Do I need a Visa to enter the UK?
Depending on your situation, you may need to send a visa application to visit and enter the UK.
Each visa category has different eligibility criteria and in some circumstances, applicants are required to have a UK-based sponsor.
To support your case and demonstrate that you qualify for your desired visa, you must also include an adequate portfolio of documents.
To learn more about your options to enter the country and how to send your UK visa application, get in touch with our team of professional immigration lawyers on 0333 305 9272.
Join your Family and Visit the UK
If you wish to live in the UK for more than 6 months with family members or partners who are British citizens or settled persons, you must send an application for a Family or Partner Visa.
To join your family in the UK, you can apply for one of the following Family Visas:
- Parent of a British national or settled person. You can apply for this permit if your child is under the age of 18 and is living an independent life in the UK.
- Children of a British national or settled person. Only children under the age of 18 can be included in your application as dependants.
- Adults coming to be cared for by a relative. To be eligible, your designated relative must be a British national or settled person. In addition, this person must be able to support, accommodate and care for you without claiming public funds.
- UK Ancestry Visa. Those who are Commonwealth citizens, or who can prove that one of their grandparents was a UK national, can send their visa application.
- EEA Family Permit. This visa is for those who live outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and want to join their family in the UK within six months from the date of their application.
Partners Visas are available for those who are engaged with, married to, or in a civil relationship with a British national or settled person. Depending on your situation, and if you decide to include your dependents in your form, there may be additional financial and eligibility criteria you will need to meet.
- Spouse Visa. With a Marriage Visa, you can join your partner in the UK for up to 30 months. To be eligible, you must prove that your relationship is genuine and that you meet certain financial requirements.
- Fiance Visa. The fiance visa is designed for someone who intends to get married in the UK within six months from the date of your application. However, if somebody fails to meet this essential requirement, they will face deportation from the UK at the end of their permitted period of residence in the UK
- Unmarried Partner Visa. Same-sex couples can legally form a civil partnership, or convert their existing one into a marriage, in England or Wales. To be eligible, you must not be married already or closely related. Most importantly, currently, opposite-sex couples cannot form a civil partnership in England and Wales. Different rules may apply in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.
Work and Study in the UK
As a general rule, you need a UK-based employer or educational institution to sponsor your PBS visa application to work or study in the country. Under the UK Visa system, applicants will need to pass an assessment test to demonstrate their eligibility.
UK Tier 1 Work Visas
Tier 1 is targeted at “high-value migrants”, such as international entrepreneur or investors who wish to invest their capital or set up a business in the UK. The Tier 1 Visa subcategories are as follows:
- Tier 1 (General). This category which was designed for highly skilled workers is closed. Applicants can choose any other visa included in this tier.
- Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent). This is for those who work in a specific field (such as science, medicine, engineering, or the arts) and are internationally recognised as leaders in their area of expertise. The minimum points score is 75.
- Tier 1 (Entrepreneur). This immigration route is now closed. It used to be for persons who wished to set up a business in the UK. Individuals already holding this permit have until 5th April 2023 to extend their visa, while new applicants can now apply for the Innovator route. This was introduced in 2019 and requires a capital investment of £50,000.
- Tier 1 (Investor). To qualify for this permit, you must have access to at least £2,000,000 which can be invested in the UK.
- Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur). This route is now closed and has been replaced by the Start-Up Visa. This is for individuals who want to set up their first business in the UK. Although there is no minimum investment required, applicants must demonstrate their high potential.
UK Tier 2 Work Visas
This category of UK visas is suitable for applicants who have been offered a skilled job (such as accountancy, IT, or healthcare) by a UK-based sponsor. The employer must hold or request a certificate of sponsorship. Also, the occupation needs to be on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupations List. Tier 2 applicants need to score at least 70 points on their assessment test.
The following are the four different visa categories under the UK Tier 2:
- Tier 2 General. This visa is for international workers who have received a job offer for a position that is either on the Shortage Occupations List or for which there are not enough skilled workers in the domestic labour market.
- Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer – ITC). This category of UK visas is accessible only for existing employees who work abroad but need to be transferred to a UK branch of their company. This permit is available for both long-term staff and for new graduate trainees.
- Tier 2 (Sportsperson). Internationally established athletes and qualified coaches can apply for this category only if their role is recognised or endorsed by their sport’s governing body.
