Visiting the UK

Tier 5 visaThere are many different types of visit visa in the UK, depending upon the purpose of the visit. Not everyone who is coming for a short holiday or to visit friends or family requires a visa: whether or not you do will depend upon your country of origin. Visits may also be for business purposes, for study, or medical treatment or for marriage. EU nationals and their family members benefit from different arrangements. There were major changes in the Immigration Rules relating to visitors in November of 2008.

General Visitors

This is the general category and is used by people coming for a holiday or to visit family and friends. Visit visas can be given for a maximum of six months. Visitors are not allowed to work while they are in the UK and must have enough money to support themselves while in the UK. If a person is refused a visit visa they have a right of appeal if the purpose of the visit was to visit a family member. People who are not visiting a family member do not have a right of appeal if their application is refused, making it important to get it right first time. With effect from 1 September 2007 people who wish to do a course of study in the UK should enter as a student visitor, not as a general visitor. Since November of 2008 student visitors form part of the group of Special Visitors.

Business Visitors

The business visitor category covers people coming to the UK to transact business - attend meetings, negotiate and make contracts. Such activities are listed as Permissible Activities in the Immigration Rules. If you intend to work in the UK and to produce goods or provide services in the UK during your visit, it will be necessary to apply for visa under the appropriate Tier of the Points Based System - for example as a Tier 2 General Migrant or as a Tier 2 (Intra Company Transferee) Migrant. Depending on the nature of the work or services intended it may be that one of the categories of Tier 1 is more appropriate.

Business visitors may also be Academic Visitors or Visiting Professors who have come to the UK to undertake research or to take part in formal exchange schemes with their UK counterparts. In common with other Business Visitors, Academic Visitors and Visiting Professors cannot receive remuneration from a UK source when they are in the UK but may receive reasonable expenses.

Permitted Paid Engagements

This is a new Visitor category introduced from 6 April 2012. It enables people coming to the UK as a visiting academic or lecturer, to provide advocacy in a particular area of law, or to undertake a prearranged activity in the areas of sport, art or entertainment, to receive payments for their work. Leave to enter the UK in this new category is restricted to one month.


Prospective Entrepreneurs

Introduced in April of 2011 the Immigration Rules creating the Prospective Entrepreneur visitor category enable people who wish to become Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrants to enter as visitors.


The Prospective Entrepreneur enables applicants who wish to come to the UK to seek funding or to create a team for a new business idea to be granted visit visas provided that they can show that they personally have access to £50,000 to qualify for entry clearance as a Prospective Entrepreneur, and that either a venture capitalist, a UK entrepreneurial seed funding competition or a government department is committed to providing a further £50,000 for the applicant's proposed business.

Unlike the other myriad Visitor Immigration Rules from which no switching is permitted - people entering as Prospective Entrepreneurs are entitled to apply to switch from that route into leave to remain as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) Migrant.




Entertainers and Sportspeople

These are now, since November of 2008, subject to specific provisions in the Immigration Rules. They are granted a maximum of 6 months leave to enter and must intend to participate in particular events. The question of whether they can receive any fees for such events - beyond board and lodging and reasonable expenses is not clear and has to be determined by careful examination of the Home Office's Immigration Directorate Instructions (the IDIs).

Visit visas for Chinese nationals

The UK has special arrangements for Chinese nationals who visit the UK, under the Approved Destinations Status (ADS) Agreement between the UK and China. The visa is for a maximum of 30 days, and is for people travelling as a member of a tour group approved for the purposes of the agreement.

Special Visitors

Since November of 2008 the government has grouped together people seeking to visit the UK in the following categories as Special Visitors:
child visitor;
for private medical treatment;
for marriage or to undergo a civil partnership;
as a parent of a child at school;
as a student visitor;
as a prospective student;
as a visitor in transit

Child visitor

A person under 18 who wishes to come to the UK for a visit must apply for entry clearance (a visa) as a Child Visitor. In addition to the requirements for adult visitors, suitable arrangements have to be made for the child's travel to the UK and reception and care once in the UK. It is also necessary to identify the person responsible for the child in his/her own country. As with adult visitors, child visitors are not allowed to work and can stay for a maximum of six months.

Visits for private medical treatment

It is possible to apply for a visa to come to the UK for private medical treatment. Such visitors must show that they can support themselves and are not allowed to work in the UK. If they have an infectious disease, they must show that there is no risk to public health in the UK. These visas are given for treatment of a fixed duration, for example an operation. These visas are given for a maximum of six months. It is possible in certain circumstances to apply for an extension where this is supported by the medical practitioner giving the treatment.

Marriage or Civil Partnership Visitor

Marriage visitors are people who are coming to the UK only for their wedding or civil partnership ceremony and do not intend to live in the UK afterwards. These visas are given for a maximum of six months. If you intend to live in the UK after your wedding or civil partnership ceremony, you cannot use this category and should refer to the information on family relationships. All applicants need to obtain entry clearance to come to the UK in this capacity -even if their country of origin is not subject to a visa regime.

Parent of a Child at School

This is for parents of children under 12 years of age who are attending a private day-school in the UK. The visa can be given for up to 12 months. Parents are not permitted to work and must be able to support themselves during their stay in the UK.

Student Visitors

The Rules provide for people to visit the UK for not more than 6 months provided they are aged 18 or over and have been accepted on an approved course of study, intend to leave the UK at the end of their stated visit, do not intend to engage in business or to study at a maintained school and can be maintained and accommodated without recourse to public funds.

Prospective Students

This category of Special Visitors is for those who intend to undertake a course of study within 6 months of their entry to the UK. If within that period they are able to meet the requirements for an extension of stay as a Tier 4 Student Migrant, they can make an appropriate application for leave to remain in that capacity. They must however intend to leave the UK if they are unsuccessful in their intention to become a student.

Visitors in transit

The UK requires people from certain countries to have a visa even they do not intend to stop in the UK, but only to pass through the UK on their way to another country. Visas for visitors in transit can be issued to people who are going to be in the UK for less than 48 hours and can satisfy the UK authorities that they intend and are able to travel on to their destination and that they will be admitted there.

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