Visitors

Last modified: 17 May 2021

A visitor is someone who wishes to visit the UK for a temporary duration. Although this duration is normally for a period of six months, a 'Standard visitor' can also apply for a visit visa with a two, five or ten year validity period. Whilst such visas will allow for multiple entry, the maximum duration of each visit will be restricted to six months.  

Although there are four different types of visitor visa that you can obtain, the information on this page will focus on the activities permitted with a 'Standard visitor visa'.

As a Standard visitor, you are permitted to carry out a number of activities including tourism, visiting friends or family or undertaking a short course of study. 

What kind of study can you do as a visitor?

Last modified: 06 April 2021

From 9.00 am on 1 December 2020, the Short-term study visa route is now only limited to those wishing to study on English language courses for a period of between six to eleven months. Please see the Short-term student visa page for further details of this route.

As a visitor, you are now permitted to undertake the following types of study under this route:

Undertake a short course of study for six months or less

Undertake a period of research or receive research tuition

Undertake electives

Study abroad programme

Sit an entrance exam

Re-sit an exam or retake a module

Take an oral (viva) examination

Distance learning

Educational exchanges and recreational courses

Additional requirements for child visitors

Genuineness

Last modified: 09 February 2021

All visitors to the UK must satisfy the genuine visitor requirements. This means that:

  • You will leave the UK at the end of your visit;
  • You must not intend to live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits. You must also not intend to make the UK your main home. The visitor guidance lists factors such as the number of visits that you have made over the last twelve months, including the length of stay on each occasion in assessing whether or not your visits to the UK are frequent and successive;
  • You must be genuinely seeking to enter the UK for a purpose and activity permitted as a visitor;
  • You must not undertake any of the prohibited activities for a visitor. See Prohibited activities;
  • You must have enough money to support yourself whilst you are in the UK. This includes the cost of your return or onward journey and any permitted activities that you have planned. You will not be able to work or access public funds in order to support yourself. In assessing this requirement, the visitor guidance states that your income and savings will be looked at minus any financial commitments that you have. The remaining sum must be sufficient to meet the likely costs that you will incur in the UK and also your reasonable expenditure. Please see Prohibited activities for further details. You can rely on another person to help you demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to cover your travel, maintenance and accommodation whilst in the UK. You must have a genuine professional or personal relationship with this person however, and they cannot be in breach of any immigration laws at the time the decision on your application is made or by the time you wish to enter the UK as a visitor. This person must also be able to support you for the duration of your visit; 
  • Any funds that you wish to rely upon must be held in a financial institution permitted under FIN 2.1 in Appendix Finance

In assessing genuineness, the visitor guidance confirms that caseworkers will be looking at factors such as your personal circumstances and your travel and immigration history. Failure to comply with another country's immigration history in the past for example, is given as one reason for doubting the genuineness of an application to the UK as a visitor.

As well as satisfying the general genuine visitor requirements, if you wish to study in the UK as a visitor, you must also meet the genuine study requirements. This means that the proposed course of study that you wish to do must be credible and genuine. The visitor guidance sets out some of the factors that caseworkers may look at in assessing whether or not your proposed course of study is genuine. These factors include, the length of time you intend to study in the UK and how this will impact upon your personal circumstances in your home country. Whether or not the course is also available elsewhere and whether it is available online are also other factors that caseworkers will consider.   

Prohibited activities

Last modified: 09 December 2020

As a visitor you are not permitted to work in the UK. Work includes:

  • Working for an organisation or business in the UK;
  • Conducting business activities in the UK. This includes running or setting up a business as a self-employed person;
  • Doing a work placement or internship (including as part of a course of study);
  • Providing goods and services;
  • Direct selling to the public.

You will not be permitted to access public funds during your stay in the UK as a visitor. 'Public funds' are defined in paragraph 6 of the Immigration Rules as a list of specific benefits available. As you will be unable to work during your stay in the UK, you must demonstrate that you have sufficient funds to maintain and support yourself without having to claim any of these benefits also.

You are also not permitted to access medical treatment in the UK other than private medical treatment (see medical insurance). 

If following finishing your studies as a visitor, you wish to study a further course of studies for a duration of six months or more, you will not be permitted to switch into the Student route in the UK. You will need to apply for entry clearance in order to do this. Please refer to Applying for a Student route visa outside the UK for further details. You will also be prohibited from switching into most working routes in the UK - see Working after studies

Extending your stay as a visitor is also prohibited. Two exceptions to this however include visitors in the UK who wish to re-sit the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board Test. Overseas medical, dental or nursing school graduates who intend on undertaking unpaid clinical attachments or dental observer posts in the UK are also permitted to extend their stay in the UK.

