UK Visitor Visa

The UK has more than one Student visa, with the Child Student visa allowing young people from the age of 4 to 17 to come to the UK to study in independent schools. Independent schools are privately funded, also known as private or public schools, and have tuition fees paid for by the student’s families, not the government. 

There are a number of independent schools in the UK offering a high standard of education, so attending the schools is a privilege sought by many. Attending an independent school as a foreign student can also have a number of benefits. 

We’ll discuss everything you need to know about the Child Student visa, including what it is, how to apply and why your child may benefit from attending school in the UK.

About the UK Visitor Visa

Previously, there were several types of visit visas for the UK, but after the changing of the immigration system, it has been simplified so the UK Standard Visitor visa is the single option. The Standard Visitor visa is usually given for up to 6 months, and can allow individuals from outside of the UK to visit the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man for numerous reasons, including:

  • Tourism
  • Visiting family or friends
  • Conducting business-related activities
  • Attending sporting or artistic events
  • Short-term study
  • Private medical treatment

To receive the visa, you’ll need to apply online, meet the eligibility requirements and submit supporting documents, including how you’ll finance your stay, the reason for your visit and your intention to return to your home country afterwards. You cannot extend a Visitor visa and you cannot switch to a different visa whilst in the UK with a Visitor visa.

Who Needs to Apply for the UK Visitor Visa

Most non-British citizens who wish to travel to the UK for tourism or visiting family members must apply for the Standard Visitor visa. Citizens of most South American, African and Asian countries require a Visitor visa for the UK. There are, however, several exceptions. 

Irish citizens can travel freely to and from the UK, as well as live and work in the UK without restrictions or the need for a visa. Citizens of EU countries, EEA countries (European Economic Area) and Switzerland can also visit the UK without needing a Visitor visa. 

Most citizens of the USA, Australia and Canada can also visit the UK without a Standard Visitor visa, as the countries have close ties, both culturally and through historic links. However, even if you do not require a Visitor visa, you will still need to meet the eligibility requirements of the visa to ensure your entry to the UK. At border control, whether it’s an airport, port or other border such as the Eurotunnel, security officials will ask about the purpose of your stay, how long you intend to stay and how you will fund your trip. 

So regardless of having the visa, it’s best to be prepared and carry evidence of your plans with you for a smoother entry into the country. 

If you have a criminal record, you will need to apply for a Standard Visitor visa to enter the UK to have your credentials checked before arriving at border control. 

If you’re unsure of whether you need a Visitor visa to enter the UK or not, it can be useful to consult a specialised visa agency for guidance on your personal circumstances. 

Who Doesn’t Need to Apply for a UK Visitor Visa?

While visitors need to meet the eligibility requirements for the Visitor visa, not every foreign citizen requires a Standard Visitor visa to permit them entry to the UK for a short stay. 

Some countries are part of the visa waiver program and do not need to apply for a UK Visitor visa, including:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • USA
  • EEA countries

Anyone who is a British Overseas Territories Citizen from a territory that is not a sovereign state can also visit the UK for up to 6 months without needing a visa. Such territories include:

  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands

Citizens must still have a valid passport to enter the UK and meet the eligibility requirements for visitors. 

How Long You Can Stay on a UK Visitor Visa

The Standard Visitor visa can be given for up to 6 months. If you have a clear travel itinerary that lasts for less than 6 months, you may only be given enough time to cover your travel plans. 

When applying for the visa, you will need to prove your plans in the UK and that you will leave the UK at the end of your stay, so you may have to provide evidence of pre-booked transport such as your flights, as well as hotel reservations. The dates of your plans will affect how long you are awarded the Visitor visa for. 

For example, if you’re planning to visit the UK to attend a 30-day course, you will likely be given slightly more than 30 days on your visa to enable you to attend the course and make arrangements to settle in at the beginning and travel out at the end. 

Chinese nationals are also allowed to enter the UK for no more than 30 days with an approved tour group. 

If you’re travelling to the UK as a visitor for medical reasons, you can stay for up to 11 months. The cost of your visa will change and you will need to provide additional supporting documents. 

You can also apply for long-term visit visas which can last from 2 to 10 years, and allow frequent visits of up to 6 months at a time. This can be particularly useful for visiting family.

What You Can and Can’t Do with a UK Visitor Visa

When visiting a country, you may not wish to simply be a tourist and visit archaeological sites, museums and areas of natural beauty - although all are worthwhile reasons for visiting the UK. There may be other activities on your list of things to do in the UK. Here are some of the things you can and can’t do when visiting the UK with a Visitor visa.

