A non-European national can apply for a visitors visa under various categories including coming to the UK as a tourist, to visit family or on business, as an entertainer or sportsperson, or for special reasons like receiving private medical treatment or to get married. If you come to the UK as a visitor you are generally permitted to remain for up to 6 months. IAS are the UK’s leading experts in immigration law and we have an excellent record in assisting with visitor visa applications for all purposes.
Eligibility to apply for a visitors visa will depend on what you intend to do whilst you are in the UK. You must also have sufficient funds to support and accommodate yourself and to be able to meet the cost of your return or onward journey, so we recommend a consultation with one of our specialists prior to submitting your application to ensure success.
GENERAL VISITOR VISAS & TOURIST VISAS– if you want to come to the UK as a tourist or to visit friends you should apply as a general visitor (or child visitor if you are under 18). A general visitors visa is for those who want to enter the UK but are not engaged in any professional activity such as business, sport or entertaining.
FAMILY VISITORS VISA – if you want to visit members of your family in the UK you can apply to come here under a family visitors visa (or child visitors visa if you are under 18) although you must be able to demonstrate that you are visiting a close relative or partner, otherwise you will need to apply as a general visitor.
BUSINESS VISITORS VISAS – if you want to come to the UK for work purposes, eg, an overseas meeting or UK site visit, you must apply for a business visitor visa (or child visitor if you are under 18). This includes academic visitors, religious workers and doctors undertaking clinical attachments. You must be able to show that you are based and receive your salary from abroad. You may also be eligible to apply under a permitted paid-engagement visitors visa.
PROSPECTIVE ENTREPRENEUR VISAS – if you want to come to the UK on a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur Visa), and you need to spend time here first to have discussions and secure funding to meet the financial criteria under the points-based system, you can apply for a visa as a prospective entrepreneur.
ENTERTAINER VISITORS VISA – if you want to come to the UK to participate in arts festivals, music competitions, charity events or make a public appearance you need to apply as an entertainer visitor (or child visitor if you are under 18). If you do not meet the requirements to be an entertainment visitor, you will need to apply under Tier 5 (Temporary workers – creative and sporting) of the points-based system. You may also be eligible under a permitted paid-engagement visitors visa.
SPORTSPERSON VISITORS VISA – if you intend to take part in a sport-related activity, eg, a sporting event or making a personal appearance you can come to the UK on a sportsperson visitor visa (or child visitor if you are under 18). If you do not meet the requirements to be a sportsperson visitor, you will need to apply under Tier 5 (Temporary workers – creative and sporting) of the points-based system. Alternatively you may be eligible to apply under permitted paid-engagement visitors.
PERMITTED PAID-ENGAGEMENT VISITORS VISA – if you want to come to the UK as a visitor to do short-term, fee-paid activity (under a defined list of visitors invited to come to the UK because of particular skills and expertise) you can apply for a visa as a permitted paid-engagement visitor. You may apply to come here for up to 1 month without the need to be sponsored under the points-based system but you must have a formal invitation to carry out the engagement.
STUDENT VISITORS VISA – if you want to study in the UK for up to 6 months (11 months for an English language course), you can come here on a student visitor visa (or child visitor if you are under 18).
VISITORS IN TRANSIT VISA – if you want to come to the UK for up to 48 hours on your way to another country, you can come here as a visitor in transit.
SPECIAL VISITORS VISA – if you have a specific reason for coming to the UK, eg, receiving private medical treatment or getting married/registering a civil partnership here, you may be able to apply as a special visitor. If you do not intend to leave soon after the ceremony and your prospective partner is a British Citizen or has settled status in the UK, you will need to apply as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner, and after the ceremony switch into the category of spouse or civil partner.
CHILD VISITORS VISA – if you are under 18 and want to come to the UK for less than 6 months, including to study, you must apply under the child visitor category.
Whilst visitors visas are only valid for a short period of time, applications can still be complex and using the services of an immigration expert is highly recommended.
Frequently Asked Questions – Visitor Visas
Do I need a visit visa?
If you’re unsure whether you need to apply for a visitor visa or another type of visa to suit your intended purpose, you can determine the correct type using our Visa Wizard.
Can I extend my visit visa?
As a general rule, you will not be able to extend your UK visit visa in-country, unless you were granted a visit visa of less than six months. In which case you can extend your visit visa in the UK to reach the maximum six months. Under a UK visitor visa you will be able to stay in the UK for a maximum period of 6 months, although you may get a visit visa that lasts for 1, 2, 5 or 10 years if you need to make repeat visits to the UK. Even with one of the longer visas, each individual visit to the UK must not last longer than the maximum 6 month period. Under a UK visit visa you will need to leave after 6 months and then re-apply in your country of origin if you need extra time for your visit, but it is not possible to extend your visit visa whilst still in the UK. If you are looking to remain in the UK for longer than 6 months, we would suggest that you speak to an immigration expert to discuss other visa options that may be more suitable for your trip.
I am here as a visitor, can I apply to stay here with my spouse/partner?
If your spouse is a EU national or a native of Switzerland, then you can apply to stay in the UK with your spouse/partner, although there are requirements that will need to be met in order for you to do so. If your partner or spouse is from outside the EU or (Switzerland) then you will need to consult an immigration lawyer to properly discuss your options. For further information on the requirements needed to apply, or if your spouse/partner is living in the UK on a visa from outside of the EU then speak to one of our immigration experts who will be able to advise you on the best option to suit your situation.