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UK Visitor Visa requirements and application

The Visitor visa is a short-term visa intended for foreigners who want to visit the UK for up to 6 months for touristic, business or study reasons.

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Foreigners can visit the UK as Standard Visitors for tourism or study, under the Visitor visa UK. The Visitor visa also allows to engage in certain business activities, including some installation activities.  

However, the Visitor visa is not a work permit. If you are a foreigner and you are wondering how to work in the UK, you may read our guide on the different types of UK work visas.

This article will provide an overview of UK Visitor Visa requirements and the visa application process.

What is the difference between Visitor visa and Tourist visa in the UK?

The UK Visitor visa is also known as a tourist visa, as it allows foreign nationals to visit the UK for a short period of time for tourism, for example on a holiday or vacation, or to see family and friends. 

Can I work in UK with Visitor visa?

In addition to the touristic reasons, the Visitor visa allows several types of general business activities, such as: 

  • Attending meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews;  
  • Negotiate and sign deals and contracts;  
  • Attend trade fairs for promotional work, provided that the visitor is not directly selling; 
  • Carry out site visits and inspections;  
  • Gather information for their employment overseas and be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer, provided that the work for the customer is done outside of the UK. 

Furthermore, as of 31 January 2024 new business visitor rules have been implemented. According to the new rules, remote working is also possible on a visitor visa.

Specifically, PA. 4 underlines that visitors can undertake activities related to their employment overseas remotely from within the UK, provided that this is not the primary purpose of their visit.

Permitted activities under the UK Visitor Visa

Intra-corporate activities

Among the permitted activities under the Visitor visa, there are also certain intra-corporate activities, such as:

  • Advise and consult;
  • Trouble-shoot;
  • Provide training and share skills and knowledge on a specific internal project with UK employees of the same corporate group (multinational companies). 

The recently introduced new business visitor rules clarified that visitors may undertake the activities above directly with clients too, but provided that:  

  • The employee’s travel to the UK is an intra-corporate setting and any client facing activity is incidental to their employment abroad; and  
  • These activities with the client are required for the delivery of a project or service by the UK branch of the multinational company and are NOT part of a project or service that is being delivered to the UK client by the foreign company overseas. 

Instead, if the workers need to be assigned to the UK for a longer period or to undertake different activities within their intra-corporate transfer, the employer may have to apply for a Senior or Specialist worker visa.

Manufacture and supply of goods

The Visitor visa also allows certain activities related to the manufacture and supply of goods.  

In details, as per PA. 7:

An employee of an overseas company may install, dismantle, repair, service or advise on machinery, equipment, computer software or hardware (or train UK based workers to provide these services) where there is a contract of purchase, supply or lease with a UK company or organization and either: 

  1. The overseas company is the manufacturer or supplier; or 
  1. The overseas company is part of a contractual arrangement for after-sales services agreed at the time of the sale or lease, including in a warranty or other service contract incidental to the sale or lease.

However, if the installation activities are not linked to a contract of purchase, but to a separate service contract, the Visitor visa might not be appropriate and a Service Supplier visa might be required instead.   

Finally, in case the activities do not fall into those allowed by the Visitor visa and the UK company wishes to hire the worker as a direct employee, a Skilled Worker visa might be more appropriate.

UK Visitor Visa requirements

Is UK visitor visa difficult to get?

Based on their nationality, some travellers won’t need a visa at all.  

In fact, depending on your nationality, you will either:  

  • Have to apply for a Visitor visa before your travel to the UK; or 
  • Be allowed to visit the UK for up to 6 months without needing a visa

However, even in case you do not need a visa, you will still have to meet the UK Visitor visa requirements for eligibility. In fact, being a “visa-free” citizen does not exempt travellers from border checks and from having to give evidence of the reasons for their entry, upon request.  

In case of border checks, the following documents could be presented to facilitate passing the checks:

  • Documents proving the purpose of the visit;
  • Proof of financial resources to support one’s stay;
  • Proof of the accommodation booked;
  • Return airplane tickets;
  • Medical insurance.  

UK Visitor Visa Application

Once you have assessed that you need a Visitor visa, based on your nationality, you can start your visa application process.  

How to apply for Visitor Visa UK?

If you need a Visitor visa you will have to apply online by registering on the relevant Home Office website and complete the application. Alternatively, you can decide to avail of the support of an immigration advisor who will usually complete the application for you and guide you on the next steps.  

As part of your online application, you will need to book an appointment at a visa application center. In some instances, the closest visa application center could be in another country, so the appointment must be planned carefully.  

During the appointment, applicants will need to prove their identity with the passport or alternative travel document, have their biometric information taken and provide all the required documents to support their application.

What are the documents required for the visa application?

During the visa application process, you will be required to provide a passport valid for the entire duration of your stay. The passport shall have a blank page for the visa stamping.  

Furthermore, during the online application, you will be required to provide specific and personal information such as:  

  • Dates of travel to the UK;  
  • Details of the accommodation where you will be staying during the visit;
  • Details on how much your stay will cost; 
  • Your current home address and how long you have lived there; 
  • Your parents’ personal details (names and dates of birth); 
  • Your annual income;
  • Details of any criminal, civil or immigration offences that you many have committed.  

Depending on the specific case, the authorities may ask applicants to provide:  

  • Details of their travel history for the past 10 years; 
  • Their employer’s address and phone number;
  • Their partner’s name, date of birth and passport number; 
  • Contact details of anyone paying for the trip;  
  • Contact details of any family members they have in the UK;  
  • A tuberculosis test result;
  • Other documents depending on your circumstances.

Visitor Visa UK: duration and costs

How long is a Visitor visa for the UK?

The Standard Visitor visa allows you to stay for a maximum of 6 months on each visit. 

Can you enter UK multiple times with Standard Visitor visa?

If you visit the UK regularly, you can decide to apply for a long-term Standard Visitor visa. The long-term visa is valid for 2, 5 or 10 years, however it allows maximum stays of 6 months on each visit.  

In some circumstances, applicants may be given a shorter visa than requested if the UKVI maintains they do not meet the eligibility requirements for the duration of the visa they applied for. In case a shorter visa is issued, or the visa application is refused, applicants won’t get a refund.  

Also, it is important to notice that the Visitor visa presumes a temporary nature of the traveller’s stay in the UK and the traveller should maintain their primary residence abroad. In fact, authorities may decide to cancel the visa if the applicant’s travel history shows that they are repeatedly living in the UK for extended periods of time.   

How long does it take to get a decision?

You can apply for the visa up to 3 months before your intended travel date. Once you have applied online, proved your identity and provided all the required documents, you will usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks.  

However, you may be able to pay for a faster decision on a visa application by purchasing the “priority service”. Using the priority service, you will usually get a decision within 5 working days

Can I change Visitor visa to work permit?

You can switch to a work permit if you are already in the UK on a different type of visa. However, generally you cannot travel out of the UK until you get a decision.  

There are some instances where you cannot apply to switch, though. These include the case in which you are in the UK on a Visitor Visa. To apply for a work permit in this case, you must leave the country and apply from abroad.  

How much does a Visitor visa cost?

Government application fees for a Standard Visitor visa usually correspond to £115. Fees may increase if applying for a long-term Standard Visitor visa. 

Regulatory Framework

Home Office – UK Visas and Immigration

Reference

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