Visitor Visas

The visitor visa is the most popular single route for individuals coming to the UK for tourism, to visit family or for  business or other special purpose visits. 

In line with the recent review of the UK immigration system by the government, new rules have been implemented from 24 April 2015 to simplify the visitor categories. The purpose of this change is to make the rules clearer and more accessible for decision-makers and applicants, particularly non-experts who may be accessing them online.  

As 24 April 2015, the new rules for visitors are now in force. The Home Office have published “Appendix V” which now sets out the requirements for all types of visitors to the UK. Previously, there were 15 categories of visitor. Under the new system there are now four visitor routes which are as follows:

  • Transit
  • Permitted paid engagements
  • Marriage and
  • Visitor (standard).

Under the visitor (standard) route, the following previous categories can be found:

  • General visitor
  • Child visitor
  • Business visitor
  • Sports visitor
  • Entertainer
  • PLAB test visitor
  • Clinical attachments visitor
  • Prospective entrepreneur visitor
  • Private medical treatment

Reasons why you may wish to visit the UK 

There are numerous reasons why an individual may wish to come to the UK for a short period. In addition to visiting family, sightseeing or visiting on business, people may wish to visit the UK to get married or undertake a civil partnership ceremony, arrange plans for studying in the UK, undertake a short course, attend important events, visit the UK as a representative of a company or conduct research or sit a test/exam in the UK. 

General requirements for coming to the UK as a visitor 

Individuals intending to visit the UK must be able to demonstrate that they are genuine visitors and wish to visit the UK for no more than six months and that they will be leaving the UK at the end of the visit. In addition, individuals must be able to show that they have sufficient finds to maintain and accommodate themselves (and any dependants) without assistance from UK public funds. 

The exceptions to this general rule are:

  • ‘academic visitors’ may be granted a visa for up to 12 months
  • ‘medical visitors’ may be granted a visa for no more than 11 months 
  • A visitor under the Approved Destination Status Agreement (ADS Agreement) may be granted a visit visa for a period of up to 30 days

Categories of the “Visitor Visa” 

It is important that if you intend to visit the UK that you apply for the correct category of visitor visa before entering the country as you are required to comply with the conditions on your visa. Any breach of visa conditions during your stay in the UK may result in adverse consequences; and it is therefore recommended that you ensure that your intentions for coming to the UK are adequately reflected in the type of visitor visa you apply for.

There are now only 4 different categories of “Visitor Visa” are now as follows:

  • Visitors (Standard) – described below
  • Permitted paid engagements
  • Marriage - If you intend on getting married, form a civil partnership or give notice of either, you must apply for a marriage visit visa. You are also allowed to do any of the activities listed below under Permitted Activities as a Visitor. Your main purpose of the visit, however is to get married or form a civil partnership. 
  • Transit - for those who are genuinely in transit to another country outside the common travel area, meaning the main purpose of their visit is to transit the UK and that the applicant is taking a reasonable transit route; and genuinely intend and are able to leave the UK by 23:59 hours on the day after the day when they arrived or within 48 hours after their arrival where they hold a transit visit visa; and are assured entry to their country of destination and any other countries they are transiting on their way there.

Visitors (Standard)

Permitted Activities as a Visitor (Standard) includes the following and more:

  • Tourism and leisure; visiting family and friends
  • Volunteering – provided it lasts no more than 30 days in total and is a charity that is registered with either the Charity Commission for England and Wales; the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland; or the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator
  • Business 
  • Prospective Entrepreneur 
  • Science and research academics
  • Legal experts
  • Religious workers
  • Creative workers
  • Sports person
  • Study – incidental study a total of up to 30 days
  • Private medical treatment

If you wish to visit the UK to do any of the following above, you will need to apply in the relevant category.  

Visitors are now able be able to undertake up to 30 days of recreational, English language or academic study provided it is not the main purpose of their visit. Recreational study means holiday-type and leisure course such as horse-riding or pottery. Any other study, including English language, can only take place at an institution that holds a sponsor license under Tier 4 PBS or that is accredited by a Home Office-approved body. Student visitors are now under the “Student Route” of the Immigration rules.  

A. Requirements 

  1. You will need to demonstrate that you only intend to visit the UK for a short period – no more than 6 months unless in a category as an academic visitor, private medical treatment visitor or a visitor under the ADS Agreement as described above. 
  2. You must intend to leave the UK after the end of your visit and demonstrate that you can meet the cost of the return or onward journey 
  3. You must show that you have sufficient funds to maintain and accommodate yourself (and any dependants) without working in the UK or receiving assistance from UK public funds. Alternatively you can show that relatives or friends will be financially supporting and/or accommodating you. 

B. Activities not permitted on a general visitor visa

  • You must not intend to live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits
  • You must not intend to study in the UK - except for up to 30 days of recreational or academic study provided it is not the main purpose of their visit. This must not be an English language courses.
  • You must not intend to charge the public for services provided or goods received 
  • You must not intend to undertake business, sport or entertainer visitor activities 
  • You must intend to marry or register a civil partnership in the UK 
  • You must not intend to receive private medical treatment during your visit to the UK 
  • You must not be a transit passenger to a country outside the Common Travel Area 

C. Documents required 

If you wish to apply as a visitor, you should ensure that you have basic documentation as follows: 

  • If employed: Letter from employer approving your leave for a specified period. The letter should include details of your employment, duration, your position, salary etc. and should detail when you are expected to resume work. 
  • If self-employed: Evidence of your business activities, accounts and financial credibility 
  • If studying: Letter from institution confirming details of your course, start-finish date, dates of holiday period and the dates you intend to visit the UK 
  • Evidence of ties to your home country – e.g. ownership of property, family ties/responsibilities 
  • Evidence of your travel plans – ticket bookings, hotel bookings, itinerary 
  • Bank statements for the last 3 to 6 months 
  • Evidence of additional savings 

D. Extension 

The maximum you can stay in the UK is six months as a visitor. 

If however your visa was granted for a period less than six months, you may apply for an extension of your visa which takes you up to the maximum of six months. 

Please note that upon the expiry of your visa, you are required to leave the UK. If you stay beyond the expiry of your visa, you will remain illegally in the UK and you will be considered an “overstayer”. This may have an adverse impact on your immigration record and is likely to affect any future UK immigration applications. It could even result in you being banned from re-entering the UK for a certain period of time.

E. Right of Appeal

Applicants can be refused a visa to enter the UK as a general visitor and, if refused, will receive a detailed letter explaining the reasons for refusal.

There is now no right of appeal against the Entry Clearance Officers decision to refuse an applicant’s application to visit the UK as a visitor, including a family visitor. If the application for Family Visitor visa was submitted before 25 June 2013 you still may have a right of appeal.

The only judicial remedy now will be Judicial Review. This is where a Judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by the British Embassy/Home Office in the High Court. If you wish to explore this option further then please contact us to arrange a consultation. 

F. Our Services 

  • We can advise on the procedure of making a ‘visitor visa’ application  and assess the merits of your application. 
  • We can advise on the procedure involved for applying for visit visas for members of your family. 
  • We can advise on the evidence required for the entry clearance application. 
  • We can represent you in any visitor visa application.

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