Marrying, forming a civil partnership or wishing to give notice to marry or form a civil partnership are also prohibited as a visitor. If you wish to do any of these activities, you must have prior entry clearance specifically endorsed for one of these purposes.

Receipt of payment for any activity carried out in the UK is also prohibited as a visitor. Whilst there are limited exceptions to this, which include the receipt of reasonable expenses in certain circumstances, this is generally prohibited.

 

Dependents

Last modified: 06 April 2021

The Immigration Rules do not allow visitors to bring family members to the UK. The only exception to this is for academic visitors who are permitted to bring an accompanying partner or child.

If you are applying as a Standard visitor and you have a spouse, partner, child or other person who wants to come with you to visit the UK, they must also apply to come to the UK in their own right as a  Standard visitor.

As a Standard visitor, the same rules on permitted and prohibited activities will also apply to your family members. As such, they must also meet the genuineness requirements and will not be permitted to work in the UK. They will however be able to study as outlined above.

Do I need entry clearance?

Last modified: 10 May 2021

Firstly, you will need to establish whether or not you are a visa national or a non-visa national. To do this, check whether the country you are a citizen of appears on the visa national list If you see an asterisk next to your country, open up the next heading, 'Exceptions to the list of visa nationals' to see if you fall into any of the exceptions listed there - for example the one for passports issued by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or the Macao Special Administrative Region, or Taiwan passports that show identification card numbers.

Visa nationals

Non-visa nationals

The use of eGates

EU, EEA and Swiss nationals

Holders of an Electronic Visa Waiver Document

Applying for entry clearance

Last modified: 17 May 2021

Your application must include:

  • The completed application form. In every country apart from North Korea, you have to fill this in online.
  • An acceptance letter confirming that you will be studying at an accredited institution if the purpose of your visit is to study (this does not apply to those visiting the UK for tourism or leisure who wish to attend a recreational course);
  • The current application fee in local currency is £95 for a six month visitor visa. The fee for a long-term visitor visa is £361 for a two-year visa, £655 for a five-year visa and £822 for a ten-year visa;
  • A valid travel document;
  • Evidence that you have enough money to support yourself while you are in the UK. You need to show that you can pay for any applicable tuition fees, accommodation and living expenses. There are no specific requirements which state the amount of money you must show when you apply for a visitor visa. However you must show that you have enough money to cover your course fees plus accommodation and living expenses. Using the Student maintenance figures as a guide only, it would be reasonable to show that you have the equivalent of £1,023 per month, or £1,334 per month if studying in London, for the duration of your studies. If you will be staying with friends or family while in the UK, which will decrease your living costs, you can include evidence of this;
  • All other supporting documents as applicable as outlined in the Home Office's website on supporting documents for visitor applications to the UK.

You must submit original documents. You will also need to provide a translation of any documents which are not already in English. Please refer to the Home Office's information on supporting documents for further details.

You must submit your completed immigration application to your nearest UK visa application centre. You do not need to apply in the country where you live.

Applying for entry clearance and Coronavirus (Covid-19)

If you are applying for entry clearance from a red list country, the decision on your application may be delayed. You will receive your visa only if your application is successful and also when the suspension of travel is lifted from your country of application.

If you need to travel to the UK urgently for compassionate reasons, you will need to apply for entry clearance in the normal way which will include submitting your biometrics at your chosen visa application centre. You will need to explain what the compelling or compassionate reasons for your visit are in your application and alert the visa application centre staff during your biometric submission.

If after your application, you do not hear anything further from the Home Office or your request is exceptionally urgent, you can contact UK visas and immigration for help. Please note that this service is a chargeable service.

For further details, please see the Coronavirus (Covid-19): advice for UK visa applicants and temporary UK residents webpage.

Medical insurance

Last modified: 02 December 2020

Please refer to the page for England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland (depending on where you are going to stay in the UK) to see whether you will be entitled to free hospital treatment if you become ill during your visit to the UK.

Testing for Covid-19 is free of charge if you have symptoms. Your immigration status is irrelevant here. For details, see NHS information, which also explains who is not eligible for a free test. NHS treatment for people who are infected with Coronavirus (Covid-19) is also free of charge for everyone.

As accessing medical treatment (other than hospital care as outline above) is prohibited as a visitor, you will need to ensure that you obtain private medical insurance for your visit. Your private medical insurance should be obtained from the beginning of your stay and should cover the whole length of your stay.

Definitions

Last modified: 02 December 2020

Accredited institution

A State funded school or academy

Higher Education provider

Independent School

Recreational courses


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