. You will have to go to the nearest VAC in person to provide this biometric information. In those countries where there is no VAC, you will need to go to the British mission. Your visa applications will not be processed until you have provided the necessary biometric information. The finger scans are electronic so staff do not need to use any ink, liquid or chemicals. You will have your digital photograph taken at the same time and the whole procedure should take no more than five minutes to complete. You should make sure that you do not have any decoration (such as henna), or any cuts or other markings on your fingertips before having your finger scans. You should also make sure that if you have any cuts and bruises on your face, they have healed or disappeared before you have your photograph taken. Digital photographs must be of your full face and you should not wear sunglasses, a hat or any other head covering (unless you wear it for cultural or religious reasons).
What supporting documents should I include with my application?
You should include all the documents you can to show that you qualify for entry to the UK as a visitor. If you do not, we may refuse your application.
As a guide, you should include:
- bank statements, payslips, or some other evidence to show that you can pay for the trip and that you have enough money to support yourself and any dependants without working or getting any help from public funds, and
- evidence that you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit (for example, a letter from your employer).
If you are visiting family or friends you will need:
- a letter from your sponsor (the person you are visiting) explaining your relationship with them and the purpose of your visit, and
- a copy of the bio-data page (the page containing their photograph) of their UK passport or, if they are not a UK national, evidence of their immigration status in the United Kingdom.
If your sponsor will be supporting you during your visit, or paying for the cost of the visit, you will need:
- payslips, bank statements, or some other evidence to show that they have enough money to support you.
We will refuse your application if we find that any documents are false.
What will happen when I make my application?
The Entry Clearance Officer will try to make a decision using your application form and the supporting documents you have provided. If this is not possible, they will need to interview you.
Please check your visa when you get it. You should make sure that:
- your personal details are correct
- it correctly states the purpose for which you want to come to the UK, and
- it is valid for the date on which you want to travel. (You can ask for it to be post-dated for up to three months if you do not plan to travel immediately.)
Can I appeal if you refuse my visit visa?
If we refuse you a visa to visit a close relative, you can appeal against our decision. The Entry Clearance Officer will tell you if you can appeal. You can get information about appeals in our Appeals (INF 19) guidance on this website.
What are public funds?
Under the Immigration Rules, if you want to travel to the UK as a visitor you must be able to support yourself and live without claiming certain state benefits. Use this link to see a list of them:
You are not allowed to enter the UK or stay as a visitor in the UK to receive medical treatment on the National Health Service (NHS). Information on how you can enter the UK to have private medical treatment is in this guidance.
You can find more information about public funds in the Immigration Directorate Instructions (IDIs) and Immigration Rules on the Border and Immigration Agency website.
Can I carry out any business during my visit?
As a visitor, you can do the following.
- Go to meetings, conferences, trade fairs or seminars - including being a guest speaker - as long as the conference or seminar is a one-off event and not part of an ongoing business arrangement.
- Buy, check details of or examine goods.
- Deliver goods from abroad, for example as a lorry driver.
- Negotiate or sign trade agreements or contracts.
- Go for interviews - this can include a sportsperson going for
trial, or an entertainer going for an audition.
- Carry out fact-finding missions, such as a journalist going on a short assignment to cover a story.
- Act as an adviser, consultant, trainer or investigator, as long as you are employed abroad, either directly or under contract, by the same company (or group of companies) to which the UK client firm belongs, but:
- your involvement must not include actually managing the project or providing consultancy services direct to the UK company's clients, and
- training should be for a specific, one-off purpose, should not go beyond classroom instruction, and should not be otherwise readily available in the UK.
- Act as tour-group carriers working for a firm outside the UK who want to enter the UK to carry out short-term duties but do not want to base themselves permanently in the UK.
- Act as interpreters or translators if you already work for an overseas company and you are travelling with business visitors from the company and working for them only.
- Act as representatives of computer-software companies coming to install, upgrade or repair their products. You can also visit the UK to find out the requirements of a UK customer. However, if you would be expected to provide a detailed assessment of a possible new customer's needs, we would consider this to be consultancy work and you would need a work permit for it.
- Act as a representative of a foreign company coming to put up, take down, install, service, repair or give advice about machinery made abroad.
- Take part in training techniques and work practices that we use in the UK, as long as training just involves watching demonstrations and classroom instruction only.
- take paid or unpaid work
- produce goods or provide services in the UK, or
- sell goods and services to members of the public.
If a UK company has invited you to visit the UK you should provide a letter from the company explaining what you will be doing and the purpose of the trip. If your company or the UK company is paying for the trip this should also be confirmed in the letter.
Whether you are visiting the UK for business or social reasons, you can only stay for a maximum of six months. If you often visit the UK, you can apply for a visa that is valid for one, two, five or 10 years. You can then visit the UK as often as you like while your visa is still valid, but you can only stay for up to six months on each visit.
Can I study in the UK?
You can study only if you apply as a Student Visitor or, if you are under 18, as a Child Visitor. If you do not need a visa as a Student Visitor or a Child Visitor, you must satisfy an immigration officer that you qualify for entry to the United Kingdom to study during your visit under the Immigration Rules when you arrive in the UK. You must be able to show that you have been accepted on a course of study at an educational establishment that is on the Register of Education and Training Providers. They will give you permission to stay in the UK for up to six months. You can only apply to stay longer than six months if you entered the UK with a student or prospective student visa. More information is available on our Students (INF 5) guidance.
Can I get married or register a civil partnership in the UK?
If either you or your future husband, wife or civil partner are not EEA (European Economic Area) or Swiss nationals, you can visit the UK together to get married or register a civil partnership as long as you intend to leave the country within six months.
- Everyone coming to the UK to get married or to register a civil partnership (except EEA and Swiss nationals) must get a
visit for marriage or
visit for civil partnership visa.
- You will need to show evidence that you plan to enter into a marriage or civil partnership during the period for which you are granted leave (which will be for six months).
- You can get married or register a civil partnership in any location licensed for the purpose of marriage or civil partnerships. Once you are both in the UK you will need to give official notice of your marriage or civil partnership at a designated register office. If you are a non-EEA or Swiss national you will have to show your entry clearance or certificate of approval to do this. You can get more information about marriage or civil partnerships and register offices from the General Register Offices:
England and Wales - www.gro.gov.uk
Scotland – www.gro-scotland.gov.uk
Northern Ireland – www.groni.gov.uk
Can I get medical treatment in the UK?
You can apply for a visit visa to travel to the UK for private medical treatment. You must be able to show that you:
- have made suitable arrangements for the necessary private consultation or treatment
- have enough money to pay for the treatment
- have enough money to support yourself and live without working or getting any help from public funds while you are in the UK, and
- intend to leave the UK at the end of your treatment.
We may also ask you to provide the following.
- A doctor’s letter giving details of your medical condition and the treatment you need.
- Confirmation that you have made suitable arrangements for the private consultation or treatment and how long the treatment will last.
- Evidence that you can afford to pay for the consultation and treatment. We may also ask you to give an undertaking (in other words, a formal agreement) that you will pay for the consultation and treatment.
Can I stay more than six months for medical treatment?
If you need to stay longer than six months to complete your medical treatment you can apply to the Border and Immigration Agency. Their contact details are under
More advice and information at the end of this guidance. The Border and Immigration Agency will charge a non-refundable fee for any extension application.
You are not allowed to enter or stay in the UK to receive treatment on the National Health Service (NHS). You must make sure that you have enough medical insurance for the whole of your stay.
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