You Can

When visiting the UK, you should be upfront about what you plan to do when applying for your visa, and be prepared to answer questions about your planned activities at border control when entering the country.

With a Standard Visitor visa, you can: 

  • Conduct tourist activities, such as have a holiday, visit museums, or go hiking
  • Travel within the UK (including England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands)
  • Stay with family and friends
  • Volunteer for up to 30 days with a registered charity
  • Transit through the UK en route to another country
  • Travel to and from Ireland
  • Attend meetings, interviews or conduct other business activities 
  • Participate in a school exchange programme
  • Participate in a recreational course up to 30 days, for example, a dance course
  • Visit as an academic
  • Visit for private medical treatment

You Cannot

While in the UK with a Standard Visitor visa, you cannot:

  • Access public funds (benefits)
  • Get married or enter a civil partnership
  • Work in paid employment or self-employed activities
  • Leave and enter the UK regularly over a longer period

If you wish to get married or enter a civil partnership in the UK, you should apply for the Marriage visa instead. If you wish to work in the UK, you should apply for a work permit specific to your line of work. 

For studies longer than 30 days and less than 6 months, you can apply for a Short-Term Study visa. To study for more than 6 months in the UK, you can apply for the Student or Child Student visa, depending on your age and level of study.

If you are from a country which is part of the visa waiver program, you should travel with documents proving your intentions in the UK to prove your eligibility to enter the country at border control. 

UK Visitor Visa

UK Visitor Visa Requirements

There are several eligibility requirements for the Standard Visitor visa, primarily to ensure that you can support yourself while staying in the UK and that you intend to leave the country at the end of your stay. 

If you are entering the UK for specific reasons, for example, to attend a course, meeting or event, you will also need to provide evidence that you have an invite or reservation for the event. Similarly, if you intend to visit family or friends, your application will benefit from a letter of invitation from the relative or friend, giving permission for you to stay with them or demonstrating their ability to support you financially, as necessary. 

You must not breach the conditions of your Visitor visa while in the UK or you could be asked to leave the country and may struggle to get another UK visa in the future. 

As well as having a valid passport, you will also need:

  • Sufficient funds to cover your trip expenses, including living costs, accommodation and any specific plans such as medical treatment or courses
  • Plans and funds to leave the UK at the end of your stay
  • Police certificate showing no criminal history or detailing any previous convictions

You will need to provide numerous documents supporting your application, with some specific to the reason you are travelling to the UK. 

Applying for the UK Visitor Visa

To apply for the UK Standard Visitor visa, you need to complete an online application, submit your supporting documents to evidence your eligibility online and pay the application fee. You should scan or obtain electronic versions of your documents before you begin the application to speed up the process. However, if you’re not sure what documents you may need, it’s useful to seek the help of immigration experts such as UK visa agencies, who can guide you through the process based on your reasons for applying and advise on what documentation you will need. 

You will also have to attend an appointment at a visa application centre in your country of residence (or the nearest centre if your country does not have one) to provide your biometric information (profile photo and fingerprints) and possibly to have an interview about your application.

Financial Requirements

To be eligible for the Standard Visitor visa, you will need to meet certain financial requirements to prove you:

  • Can support yourself and any dependants while in the UK
  • Can pay for your onward journey out of the UK at the end of your stay

If you will not be supporting yourself financially, you need to be able to prove you will be supported by someone else. This can be in the form of their bank statements and a signed letter from them explaining they will support you, however, you will also have to provide their identity documentation and proof of your relationship with your supporting documents. 

How much money you need in order to support yourself depends on your activities in the UK and how long you intend to stay. If you’re staying with family or friends, you won’t need to pay for accommodation, but if you’re visiting as a tourist, you will need funds to pay for hotels or apartments and any activities you plan on, as well as general costs of food and transportation. 

There is no specific amount you need to have to show you can cover all of your expenses (and your family’s, if travelling together), however, as a guideline, at least £1,000 per month per person is considered sufficient as a bare minimum. It may also be beneficial to your application to buy your return journey tickets in advance to show that the money you have available is purely for living expenses within the UK. Applicants are also advised to get health insurance or travel insurance before their trip as they cannot access the NHS free of charge, and will not pay the IHS (immigration health surcharge) as part of their visa application.

