ArticleUK visit visa explained: A complete breakdown

The UK visit visa system is intricate, and governed by numerous rules and requirements. As the largest percentage of entrants to the UK fall under this category, understanding the nuances is crucial for prospective visitors.

Who is a visitor?

Immigration Rules Appendix V: Visitor defines a visitor as someone seeking to enter the UK temporarily for purposes like tourism, visiting family or friends, business activities, or short-term study. There are three main categories of visitors:

  1. Standard Visitor: For general purposes such as tourism or family visits, typically up to six months.
  2. Marriage/Civil Partnership Visitor: For those intending to marry or form a civil partnership in the UK.
  3. Transit Visitor: For individuals transiting through the UK to another country.

Eligibility requirements for the UK visit visa

All visitors must meet the ‘genuine visitor’ criteria, demonstrating they will leave the UK at the end of their visit, will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent visits, and can financially support themselves during their stay without working or accessing public funds. Specifically, a genuine visitor is one who:

  • Will leave the UK at the end of their visit.
  • Will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK their main home.
  • Is genuinely seeking entry or stay for a purpose permitted under the Visitor route.
  • Will not undertake any prohibited activities.
  • Has sufficient funds to cover all costs related to their visit without working or accessing public funds, including the cost of return or onward journey, any costs relating to dependants, and the cost of planned activities such as private medical treatment.

The funds can be provided by a third party (often referred to as a sponsor) if the sponsor meets the criteria, such as having a genuine professional or personal relationship with the visitor, being in the UK lawfully, and being able and willing to provide support for the visitor’s stay.

Additional Eligibility Requirements

Depending on the specific type of visit visa, additional eligibility requirements apply:

  • Children: Adequate arrangements must be made for their travel, reception, and care in the UK. If not travelling with a parent or guardian, written consent from the parent or guardian is required.
  • Chinese Nationals under the Approved Destination Status Agreement: Must be part of a tourist group and intend to enter, leave, and travel within the UK under this agreement.
  • Private Medical Treatment Visitors: Must have arranged their treatment before traveling, provide a letter from their doctor detailing the treatment, and, if staying for more than six months, provide a tuberculosis certificate if required.
  • Organ Donors: Must provide evidence of their intention to donate an organ, including written confirmation from a UK medical practitioner or an NHS consultant.
  • Visitors Coming to Study for Up to Six Months: Must have been accepted onto a course of study provided by an accredited institution.
  • Academics Seeking to Visit for More Than Six Months: Must intend to undertake specific academic activities and be highly qualified in their field.
  • Work-Related Training Visitors: Must provide written confirmation of their offer to take up a post such as a clinical attachment or taking professional exams.
  • Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) Visitors: Must intend to undertake permitted paid engagements that are pre-arranged and related to their expertise and occupation overseas.

Entry and Validity Requirements

The entry requirements for all categories of visitors are set out in paragraphs V 1.1 to V 1.5 of Appendix V. Visa nationals must obtain a visit visa before travelling, while non-visa nationals can apply at the UK border unless they are seeking to marry or stay for more than six months. An Electronic Travel Authorisation may also be required.

Validity requirements include submitting the correct application form, paying fees, providing biometrics, and supplying a passport or other identity document. Applications for entry clearance should be made from outside the UK, typically at a Visa Application Centre.

Suitability Requirements

Visitors must meet suitability requirements as outlined in Appendix V, which apply general grounds for refusal from Part 9 of the immigration rules. These include mandatory refusal grounds, such as being subject to an exclusion order, and discretionary grounds, where the Home Office has leeway to grant the application depending on the circumstances.

Permitted and Prohibited Activities

Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities specify what visitors can do in the UK, including tourism, volunteering, certain business activities, and short-term study. Conversely, prohibited activities include working (unless expressly allowed), studying without permission, accessing public funds, and getting married without the appropriate visa.

Work is defined broadly, including taking employment, doing work for a UK organisation, establishing or running a business, doing a work placement or internship, direct selling to the public, and providing goods and services. Remote working from the UK during a visit is now permitted as long as it is not the primary purpose of the visit.

Extension of Stay as a Visitor

Extensions of stay as a visitor are limited and typically only granted in specific circumstances, such as for medical treatment or resitting professional exams. The following extensions are permissible:

  • Standard Visitors or Marriage/Civil Partnership Visitors granted permission for less than six months may extend their stay up to six months.
  • Standard Visitors in the UK for private medical treatment may extend their stay for an additional six months.
  • Academics and their accompanying partners or children may extend their stay up to 12 months.
  • Standard Visitors may extend their stay to resit the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board Test or undertake certain professional activities.

Cancellation of Visit Visas

Visit visas can be cancelled in certain circumstances, as set out in Part 9 of the immigration rules. Some circumstances mandate cancellation, such as being subject to an exclusion order, while others are discretionary, such as failing to comply with visa conditions or providing false information.

The UK visit visa system is comprehensive, with detailed rules ensuring that visitors meet the necessary criteria and adhere to their visa conditions. By understanding these regulations and preparing thoroughly, prospective visitors can handle the process more effectively, ensuring a smooth entry and stay in the UK. Consulting with an immigration expert is highly recommended for tailored guidance specific to individual circumstances.

Get in touch:  For a comprehensive understanding of your options or queries on UK immigration matters, contact GigaLegal Solicitors at 02074067654 or click here to book a no-obligation consultation with an immigration expert.