- Tier 2 (Minister of Religion). This permit is targeted at religious workers and missionaries who need to undertake employment within a faith community based in the UK.
Study in the UK: Student UK Visas
Student visas allow international pupils to enter the UK as a student at a school, college or university. To be eligible, applicants must hold a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) at a UK educational institution.
- Student Visa. Students aged 18 or over who have been offered a place at a UK educational institution who hold a valid sponsorship licence, can send their visa application.
- Child Student Visa. This permit is accessible for non-UK students under the age of 18. Applicants over the age of 16 may be allowed to work up to 10 hours per week.
- Short-Term Study Visa. You can apply for this permit if you wish to visit the UK for a short period and you have been offered a place on a short-term course, such as a training course or an English language course. This visa only lasts between 6 to 11 months.
Temporary Worker Visas
Temporary Work Visas are suitable for those who wish to enter the UK for a limited amount of time and do not intend to settle in the country.
- Tier 5 Visa (Charity Worker). This permit is for workers who have an unpaid or voluntary job offer.
- Tier 5 Visa (Creative and Sportspersons). Only highly skilled creative workers or sportspersons who have been offered a job in the UK can apply for this visa.
- Tier 5 Visa (International Agreement). This visa is for workers who have a job offer that is covered by international law, such as diplomatic or embassy workers.
- Youth Mobility Scheme Visa. This visa enables international workers aged 18 to 30 and who are nationals of one of the countries listed in the Youth Mobility Scheme, to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years.
UK Visa Application Advice
Our highly qualified immigration advisors can help you choose the best visa for your case, and evaluate your eligibility and your chances to succeed. Book your first Advice Session with one of our immigration specialists to receive professional guidance.
Call us on 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry online to find out if you qualify for your desired visa.
UK Visa Application Assistance
With decades of legal experience and professional expertise, our immigration lawyers are ready to help you and your family enter the UK. Hire one of our experts to process your case, complete and submit your UK visa application form on your behalf, and liaise with the UKVI.
Call us on 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry online to investigate your options to apply for a UK Visa.
Visit the UK
UK Visitor and Short-Stay Visas allow non-EEA nationals to enter the UK for a short time (up to 6 months) for leisure, medical, artistic works or limited business activities.
UK Visitor Visas
To visit the UK for business, leisure or to get private medical treatment, you can apply for a Visitor Visa.
- Standard Visitor Visa. This permit can be used to visit the UK for unpaid business appointments or artistic work, receiving private medical treatment in the country and for leisure purposes.
- Visitors in transit Visa. Some travellers may need to send a relevant visa application to pass through the UK on their way to another country.
- Permitted Paid Engagement Visa. This category is for those who have been invited to the UK as preeminent experts of their profession or field. This includes performers, academics, broadcasters and researchers.
UK Short-stay Visas
You can apply for a short-stay visa if you wish to visit for tourism or business for up to 6 months.
- Short-term Study Visa. You qualify for this visa if you wish to enter the UK to study a short course, or for a short period of research as part of your international degree course.
- Parent of a Tier 4 Child Visa. This permit is available for applicants whose children attend an independent fee-paying school in the UK.
- Visitor Visa for Chinese tour groups. This category is reserved for Chinese tour groups of a minimum of 5 people that are organised by an ADS licensed Chinese tour operator.
Settle in the UK
Depending on your current circumstances, you may qualify to settle in the UK after a certain amount of time spent in the country as a lawful resident. Acquiring British Citizenship is the last step of your immigration journey in the UK.
Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
You will automatically receive your Biometric Residence Permit if you:
- Are granted permission to stay in the UK for more than 6 months
- Apply to extend your existing visa for at least 6 more months
- Apply to settle in the country as a UK national
- Request to transfer your current permit to a new passport.
Right of Abode
Those who hold dual nationality are entitled to include a Right of Abode stamp in their foreign passport to enter the UK freely. You can also apply if you are:
- A Commonwealth national whose parents were born as British citizens
- A Commonwealth woman married to a British national on or before 1st January 1983.
Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK (ILR)
As a general rule, you must have spent at least five years in the UK before you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. However, applicants who are in the UK under different visas may be able to claim their settled status before, or even after, this time frame. For example, Spouse Visa holders will become eligible for ILR after only two years.
Once you settle in the UK, you will no longer be subjected to any immigration-related restrictions. You will be free to visit, work and study in the UK, and to travel abroad and re-enter the UK without the need to apply for a visa.