Supporting Documents

Which exact supporting documents you’ll need to submit with your application will depend on why you’re applying for a Visitor visa, however, every applicant will need to show their current valid passport, with a blank page for their visa. 

Other supporting documents you will need to provide include:

  • A travel itinerary
  • Financial information such as bank statements to show sufficient funds for your trip
  • Accommodation details e.g. hotel reservations or address of family members
  • Personal details such as home address, how long you’ve lived there 
  • Parents’ names and dates of birth
  • Your salary if you’re employed
  • An estimated calculation for your total expenses during your stay
  • Police certificates showcasing a clean criminal record or detailing past convictions
  • Certified translations of any documents not in English or Welsh, including the details of the translator 

These documents will help to identify you and ensure you have a strict budget and plan for your time in the UK, as well as the intention to return to your home country afterwards.

Additional Documents You May Need to Provide

Depending on the reason for your visit, you may have to provide additional supporting documents, including:

  • Travel tickets to, from and within the UK
  • Course information if studying
  • Medical report if visiting the UK for private healthcare
  • Past ten years of travel history e.g. copies of old passport stamps and previous visas
  • Contact information for you and the people you’re visiting
  • Identity documents of the people you’re visiting
  • Proof of your relationship with those you’re visiting in the UK
  • Financial information of others who will be supporting you
  • Health insurance details

Some documents may not be relevant to your application, such as financial information of your family if they are not supporting you during your stay. However, while some documents may seem irrelevant, such as your employment details, these documents can help prove your intention to leave the UK after your stay due to having ties at home. By proving your commitment to living in your home country, you increase your chances of success in your Visitor visa application. 

If you’re not sure what documents you’ll need to submit, specialised visa agencies are available to help you with your applications; gathering the documents and going through the application process. 

Once you have completed the application online, you’ll need to attend an appointment in a visa application centre where you’ll have your biometric photograph and fingerprints taken for the visa system, as well as possibly answering some questions about your application.

How Long it Takes to Get a Decision

Like most UK visas when applying from outside of the UK, it usually takes up to 3 weeks to receive a response on your visa application, starting once you attended your appointment at a visa application centre. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other administration issues, there are often longer waits of up to 6 weeks for applications to be processed. If yours is taking a long time, you can contact UKVI to see if they require any additional documents from you to speed up the process. 

You can also pay to receive a faster response. You can only apply up to 3 months before your intended travel dates, so it’s better to apply sooner rather than later so you can make arrangements for your visa appointment and have time for any delays in the application process. 

You’ll receive an email or a letter, depending on your stated preference, with a decision from the Home Office regarding your application.

What to Do if Your Application is Refused

The letter you receive from the Home Office will explain whether you have successfully received your visa or if your application has been rejected, as well as an explanation as to why and what the next steps are. If you have been refused the visa, you can usually appeal the decision if you believe it to be unfair, or apply again with updated information if you believe it will help your application. 

It’s often best to get professional advice regarding a visa rejection letter so you don’t waste time applying again unsuccessfully, and can improve your chances of an appeal or second application with the help of visa experts.

Paying the Application Fee

You must pay the visa application fee when submitting your Visitor visa application. Which fee you need to pay depends on which type of Visitor visa you’re applying for. 

The Standard Visitor visa fee, for tourism and visiting family, is £115 for up to 6 months. Even if you're awarded a visa for less than 6 months, the visa fee remains the same. 

If visiting the UK for medical reasons, you can receive your visa for up to 11 months, and 12 months for academics, which both cost £200. 

Long-term visas have other fees:

  • A 2-year Visitor visa costs £432
  • A 5-year Visitor visa costs £771
  • A 10-year Visitor visa costs £963

You do not have to pay the immigration health surcharge (IHS), so if you need medical care in the UK you will have to pay for it. It can be beneficial to get health or travel insurance before you go.

Extending Your UK Visitor Visa

Standard Visitor visas are intended only to be used for temporary stays in the UK, so in most cases you cannot extend your visa. However, if you’ve been given a Visitor visa for less than 6 months, it may be possible to extend your visa for up to 6 months if you wish to continue your tourist activities, or seeing family, and have enough funds to cover an extension to your trip. You must also continue to meet the terms of your visa to be eligible. 

Otherwise, you can only apply to extend your stay for longer than 6 months if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You’re a patient undergoing medical treatment in the UK which requires more time
  • You’re an academic continuing studies and you still meet the eligibility requirements
  • You’re a graduate retaking the PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board) test or doing a clinical attachment

The cost of extending your visa is £1000, regardless of how long you are extending your visa for and the reasons for the extension. You must apply to extend your visa while you’re still in the UK and before your current visa expires to be eligible. 

