What is a UK Visa?
A UK visa is the authorizing document that gives worldwide citizens the right to enter, stay temporarily or live forever in the territory of the UK. A visa is usually either a stamp you receive in your passport or a document given by a UK consulate or embassy in your country of residence.
If you are issued a visa, it means that you are eligible to enter the UK and that you meet the requirements of the particular visa that you have been given. There are different reasons why people want to apply for a UK visa, such as:
- To work and to do business
- To study
- For short stays and tourism
- To join family members who are already in the UK
- To transit through the UK to another country
- To live permanently
- As a refugee or as someone who needs humanitarian protection
- As a stateless person
- As someone who needs permission to stay
Who Needs a UK Visa?
Citizens of the European Economic Area, Switzerland and Commonwealth countries are not required to apply a UK visa prior to entering the UK. For a complete list of countries whose citizens need a visa for UK visit this page.
How to Apply for a UK Visa?
The UK visa application process depends a lot on the type of visa that you are applying for. Especially if your type of visa belongs to one of the Points-Based System category. Though most of the requirements are the same for each category, the way they are evaluated in the system differs. There are also additional requirements that vary from one to another category.
There are some standard UK visa requirements to apply for any that every applicant must fulfill. These requirements vary on the visa type and the nationality of the applicant.
You may be required to submit the following documents for every UK visa application:
- Filled application form.
- Recent photographs
- A valid passport.
- Detailed travel itinerary.
- Document showing the payment of the UK visa application fees.
- Biometric information. This is needed only if applying for a visa for a longer period than six months. As a part of the application, fingerprints and photographs must be offered at the appropriate application center.
However, you may be required to submit additional documents and you can visit our article on the UK visa requirements to learn more details.
What is the Points-Based System (PBS)?
The Point-Based System (PBS) of the United Kingdom Visa is the means of regulating immigration to the United Kingdom from outside the country, as a replacement of the old system one who was much more complex and hard to be covered.
The PBS system evaluates visa candidates based on the points they can gather by meeting visa requirements. Each visa requirement has its points, and there is an appointed number of points the candidate should gather in order to receive the visa.
UK Visa Types
There are different reasons why people want to apply for a UK visa. That is why the United Kingdom has an organized visa system based on the purpose of visitor under multiple visa types.
Here are the UK visa types:
- Work Visas.
- Business Visas.
- Study Visas.
- Visitor Visas.
- Family Visas.
- Settlement Visas.
- Transit Visas.
Besides of its strict rules, not allowing to get a job many of the visa holders, the UK also offers Working Visas especially for high-end professionals from other countries who wish to work and live in the UK for shorter or longer periods.
- Highly qualified foreigners:
- Skilled foreign workers with a job offer in a shortage area
- Youth mobility and temporary foreign workers
The UK is a very popular tourism destination, for shorter or even longer periods of visits. The UK Visitor Visas are issued for short stays, tourism visits and similar purposes. UK authorities rarely do issue a tourism visa for a longer period than six months. The foreign nationals are prohibited from getting a job inside UK with this type of visa, just as with many other types.
Short business trips are handled kind of the same way.
The UK Family Visa is issued to visit family members in the UK. This Visa type is for people who have family members working and living in the UK and want to join them for more than six months, as their dependents. The dependents can be husband or wife (spouse), partner, fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner, children, parents, other family members.
The UK Transit Visa is for foreigners who are not from the EEA (EU countries, including Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland, and are using the UK as a transit country to pass from another country to their destination. This visa offers the opportunity to apply for a long-term transit visa if the applicant has enough evidence that he needs to travel regularly through UK to arrive at his destination, but has no intention to stay or live there permanently. Such long-term transit visas can be given from 1 to 10 years long.
- Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV) – for those who have to change flights in the UK without leaving the airport
- Visitor in Transit Visa – for foreigners who have to leave the airport and take another means of travel, of making a part of their traveling through the land. This visa can be valid for up to 4 days.
EEA Residence Permits:
- EEA Residence Card
- UK Registration Certificate – EEA (QP)
- UK Permanent Residence Card – EEA (PR)
- EEA family permit related to the derivative right of residence
- EEA family permit related to the Surinder Singh
- EEA family permit related to retained rights of residence
- Certificate of entitlement for right to abode in the UK
The UK Settlement visa also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain, is for those who have been living in the UK for a long period with a temporary visa, and now want to receive a permanent one. The visa applies to people who have lived out of the UK at least 2 years and now want to return, or their passport was lost.
Foreigners who already live in the UK with e refugee or humanitarian status and want to settle there permanently or for family reunion. Most of these visas condition the applicant to have lived minimum 5 years in the United Kingdom.
Temporary Refugee Visa is for people who are about to enter in the UK and are at the borders because had to leave their country as their life was seriously threatened. The application for this visa is made from within the UK.
The visa is temporary, until the visa holder is not endangered anymore and can return back to their country. Visa for Stateless Persons is for foreigners living in the UK and are not nationals in any other country in the world. This visa is given for 2 to 6 years with a possibility of extension.
What a UK Visa holder must know
Despite the fact that a foreigner might be having a visa, they might be subject to Immigration Control (examination) anytime crossing the UK border. There can also be cases when the visa might be cancelled at the borders.
Any form of overstaying, or violating visa conditions, while being in the UK or out, is considered an act of offense.
Visas offer the needed answers on:
- Who to admit to enter into the UK and why,
- Who to allow living temporarily or permanently in the UK and why,
- Who meets the criteria and who to stop from entering into the UK,
- Who needs to exit the UK, when the visa expires or for other reasons
Visas sometimes can forbid the holder doing several activities such as:
- Getting a job of other professional activity in the UK,
- Using public funds;
- Staying in the UK without registering with the police (without getting police registration certificate);
- Study in the UK;
- Commanding holder to report to the specific Medical Officer of Environmental Health
Such restrictions can be made known to the holder in the following ways:
- Attached in the passport/travel document;
- In a written notification;
- In the visa;
- In the visa application form;
Travelling abroad as a UK visa holder
Holders of UK visas are allowed to travel abroad while in the UK. However, there may be extra requirements they must fulfill depending on their nationality and purpose of travel.
Travelling to Europe
To visit other European countries, you may have to apply for a Schengen visa from the UK which allows you to travel for tourism or business purposes for a maximum of 90 days. You can apply for a visa from the UK even if you are not a British citizen. Although the procedures to apply it are almost the same for all applicants you must familiarize yourself with the specifics if you are applying from the UK.
Travelling to USA
To travel to the USA, you might be required to apply for a US visa in the UK, depending on your nationality. If you are a citizen of a country in the Visa Waiver Program, you are not required to apply for a visa, but you will have to apply for ESTA instead.