On the other hand, if you spend more than two years abroad, you will lose your permanent residence status.
Holding Indefinite Leave to Remain is a mandatory preliminary requirement before you can apply for British citizenship.
UK Citizenship and Naturalisation
You can naturalise as a British citizen after five years of lawful residence in the UK, or after three years if you are married to a British national.
Once you get Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, you will be eligible for British nationality after a further 12-month period. Before you send your request to naturalise as a UK national, you must also meet specific requirements, such as:
- Demonstrate your adequate knowledge of the English language
- Pass the Life in the UK Test to prove your commitment to British customs
- Be of good character, meaning that you must not hold any severe criminal record nor having lived in the UK in breach of any immigration rule
- Not have spent more than 450 days outside the UK during your qualifying period
Since British naturalisation is a complicated process that requires someone to send a strong portfolio of documents and evidence to the UKVI, it is always advisable to seek guidance from an expert immigration lawyer.
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Not all travellers who wish to visit the UK are required to apply for a visa. The following categories do not need to submit their application to the UKVI:
- European citizens
- Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA)
- Commonwealth citizens
- Those who already hold settled status in the UK
- Returning residents (holding Indefinite Leave to Remain)
- Citizens of countries not listed on the Visa Nationals list
If you are unsure whether you need a visa to visit the UK, you can ask for the advice of one of IAS’ professional lawyers.
It is essential to apply for the most appropriate visa category to your personal circumstances. For example, if you have children, you must include them in your form.
If you fail to individuate the visa you need to apply for, or if you don’t meet the relevant requirements, your application will be refused. This will translate into a loss of money and time. If your case is rejected, your application fee will not be refunded.
Submitting the wrong form can also lead to complications or delays with your case. This may compromise your current immigration status, especially if you are trying to extend your existing visa or trying to switch into another category while you are already in the UK.
UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) has implemented an application system known as Entry Clearance (EC). Under this system, citizens who are non-UK-nationals but who wish to visit and enter the country for different purposes can apply for a visa based on their circumstances.
This process usually includes a face-to-face interview and requires applicants’ biometric information (fingerprints and photos) to be taken and recorded before they visit the UK.
In the majority of cases, it is possible to submit an EC application either from within the UK or from the country where the applicant is a permanent resident.
The UK Tier Visa system is a points-based system that requires applicants to score a minimum number of points on an assessment test to prove their eligibility. The test scrutinises a number of factors, such as your age, your knowledge of the English language and other aspects related to the nature of the specific permit you are applying for.
Once you get a visa under this category, you will be able to include your family and dependants in your application and bring them in the UK. Besides, you may be allowed to spend enough time in the country to become eligible for UK settled status or even British citizenship.
If one of your family members is a British citizen or settled person, you can apply for a Family Visa. Otherwise, you may be eligible to enter the UK as a PBS dependant.
This status is only available for the family of those who have a UK PBS (Points-Based System) Visa, under Tier 1, 2, 4 or 5.
For immigration purposes, you can include the following categories in your form as your dependents:
- Those who have a direct family relation to anyone holding or applying for a Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 4 or Tier 5 Visa
- The partner (either the spouse, fiancé or civil partner) of someone who settled in the UK after holding a PBS visa for a qualifying period
- A minor child of a person who holds ILR or is a UK national but first entered the country on a PBS Visa.
Successful applicants will be granted the right to remain in the UK in line with the expiry date of the PBS holder’s status. If your relative has obtained Indefinite Leave to Remain, you would be allowed to remain in the UK for an initial period of three years.
PBS dependants are allowed to work in the UK. If they wish to study in the country, they must first apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate.
The majority of UK Visas will expire after a specific time, that depends on your visa category. The only immigration status that do not need to be extended are ILR and British citizenship.
If it essential to understand precisely when your visa is going to expire, and when you must submit your extension application. Otherwise, you may risk to overstay your permission, and face severe consequences.
Do not forget that, once you have submitted your renewal request, you may need to wait up to 8 weeks before you get a decision from the Home Office.
If your visa is going to expire any time soon and you wish to receive professional advice on how to extend it, our immigration lawyers will be happy to help.
As a general rule, you should send your application form at least 90 days before your intended date of arrival in the UK.
The latest you can submit your forms is at most 15 working days before you wish to visit the UK.
