How to apply for the VISITOR VISA for the UK

visitor visa for the uk

Heading to the UK? We share how to apply for the visitor visa for the UK, so you can plan a trip to the United Kingdom with ease.

Travellers who want to visit the UK may need to apply for a tourist visa in order to do so. This process may seem confusing, but it’s actually easy to do. Here’s what potential visitors to the United Kingdom need to know about how to enter the country legally. 

visitor visa for the uk

The Standard Visitor Visa

The Standard Visitor Visa to the UK covers most travellers who are entering the country to study, conduct business, volunteer, travel through (transit) the UK, get medical care, participate in academic activities, and more.

It also covers people who are entering the country as tourists. Depending on the traveler’s country of origin, they may or may not need a visa in order to enter. Each traveler will need to make sure that they have the necessary documentation to enter the UK. 

The Standard Visitor Visa usually allows for stays of up to 6 months in the UK, though some versions may be valid for less time. Visa extensions are permitted under the conditions listed below. 

Visit Natvisa for details regarding the visa waiver or the passenger locator form.

Proving Eligibility for the Standard Visitor Visa

In order to be eligible for a Standard Visitor Visa for tourists, travelers must:

  • Come from a country that requires a Standard Visitor Visa
  • Prove that they can pay for their return or onward journey, or that they have money from another party that will cover these costs
  • Prove that they do not intend to live in the UK, either by making regular visits or by overstaying their visa
  • Prove that they can cover the costs of themselves and their dependents during the time of their stay in the UK
  • Prove that they plan to leave the UK at the end of their visit
visitor visa for the uk

The Long-Term Standard Visa

The Long-Term Standard Visa is similar to the Standard Visitor Visa, but it is designed for travellers who plan to make frequent or repeated trips to the United Kingdom. It may be granted for 2, 5, or 10 years, and permits travellers to stay for up to 6 months each time they visit. 

Note that travellers who intend to return to the UK frequently should apply for this visa from the start. Otherwise, if their travel history shows that they are regularly living in the UK for months at a time, they may not be permitted any entry at all, let alone a long-term visa.

Travellers must also be able to show that they can support themselves during repeated long-term stays in the UK. If the government does not believe they can do this, they will be granted a shorter-term visa. 

visitor visa for the uk

What Travellers Can Do On a Standard Visitor Visa for Tourism

Tourists can participate in a number of activities while they are in the United Kingdom on a Standard Visitor Visa for tourism. These permitted activities include:

  • Volunteering for up to 30 days with a charity that is registered with the UK government
  • Spending time with family and friends who live in the UK
  • Taking a holiday or going on a tour or a vacation
  • Taking a recreational class that lasts up to 30 days, like a music or a dance course
  • Participating in a school exchange program that lasts less than 6 months
  • Spending time in the UK en route to a final destination in another country

What Travellers Cannot Do On a Standard Visitor Visa for Tourism

visitor visa for the uk

People in the United Kingdom on a Standard Visitor Visa for tourism have some limits on their activities. They may not:

  • Make a home in the UK, even if they do so through repeated long-term visits
  • Do any paid or unpaid work, either for a company registered in the United Kingdom or as a self-employed entity
  • Marry or register for a civil partnership (this requires a Marriage Visitor Visa)
  • Claim money or other benefits that come from public funds or services
visitor visa for the uk

How to Apply for a UK Standard Visitor Visa

Travellers who want a Standard Visitor Visa will need to fill out an application online, then attend an appointment in-person at a visa application center. There, they will submit any additional required documentation and provide the UK with biometric data, such as fingerprints. 

To complete the online application, they will need:

  • A valid passport from their home country that will remain valid for their entire stay in the UK
  • Their current home address and the amount of time they have lived there
  • The amount of money they earn in a year (if they are employed)
  • Their parents’ names and birthdays, if these are known
  • The dates during which they plan to be in the UK
  • Where they plan to stay while they are in the UK
  • The details of any crimes or other offences they have committed (immigration, civil, and criminal offences should be included)
  • How much money they project their trip to the UK will cost
  • The application fee for the specific visa the visitor wants to apply for

Some travellers may be asked for additional information, either online or during their in-person visit at the visa centre. They may need to provide:

  • An employer’s address and phone number
  • Contact information for family members within the United Kingdom
  • Details of up to 10 years of travel history
  • Contact information for the person paying for the trip to the UK
  • A partner’s contact information and/or passport number

Applicants can start their applications up to 3 months before they want to visit the UK. It most frequently takes about 3 weeks to get a final decision on the visa, though applicants from some countries may be able to expedite the process.

visitor visa for the uk
Kielder water in Northumberland Family Hiking in the uk

How to Extend a Standard Visitor Visa

Tourists may not extend the Standard Visitor Visa beyond 6 months. However, if someone enters the UK and their status changes while they are there, they may be eligible to extend their stay if:

  • They need medical treatment
  • Are a highly-qualified academic who is filing a temporary post in the field in which they were working before they entered the UK
  • Want to take the PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board) exam again
  • Want to participate in a clinical attachment for medical or dental professionals

All visitors will need to make sure that they are eligible for a visa extension and that they apply for and obtain it before their 6 months in the UK have expired.

Travellers from around the world can visit the UK as soon as they have permission to do so. Applying today means that they will be one step closer to taking that trip they’ve always dreamed about.

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