For the purposes of immigration control, the UK Immigration Rules generally distinguish between two groups of overseas visitors – visa nationals and non-visa nationals. Visa nationals must apply for a visa in advance of their travel to the UK through an overseas UK visa application centre or designated UK visa issuing post. Non-visa nationals do not need to apply for a visa in advance of their travel to the UK and may seek entry at the UK border for the purpose of a visit.
In both cases, an applicant will need to satisfy the entry clearance officer that they are genuine visitors and intend to leave the UK at the end of their visit. They must also show they have sufficient financial means to maintain and accommodate themselves whilst in the UK and that they do not intend to undertake any prohibited activities during their stay. Additionally, all applicants must meet the suitability requirements. This means that an application will be refused if the applicant is subject to a deportation order, for example, or has provided false information in relation to an application, or is or has previously been in breach of UK immigration law, or if his exclusion from the UK is deemed to be conducive to the public good.
If an application for a UK standard visitor visa is successful, the visa national applicant will generally be granted permission to enter the UK for up to six months on a short-term visitor visa. If the applicant needs to visit the UK over a longer period of time, he or she can apply for a standard long-term visitor visa, which may be valid for two, five or ten years. However, the applicant will be allowed to stay only for a maximum duration of six months on each visit. For a standard long-term visitor visa application, an applicant will need to be able to demonstrate, with documentary evidence, why it is necessary for them to visit the UK on a regular basis over a long period of time.
Special restrictions apply to visa nationals visiting the UK for business purposes. Visitors who intend to undertake business activities in the UK are permitted to:
- attend meetings, conferences, seminars and interviews;
- give a one-off or short series of talks and speeches (provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser);
- negotiate and sign deals and contracts;
- attend trade fairs, for promotional work only, provided that the visitor is not directly selling;
- carry out site visits and inspections;
- gather information for their employment overseas;
- be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer, provided any work for the customer is done outside of the UK.
However, business visitors are not permitted to work in the UK or receive any payment, unless the migrant is engaged in a permitted paid engagement. Examples of permitted paid engagements can also be found in the Immigration Rules, and each of these engagements must satisfy a number of requirements. The engagement in question must:
- be arranged before the applicant travels to the UK;
- be declared as part of the application for a visitor visa or leave to enter;
- be evidenced by a formal invitation, as required by the Immigration Rules; and
- relate to the applicant’s area of expertise and occupation overseas.
The processing times for such an application will vary depending on the country from which the application was submitted, although the average processing time is around 15 working days.
Gherson can assist with all types of visitor visa applications. If you require advice on any aspect of visitor or business visitor visa applications, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.