The waiting time for receiving a verdict from the Home Office will depend on the visa category or status you are applying for.
However, you can receive a faster decision on your case if you choose the Home Office’s priority service. The cost for this service is £500, to be paid in addition to your application fee, and it allows you to receive a decision from the UKVI within 5 working days.
For a surcharge of £800, you can access to the Home Office’s super-priority service. This will make your final decision available by the end of the next working day (or 2 working days if the day after your UKVCAS appointment is at the weekend.
If your application is time sensitive and you wish to speed up your application process, IAS offers a premium Fast Track service. Get in touch with our immigration specialists to find out how we can help you submit your forms within any strict deadline.
Depending on the immigration status you are applying for, you may be required to pay a healthcare surcharge, also known as the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS).
You must pay your fee directly when you send your application form online. If you are applying by post, you will need to include your IHS reference number on your forms.
As soon as you pay the surcharge and your application is granted, you can start using the National Health Service (NHS). However, you will still need to pay for additional services, such as prescriptions, eye tests and dental treatments.
Certain applications require, among other criteria, specific knowledge of written and spoken in English. For example, this condition is mandatory for those applying for a Spouse Visa or who wish to settle in the UK under ILR.
You can prove your knowledge of the English language by:
- Providing a valid academic qualification. The UKVI will only accept degrees or other qualifications that were taught or researched in English, and that are recognised by UK NARIC.
- Taking an approved English language test with at least CEFT level A1. Some visa categories require a higher knowledge of the language, especially if you wish to settle in the UK.
Applicants who are under the age of 18 or over 65, and thus who have a physical or mental condition, will be exempt from the English language requirement.
Together with your refusal letter, you will receive from the Home Office further instructions on your right to appeal against its decision.
If you are not granted the right of appeal, you may be offered the chance for an administrative review.
You will only have 28 days to send your appeal application. Nevertheless, before you proceed, it is essential to understand the reasons for your refusal, so you can ensure to avoid further mistakes. In the majority of cases, submitting a new application may be less time consuming and cost-effective than appealing against the authorities’ decision.
Proceeding with an appeal or administrative review case is always complicated. For this reason, you should seek professional legal guidance.
Call us or enquire online to learn more about our Appeal package and all our bespoke immigration services.
It is a criminal offence under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 to overstay your visa. In other words, when your permit expires you must leave the UK within 30 days unless there are reasonable causes to do otherwise.
If you overstay your visa, you will face long term consequences. For example, if you leave the UK voluntarily after your 30-day period, you may be banned from re-entering the country from one to ten years. You can avoid the ban by leaving the country at your own expense.
Overstaying your visa will harm any future applications you will make to re-enter and visit the UK. Besides, you will not be considered of good character in any circumstances, and you will thus never be allowed to naturalise as a British citizen.
Under specific circumstances, you will get a refund for your application if you withdraw your form before your biometrics are collected.
If you applied from outside the UK, you would need to contact the UKVI. In this case, you will receive a refund only if your application hasn’t been processed yet.
Applications made from within the UK can be withdrawn by submitting the relevant online form. However, it must be noted that it is not possible to receive a fee refund for applications made in the UK.
To qualify for a Partner or Marriage Visa, you must satisfy the following conditions:
- Be at least 18
- Be legally married to your partner, who must be a British national or settled person
- Intend to live together with your spouse permanently
- Prove that you meet specific financial requirements, and have enough money to support yourselves and your dependants without claiming public funds. The minimum income threshold is £18,600, but the required sum may be higher if you wish to include your dependent children in your application
- Have access to suitable accommodation, that meets the UK living standards
- Meet the English language requirement
To receive guidance on how to prepare your application and compile a successful portfolio of documents, call us or get in touch through our live chat.
If you have been offered a skilled job from a UK-based employer, your case can be valid only if the position is listed in the Tier 2 Shortage Occupations List. Jobs found on this list usually include scientists, engineers, nurses, doctors and IT specialists.
According to UK law, skilled jobs must be first advertised for 28 days before they can be offered to an international worker. However, if a position is on this list, your employer can hire you before this time frame.
If your job offer is legally valid, you may also include your family members in your forms.
UK immigration law states that students must spend at least 15 hours a week in study. However, eligible pupils may be granted the right to work up to 20 hours per week while they study and full-time during the holidays.