The requirements for a visit visa depend on the purpose for which you are visiting the UK. You may be required to apply for a visit visa if you are coming to the UK for leisure, to visit friends and family, for business, or to take part in creative or sporting events, to receive private medical treatment or other reasons.
Whether you are required to apply for a visit visa before you travel to the UK depends on your nationality. Not everyone who is coming for a short holiday or to visit friends or family requires a visa. Nationals of countries who do not require a visa to visit the UK are known as non-visa nationals.
If you are a non-visa national you must ensure that you have all of the documents required for a visit visa with you to present at the border.
Nationals of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States of America are eligible to use the e-gates when traveling to the UK as a visitor. However, even if you are a national of one of these countries you must ensure that you still comply with the visit visa rules.
EU nationals and their family members currently benefit from different arrangements.
Individuals who require a visa before travelling to the UK are known as visa nationals. A list of visa nationals can be found here. It is vital you check whether you require a visa before you travel or you will not be allowed to enter the UK as a visitor.
Ensure you comply with the visit visa rules
In order to obtain a visit visa an applicant will need to show, amongst other things, that they are a genuine visitor.
There is often confusion surrounding the visitor visa category - for example, in what circumstances is a visit visa appropriate, what exactly a visitor is able do in the UK and how long a visitor can spend in the UK. Getting this wrong can have serious consequences including stopping the migrant from coming to the UK for up to 10 years.
Please contact us directly if you have a specific enquiry.
Solicitor in our General Immigration team, with broad experience in all matters relating to private client immigration
Solicitor in our General Immigration team, with specialist knowledge of personal immigration matters
Solicitor in our General Immigration team, specialising in private client immigration
How long is a visit visa valid for?
A standard visit visa is valid for 6 months. However, if you need to visit the UK regularly over a longer period, you can apply for a long-term visit visa that lasts 2, 5 or 10 years. You can stay in the UK for up to 6 months during each visit, although you must ensure you are not residing in the UK through frequent and successive visits.
Can I extend my visit visa?
Normally you cannot extend a visit visa. However, under certain circumstances, for example if you are receiving ongoing private medical treatment in the UK, you may be eligible to do so. Please contact us for further information.
Can I work in the UK as a visitor?
No. A visitor is not permitted to do paid or unpaid work in the UK. However, you may be permitted to undertake restricted business-related activities. Specific entitlements exist for experts in specialist/niche sectors and artists and entertainers.
If your work falls outside the strict requirements above, you must consider a different visa route.
Can I switch my visit visa to another visa whilst in the UK?
Under most circumstances it is not possible to switch your visit visa to another visa (such as a Tier 2 work visa) from within the UK. You will normally need to return to the country in which you are usually resident and make an application for another visa from there.
Can I come to the UK a visitor for 6 months, leave and come straight back?
There is no specified maximum period which you can spend in the UK in any period, for example ‘6 months in 12 months’. However, you must not make the UK your home, or you may be refused entry/removed from the UK. If you wish to reside in the UK you must consider another visa option.
Can I get married in the UK as a visitor?
You cannot get married in the UK as a standard visitor. If you wish to come to the UK to get married but you are not planning to stay or settle in the UK, you must apply for a marriage visit visa. If you are coming to the UK to marry your partner who already has a visa in the UK or is British, you must apply for a fiancé visa.