If you need a quick decision, you can pay an additional £1000 for the super priority service and receive a decision on your visa extension within two working days.

Switching Your Visa

Although you may conduct business activities and attend interviews on a Visitor visa as well as visit family members, you cannot apply to switch to a different visa while in the UK on a Visitor visa. You must prove your intention to leave the UK at the end of your stay, and unless you are eligible to extend your visa, you must leave the UK on or before your visa expiry date.

Conclusion

While it may seem complicated to apply for a Visitor visa for the UK given the varying documents that you may need to apply, the process can be simple and well worth the effort. The important thing to bear in mind is that you will need to prove your intended activities within the UK and your intention to leave both during the application process and once you arrive at border control. 

You should also note - even if you do not need to apply for a Visitor visa for the UK, you will still need to meet the eligibility requirements, so make sure you have relevant documents with you when you travel. 

For a smoother application process, why not get help from a specialised visa agency? Synergy Immigration Solutions is ready to help with each individual application. Read more about us below!

About Synergy Immigration Solutions

Synergy Immigration Solutions is a well-established visa agency in the UK, helping families, workers, tourists and students come to the UK legally and without the hassle. Our expert team has helped countless individuals get their visas, from Family visas and Visitor visas to Skilled Worker visas and even Ancestry visas

What’s more, we also help companies get their sponsorship licences so that they can plug holes in the job market by bringing foreign talent into the UK to bolster their business.

If you need help with your visa application or would like to talk to an expert about your options for your application, contact Synergy Immigration Solutions today.

Visitor Visa FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about the UK’s Standard Visitor visa:

How Much Money Do You Need for a UK Visitor Visa?

The exact amount of money you need to show in your accounts for a UK Standard Visitor visa isn’t given as one person staying in hotels and visiting museums for 5 months may need more money than someone staying with family for 3 months. Similarly, those undergoing medical treatment in the UK will need sufficient funds to cover the costs of their medical expenses, including while they’re recovering after any procedures or treatments. 

So when calculating the funds you’ll need, try to create an itemised itinerary of your activities in the UK so you can ensure you have enough money to do everything you plan on as well as have enough to pay for your return journey. It may benefit your application, however, if you pay for your return journey in advance. 

Generally speaking, you will need at least £1,000 each month that you’re in the UK to cover your living costs, although ideally over £1,500.

Can You Get Married on a UK Visitor Visa?

You cannot get married whilst in the UK on a Standard Visitor visa. Whether you plan to get married or enter a civil partnership, or you have a whirlwind romance while in the UK as a tourist, it is not permitted to get married or enter a civil partnership while on a Visitor visa. 

You can get married on longer term visas, however, if your primary purpose for visiting the UK is to get married or enter a civil partnership, you should apply for a Marriage visa instead. You can then apply for a marriage licence from the local area as well as book your venue and officiator. 

Can You Bring Your Family to the UK on a Visitor Visa?

You can travel as a family to the UK with Visitor visas, however, each person travelling must submit their own application, each meet the eligibility requirements, give details of their intended activities and prove their intention to leave the UK afterwards. Each person submitting an application must also pay the application fee. 

If travelling with young children, they will not be able to prove they have their own sufficient funds to cover living expenses, however, the adult applicant can show their account information in their child’s visitor visa to show they will be suitably supported during their stay. The parents will, therefore, need to show at least £1,000 each, as well as additional funds for their children. 

You must also ensure that all accommodation chosen in the UK is suitable for the whole family. Hotel reservations must show enough beds have been booked for each family member, or if staying with family or friends, you must be able to show there are enough spare beds for the visiting family. 

Can You Visit the UK if You Have an Ireland Visa?

There is an agreement between Ireland and the UK, known as the Common Travel Area, so those who have successfully obtained a Visitor visa for either Ireland or the UK can visit the other country during their trip. 

In Ireland the visa is known as a Short Stay Type C visa and costs 60€ or 100€ depending on whether you’re applying for a single-entry or multi-entry visa. You can receive this visa for 3 months and enter the UK for up to 30 days. If you have a UK Visitor visa, which lasts up to 6 months, you can also visit Ireland for up to 3 days during your trip, rather than applying for a separate visa. 

If travelling to Ireland is part of your travel plans, you should include it in your travel itinerary when applying for your Standard Visitor visa.

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