Millions of people visit the UK each year.  Find out what type of visa is best for you

Immigration Solicitors 

There are many reasons why you may wish to visit the United Kingdom, and the Immigration Rules cater for most if not all of them. It is important to note that not everyone coming for a short holiday or to visit friends or family require leave to enter. Whether prior entry clearance is required depends upon your country of origin. The Immigration Rules also make provision for visits for business purposes, for study, medical treatment or for marriage. These Rules do not apply to EU nationals or their family members, who benefit from different arrangements.

General Visitors

The general category is used by those who wish to visit the UK for the purpose of holidaying or to visit family and friends. Leave to enter will be given for a maximum of six months. Conditions imposed on such visas include a prohibition on working or having recourse to public funds. The visitor in this subcategory must also have sufficient means to support themselves during their visit.

Where the Entry Clearance Officer refuses an application in the general subcategory, the applicant is entitled to a right of appeal if the purpose of the visit was to see family members, but otherwise no right of appeal flows from a refusal of entry clearance/leave to enter.

Business Visitors

This category covers people coming to transact business, attend business meetings, negotiate and make contracts. Such activities are listed as Permissible Activities in the Immigration Rules. However, it does not include those who wish to work or produce goods or provide services in the UK, for which purposes application must be made under the appropriate Tier of the Points Based System.

In this sub category is also included Academic Visitors or Visiting Professors who have come to the UK to undertake research or to take part in formal exchange schemes with their UK counterparts. Again, such visitors cannot receive remuneration from a UK source when they are in the UK but may receive reasonable expenses.

Entertainers and Sportspeople

Entertainers and visiting sportspeople are now subject to specific provisions in the Immigration Rules. Their grant of leave to enter is to a maximum of 6 months, and must intend to participate in particular events during their visit. There is some ambiguity over whether they can receive any fees for such events beyond board and lodging and reasonable expenses, and careful regard should be had to UKBA's Immigration Directorate Instructions (the IDIs) when making applications under this subcategory.

Chinese nationals

The UK has a special arrangement for Chinese nationals who visit the UK, under the Approved Destinations Status (ADS) Agreement between the UK and China. The visa is for a maximum of 30 days, and is for people travelling as a member of a tour group approved for the purposes of the agreement.

Special Visitors

Special visitors are those seeking to enter the United Kingdom in the following capacities:

  • child visitors;
  • visitors for private medical treatment;
  • those coming to marry or to undergo a civil partnership;
  • a parent visiting a child at school;
  • a student visitor;
  • a prospective student visitor;
  • visitors in transit

Child visitors

Children under 18 years old who wish to come to the UK for a visit must apply for entry clearance as a Child Visitor. They are subject to the same requirements as for adult visitors, but must additionally suitable arrangements must have been made for the child's travel and reception, and care once in the UK. It is also necessary to identify the person responsible for the child in his/her own country.

Visits for private medical treatment

Those who wish to come to the UK for private medical treatment must show that they can support themselves whilst here, cannot to work or have recourse to public funds, and must show that they are not a public health risk, if they have an infectious disease. These visas are given for treatment of a fixed duration, for example an operation, and like other visit visas there is a maximum period of six months. In certain circumstances it is possible to apply for an extension, but this must be supported by the medical practitioner giving the treatment.

Marriage or Civil Partnership Visitors

This route is for those coming to the UK for the purpose of marrying or going through the civil partnership ceremony, and do not intend to live in the UK afterwards. Again the maximum is for 6 months and they are subject to the normal requirements of not working or having recourse to public funds. This route is not appropriate for those who wish to live in the UK after their wedding or civil partnership ceremony. All applicants need to obtain entry clearance to come to the UK in this capacity, no matter what country they are from, even if their country of origin is not subject to a visa regime.

Parent of a Child at School

Parents of children under 12 years of age who are attending a private day-school in the UK, can be given leave to enter for up to 12 months. The parents are not permitted to work and must be able to support themselves during their stay in the UK.

Student Visitors

People of 18 years or over who have been accepted on an approved course of study, intend to leave the UK at the end of their visit, do not intend to engaged in business or study at a maintained school and will be accommodated and maintained without recourse to public funds, can apply for leave to enter as a student visitor, for not more than 6 months.

Prospective Students

This category is for those who intend to undertake a course of study within 6 months of their entry to the UK. If they intend to and will be able to meet the requirements for an extension of stay as a Tier 4 Student Migrant, within six months of their entry, then they can make an appropriate application for leave to enter is this category. They must however intend to leave the UK if they are unsuccessful in their intention to become a student.

Visitors in transit

People from certain countries require a visa even they do not intend to stay in the UK, but only to pass through, i.e. transit, on their way to another country. Transit visas are issued where the person is intending be in the UK for less than 48 hours, can satisfy the UK authorities that they intend and are able to travel on to their destination, and that they will be admitted there.