If you’re planning to visit the United Kingdom, whether to see family and friends or to holiday as a tourist, you may need to apply for a Standard Visitor Visa.
The UK Standard Visitor Visa is a visa category for visa nationals to come to the United Kingdom temporarily for certain permissible activities, including holidays, short-term study, business travel, short-term research as an academic and private medical treatment.
The visitor visa lasts for a maximum of six months and visa holders must leave the country before their visa expires.
If you do have to apply for a visitor visa, it will be important to follow the correct steps to avoid issues, delays or a refused application. To assist you, the following guide will answer common questions about making a UK visitor visa application.
Do you need a visa to visit the UK?
UK visitor rules depend on the nationality of the traveller, meaning not all visitors to the UK need a visitor visa.
A ‘visa national’ is an individual who is required to apply for a visa to enter the UK as a visitor due to their nationality, while if you are classed as a ‘non-visa national’, you can travel to the UK without a visitor visa.
Although non-visa nationals don’t need to apply for a visitor visa, you should still be ready to answer questions at the UK border about your reasons for travel and plans while in the country. You can be refused entry if border officials are not satisfied that you are a genuine visitor or that you will leave the UK before your visa expires.
You will need to check what kind of permission you need well in advance of travel to ensure you have time to make any necessary application.
List of visa nationals
Nationals of the following countries require a standard visitor visa to visit the UK:
|Bosnia & Herzegovina
|Central African Republic
|People’s Republic of China
|Democratic Republic of the Congo
|São Tomé and Principe
|United Arab Emirates
Additionally, stateless people and individuals without a passport, other than EEA citizens utilising a national identity card, will require a Standard Visitor Visa to visit the UK.
List of non-visa nationals
Nationals of the following countries do not require a Standard Visitor Visa to visit the UK for trips of up to 6 months in length:
|Citizens of the European Union (excluding Ireland as all Irish citizens have the right of abode in the UK)
|Antigua and Barbuda
|Papua New Guinea
|Saint Kitts and Nevis
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
|Trinidad and Tobago
|United States of America
UK border agents have the right to deny entry to non-visa national visitors if deemed necessary. If you are a non-visa national and have been issued a past visa refusal or have a criminal record, you may choose to apply for and be granted a UK Standard Visitor Visa in order to assure entry into the country as a visitor.
What does the UK Standard Visitor Visa allow?
Individuals entering the UK as a visitor are allowed to perform a number of activities, including the following:
- You can visit family and friends
- You can take a holiday for leisure
- You can study at an accredited university, college, or school. For periods of longer than 6 months, you will require a Student Visa or a Short-Term Study Visa
- You can participate in an educational exchange programme
- You can participate in formal academic exchange programmes as an academic
- You can undertake a recreational course for up to 30 days, such as a dance or art course
- You can volunteer for up to 30 days with a registered charity
- You can undertake short research for an overseas course
- You can undertake short research as an academic on sabbatical
- You can undertake a short educational elective for courses such as medicine, dentistry, or veterinary science and medicine
- You can visit the UK for business trips such as representing a company or business at conferences, meetings, trade fairs, or training overseas employees
- You can undertake private medical treatment
- You can donate an organ to a family member or close friend
You can transit through the UK en-route to another country
What are visitors not allowed to do?
Individuals entering the UK as a visitor are not allowed to perform a number of activities, including the following:
- You cannot undertake paid or unpaid work for a UK company
- You cannot undertake paid or unpaid work as a self-employed individual
- You cannot undertake paid or unpaid work for an overseas job unless activities are explicitly permitted by UK Visas and Immigration. For example, you cannot come to the UK on a Standard Visitor Visa and work remotely for an overseas job.
- You cannot claim public funds
- You cannot attempt to live in the UK for extended periods through frequent visits
- You cannot get married or register a civil partnership
You cannot give notice of marriage or civil partnership
Can I enter the UK as a visitor and stay?
In almost all cases, you cannot enter the UK as a visitor and apply to remain in the country. You cannot switch from a Standard Visitor Visa to another visa category within the UK. You may be able to attend your Standard Visitor Visa in extremely limited circumstances such as requiring additional private medical treatment or if you are a qualified academic undertaking specific research or teaching.
If you want to return to the UK after the 6 months or undertake activities such as long-term study or work, you will need to leave the UK and apply for the relevant visa category whilst outside the UK.
What are the requirements for a UK Standard Visitor Visa?
In order to apply for a UK Standard Visitor Visa, you will need to meet a number of requirements. You will need to demonstrate that you will:
- Leave the United Kingdom at the end of your visit without overstaying your visa.
- Avoid living in the United Kingdom for extended periods of time or make the United Kingdom your home without proper immigration permissions.
- Financially support yourself and any relevant dependants throughout your visit, unless you have funding that will support you through the duration of your visit.
- Pay for a return ticket or ticket for onward travel to leave the United Kingdom at the end of your visit, unless you have funding that will pay for this requirement.
- Demonstrate proof of any activities such as business or study whilst you are in the United Kingdom, in line with activities permitted by the Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities.
There are additional requirements if you are applying to study on a course for up to 6 months in length, as an academic, to receive private medical treatment, or to donate an organ to a family member or close personal relationship. Please refer to the Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities to determine if any of these activities are relevant for you.
Do visitors to the UK need to be sponsored?
Visitors to the UK may need to be sponsored for some activities. For individuals seeking to visit the UK for short-term study or activities as an academic, you will need to provide documentation demonstrating that you will study at or work for an accredited British institution. However, this is not a formal sponsorship process, per se, like you may find for the Student Route Visa or Skilled Worker Visa.
