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A visitor is a person who is coming to the UK, usually for up to six months, for a temporary purpose, for example as a tourist, to visit friends or family or to carry out a business activity. Visitors from visa countries will have to get a visitor visa in order to be allowed entry to the UK.
The visitor rules are set out in Appendix V of the Immigration Rules. Non-visa nationals, such as US, Argentina and New Zealand nationals, do not need to apply for a visa for short visits to the UK. They can stay in the UK for up to six months, unless they want to get married or form a civil partnership during their visit. In that case they will have to apply for a special visa, on which you can find more info here (link to page for marriage visitors). Visa nationals (full list available here) will have to apply for any visit they want to make to the UK.
You can apply for a Standard Visitor visa if you want to visit the UK:
- for leisure, for example on holiday or to see your family and friends
- for business, or to take part in sports or creative events
- for another reason, for example to receive private medical treatment
Which types of business am I allowed to do on a Standard Visitor visa?
You can apply for a Standard Visitor visa if you want to visit the UK for business-related activities, for example:
- you’re coming to the UK for a conference, meeting or training
- you want to take part in a specific sports-related event
- you’re an artist, entertainer or musician and coming to the UK to perform
For all details, you should read the Visitor Rules.
Can I study in the UK if I come on a visitor visa?
On a Standard Visitor Visa, you can study for up to 30 days, as long as it’s not the main reason for your visit. Additionally, you can take part in an exchange programme or educational visit (if you’re under 18). However, if the main goal of your visit is to enrol in full-time studies or do an entire degree in the UK, you should apply for a Student Visa (insert link to Seraphus relevant section).
Can I do unpaid work in the UK if I come on a visitor visa?
Again, you can do up to 30 days of incidental unpaid work on a visitor visa, but it cannot be the main motivation for your visit. You cannot do any paid or unpaid full-time work on a Visitor Visa. You also do not have access to public funds.
How long will it take to get the Visa?
You should get a decision on your visa application within 3 weeks of applying from outside the UK.
What if I have to come to the UK frequently and successively?
You should not apply for a Standard Visitor visa, but instead apply for a you can apply for a long-term Standard Visitor visa that lasts 2, 5 or 10 years. You can stay for a maximum of 6 months on each visit.
If you’re under 18 years old when you apply, your long-term Standard Visitor visa will only be valid for up to 6 months after you turn 18.
Is there a cost?
Yes, a Standard Visitor visa costs £95.
The fee for a long-term Standard Visitor visa depends on its length:
- 2 years - £361
- 5 years - £655
- 10 years - £822
Permitted Paid engagements
You may be able to get a Permitted Paid Engagement visa if you’ve been invited to the UK as an expert in your profession.
Who can apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa?
You can apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa if you:
- are invited by a UK-based organisation or client
- want to come to the UK to do specific paid work without having to be sponsored under the points-based visa system
- are from a country that’s not in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland
- are over 18
- have enough money without help from public funds to support and house yourself
- can pay for your return or onward journey
- are not in transit to a country outside the UK, Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands
How long can I stay in the UK on a Permitted Paid Engagement visa?
You can stay in the UK for up to 1 month on a Permitted Paid Engagement visa.
When can I apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement visa?
The earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel. You should get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks when you apply from outside the UK.
What can I do whilst I am in the UK on a Permitted Paid Engagement visa?
On a Permitted Paid Engagement visa, you’re allowed to:
- be a student examiner or assessor
- take part in selection panels as a highly qualified academic if you're invited by an education, arts or research organisation
- give lectures at a higher education institution, as long as it's not a part-time or full-time role
- examine UK-based pilots so they meet the standards of the country you come from if you're invited by an approved UK training organisation regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority
- provide advocacy in a particular area of law
- take part in arts, entertainment or sporting activities including broadcasting
- take part in fashion modelling assignments
- You can also do minor activities related to your work or business overseas, such as attend meetings
You are not allowed to:
- access public funds
- do specific paid work unrelated to your main job or area of expertise at home or sell merchandise, other than what’s allowed by your visa
- extend this visa or switch to another visa
- live in the UK for extended periods
- study for more than 30 days - studying cannot be the main reason for your visit
- marry or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership
- bring family members (‘dependants’) with you on your application - they must apply separately
Which documents will I need to apply?
You will need to supply:
- a current passport or other valid travel identification - your passport must have a blank page for your visa
- proof that you can support yourself during your trip, for example bank statements or payslips for the last 6 months
- details of where you intend to stay and your travel plans - you should not pay for accommodation or travel until you get your visa
- a formal invitation from the UK-based organisation or authority you'll be paid by
- proof that the paid engagement relates to your expertise, qualifications and main job in your home country, for example a letter from your employer
You must provide extra documents if you’re an established arts, entertainment or sporting professional. You can provide any of the following:
- publicity material
- proof of awards
- media coverage and reviews
- proof of recent performances
Is there a cost?
Yes, a Permitted Paid Engagement visa costs £95.
Visitor in Transit visa
You might need a Visitor in Transit visa if you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland and you will:
- be changing flights in the UK on your way to another country
- go through UK border control, for example to check in your luggage for a connecting flight
- leave the UK within 48 hours
- not work or study while in the UK
If you plan on staying in the UK for longer than 48 hours, or if you frequently pass through the UK over a longer period, you will need to apply for a Standard Visitor visa (link back to relevant part of website)
You do not need a transit visa if you have a valid:
- EEA family permit
- Home Office travel document, for example you’re a refugee or stateless person
- Standard Visitor visa
- Marriage Visitor visa
How do I apply for a Visitor in Transit visa?
You have to apply for a Visitor in Transit visa online. The only country from where this is not possible is North Korea. Instructions on how to apply from North Korea can be found here
Which documents will I need to apply?
To apply for a Visitor in Transit visa, you must have a current passport or other valid travel identification document. You need to provide evidence that you’re allowed to enter the country you’re travelling to, such as a residence permit, green card, or valid visa.
If you’re not a resident or national of the country you’re travelling to, you may need to explain why you’re going there. You may need to provide details of where you’re staying. You must also provide evidence that your onward journey is booked or confirmed, such as a flight booking email, printed tickets or confirmation from a travel agent
Is there a cost?
Yes, a Visitor in Transit visa costs £64.
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