Visas for the United Kingdom

Who needs a visa and how to apply for one?

Visas for the United Kingdom

The UK enforces very tough immigration laws. Make sure that you have all the required visas and documentation prepared before you travel, or you’ll be refused entry to the UK. This section is intended to give you an overview of any documentation that you may need.

Who needs a UK visa?

If you are not a British citizen, you might need permission known as entry clearance to enter the UK. Certain nationalities don’t require a visa to enter the UK. If you are a citizen of the European Union, non-EU member states of the European Economic Area (EEA - Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland), Switzerland, or a member of the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT); you can enter the UK with just a passport.

If you don't meet the aforementioned criteria, you must check whether you'll need a visa to enter the country. The Home Office has categorized two types of citizens that need authorization to enter the country:

Non-visa nationals: Citizens of 56 countries and territories outside of the EU and EEA don’t need to apply for a visa, but still need to obtain an entry certificate before leaving for the UK. However, if they are planning on staying for longer than the permitted six months; they must obtain a study, work or other visa in order to remain in the UK legally.

Since December 2013, citizens of Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have been able to obtain an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) online. This allows them to visit or study for up to six months without a visa. For stays longer than six months, a visa is required.

Nationals of the following 10 countries don’t need a visa, unless they are staying in the UK for longer than six months: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong (SAR), Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and the USA.

Visa nationals: You will need a visa to enter the country for any duration if you:

  • Are stateless (i.e. you do not have a nationality)
  • Only hold a non-national travel document (a travel document which does not give you the nationality or citizenship of the country that issued it, such as a driving licence)
  • Hold a passport issued by an authority that is not recognised in the UK
  • Are a refugee

You can find out which type of entry clearance you need based on your nationality, the purpose of the visit and your country of origin, by going to the Foreign Office page .

Which visa should I apply for?

Depending on why you’re travelling to the UK, you´ll require a certain type of visa. Short-stay visas are issued for a maximum of six months. If you need a visa to enter the country and wish to remain in the UK for longer than six months, you must leave the country and apply for a new visa.

However, you can also apply for a multi-entry visa If you wish to leave and return to the UK many times within the duration of your visa. If you only have a single-entry visa, you will have to apply for a new visa each time you leave the country.

If you are settling down in the UK to study, work or for marital reasons, there are many different types of visas that you can apply for (study, work, marriage, joining a spouse and visitor, amongst others).

Where to apply for a United Kingdom visa?

Since you have to apply for your visa or entry clearance such as an entry certificate prior to your arrival in countries within Great Britain, you will have to apply from your home country. You must also be outside the Isle of Man and the Channels Island to apply for your visa. You can take the first steps towards your visa application online via the British Government website , but will also need to make an appointment at a consulate. You can find these visa application centers  in various countries.

How can I apply for a UK visa?

To start your application for a visa, you can visit the British Government’s website mentioned above and choose your visa type. Once you have chosen your visa type, the site will also let you:

  • Register for an account
  • Fill out the application form (in English)
  • Pay the visa fee online (if applicable)
  • Print your form out
  • Book an appointment at any of their listed visa application centers

If an appointment is required, you must bring the following original and support documents. Make sure to bring the following:

  • Valid travel documentation (a passport or any document that allows you to travel internationally)
  • One passport sized photograph

Strongly recommended support documents:

  • Previous travel documentation
  • Financial documents to prove economic solvency - these can be in the form of a bank statement, proof of earnings (letter from employer, with start date of employment, salary, position and contact details); or a letter and documentation from a third party that resides in or will be visiting the UK legally at the time of your stay, that can provide financial support.
  • Confirmation of legal residence (if you reside in a country that your passport was not issued in)
  • Details of employment or studies (confirmation from educational institution or your employer confirming your enrollment)
  • Business registration documents if you are self employed

For underage applicants:

  • Birth certificate or legal document that proves relationship to parent or guardian
  • Signed letter from parent or guardian, confirming details of care and accommodation in the UK; a copy of their passport or other signed official documentation
  • It is important that you do not forget any documents , or your application could be rejected.

When should I apply for my visa?

Visa applications can take from 3 to 8 weeks to be approved or denied. It is recommended that you apply approximately three months before you travel to allow enough time for the application to be processed.

If you are denied a visa, you will be notified of the refusal in writing and the reasons for it. In certain cases, you will have the right to appeal the decision and as such will be given advice on how to do so. You can simply reapply instead of appealing,  but your application will probably be turned down again if the reasons for the initial refusal still apply.

Further reading

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