How to apply for a UK Standard Visitor Visa
To apply for a UK Standard Visitor Visa, you must follow a series of steps to best assure that your application will be accepted by the Home Office. You can submit this application yourself, or hire an agent or representative to apply on your behalf.
First, you will need to collect relevant information about your intended trip to the UK. You will need to provide details about dates of intended travel, details about where you intend to stay during your trip, and estimated costs of the trip within your visa application. You will also need to ensure that you have a valid passport or travel document with at least one blank page.
Second, you will need to prepare all documents in preparation for submitting your Standard Visitor Visa online application. Your documents must be in English or Welsh – if they are not, you will need to provide the original documents alongside certified translations. The specific documents needed will vary depending on your specific situation.
Next, you will submit your Standard Visitor Visa application online. You must either submit your application from your country of nationality or a country where you have valid immigration permission for at least 6 months. At the end of the online application, you will need to pay the application fee of £95 for a 6-month Standard Visitor Visa. This will differ if you are opting for a longer visa.
Finally, you will need to book a biometrics appointment at a suitable visa application centre in your country of application. You can either upload your supporting documentation online before your appointment or pay an additional fee to have your supporting documentation scanned and uploaded at the appointment. You will have your fingerprints recorded, a photograph taken, and your supporting documentation confirmed at the biometrics appointment. Your passport will be sent to the UK government for an entry clearance stamp to be placed inside.
After this appointment, you will normally receive a decision within 3 weeks. You may be able to pay to receive a decision more quickly than this. If your application is successful, you will be issued entry clearance in your passport which will note the first date you can enter the UK.
Visitor Visa supporting documents
The type of supporting documents required for your UK Standard Visitor Visa will depend on your specific circumstances. At a minimum, you will need to provide your valid passport or travel document. Your passport or travel document must be valid for the entirety of your stay in the United Kingdom and there must be a full blank page for your visa. You will need to provide the following information:
- Information about your trip and related documents, including dates of intended travel, details about where you intend to stay during your trip, and estimated costs of the trip
- Bank statement(s), payslip(s), and/or employer letter(s) noting your income (if applicable)
- Information about your parents
- Information about your current home address
- Record(s) related to prior criminal, civil, or immigration offences (if applicable)
You may additionally be required to provide the following types of documents:
- Previous passports or travel documents to show travel history from the past 10 years
- Information about your sponsor
- Information about your partner
- Information about your employer
- Information about family members in the UK
Please note that all documents must originally be in English or Welsh, or you will need to provide certified translations of each document that is not in English or Welsh.
How much does a UK Standard Visitor Visa cost?
The application fee for a 6-month UK Standard Visitor Visa costs £100 per person. If you are coming to the UK on a Standard Visitor Visa for private medical treatment, the application fee costs £190. If you are an academic who meets certain criteria outlined by the Home Office, the application fee for you and your family members is £190 per person.
The application fee for a 2-year UK Standard Visitor Visa costs £361 per person. The application fee for a 5-year UK Standard Visitor Visa costs £655 per person. The application fee for a 10-year UK Standard Visitor Visa costs £822 per person.
How long does a UK Standard Visitor Visa take to process?
After attending your biometrics appointment, it will take approximately 3 weeks for your UK Standard Visitor Visa application to be processed in most circumstances. You should ensure that you leave plenty of time for visa processing before departing for your visit to the UK.
Depending on your country of nationality, you may be able to pay for priority processing for your UK Standard Visitor Visa application. If this option is available in your country, you can pay an additional fee to receive a decision on your application within 5 working days or 24 hours. Please note that working days do not include weekends or UK bank holidays.
How long does a UK Standard Visitor Visa last?
The default UK Standard Visitor Visa is valid for 6 months. If you are coming to the UK on a Standard Visitor Visa for private medical treatment, you may be able to stay for up to 11 months. If you are coming to the UK on a Standard Visitor Visa to work as an academic, you may be able to stay for up to 12 months.
If you travel frequently to the UK, you can apply and pay for visas of 2, 5, or 10 years in length. This will allow you to visit the UK without the need to apply for a visa every time you want to enter the country. However, you can only spend 6 months at a time in the UK.
What if my UK Standard Visitor Visa application is refused?
If your UK Standard Visitor Visa application is refused, you will not be able to enter the UK immediately. This category of visa is commonly refused due to insufficient evidence that you have enough funds for your trip to the UK or will leave the UK at the end of the 6 months. You can reapply for a UK Standard Visitor Visa as soon as you would like, but you will need to provide additional information to demonstrate your eligibility for the visa.
UK Visitor Visa FAQs
How much does a UK Standard Visitor Visa cost?
The application for the 6-month UK Standard Visitor Visa costs £100 per person. The 2-years UK Standard Visitor Visa costs £361 per person. The 5-years UK Standard Visitor Visa costs £655 per person. Finally, the 10-years UK Standard Visitor Visa costs £822 per person.
What documents do I need to apply for a UK Standard Visitor Visa?
The documents required for your UK Standard Visitor Visa application will vary depending on your specific circumstances. At a minimum, you will require a valid passport or travel document with a blank page for the visa. You may also require documents such as bank statements, a return ticket, and proof of business or other activities whilst you are in the UK.
Can I work in the UK on a Standard Visitor Visa?
You cannot work in the UK on a Standard Visitor Visa except in limited circumstances such as business travel to attend meetings, conferences, or to negotiate an international contract for an overseas employer. You can undertake limited work activities with a UK employer. You must not work remotely in the UK for an overseas employer on a Standard Visitor Visa.
Is a UK Standard Visitor Visa easy to get?
It is easy to obtain a UK Standard Visitor Visa for most individuals. It requires minimal paperwork, a low application fee, and a fast turnaround time. You may need to provide additional information if you have been issued visa refusals in the past or have a criminal record. This could make the process more difficult for you.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.