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.
When Should I Apply for a UK Visa?
The earliest you can apply for a UK visa is three months before the date of your intended trip to here. Yet, keep in mind that the processing of your visa application may take up to three weeks. Apply in advance, so you can give enough time to the consulate for the processing of your visa.
What are the Required Documents for UK Visa?
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.
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.
Work and Business 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.
Categories of work and business visas
- Highly qualified foreigners:
- Skilled foreign workers with a job offer in a shortage area
- Youth mobility and temporary foreign workers
The UK Business Visa types are the following:
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa
- Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa
- Tier 1 Investor Visa
- Turkish Businessperson Visa
These types of visas are issued to international students who want to study in the UK.
Categories of student visas
Tourist and Visiting visas
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.
Categories tourist and visiting visas
- Marriage Visitor Visa
- Parent of a Tier 4 (Child) Student Visa
- Permitted Paid Engagement Visa
- Short-term Study Visa
- UK Visitor Visa
- Visa for a Chinese Tour Group
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.
Categories of family visas
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.
Categories of transit visas
- 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.
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.
Also read: Alternatives to the UK retirement visa
UK Residence Permits
Indefinite Leave to Remain
The UK Settlement permit 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.
EEA Residence Permits
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
Other Residence Permits
UK Residence permits serve to gain temporary residence in the UK.
- Returning Resident Visa
- Biometric Residence Permit (BRP)
- Residence Permit for Commonwealth Citizens
- Settlement visa as a Refugee or for Humanitarian Protection
Electronic Visa Waiver
The Electronic Visa Waiver is established for citizens of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates who want to come to the UK for maximum six months to do business, to sightsee, study or to get medical care.
Citizens of these countries must apply for other visa types if they seek to come to the UK for other reasons or for longer periods.
How to apply for Electronic Visa Waiver?
The application online must be done here.
The earliest you can apply for this visa is three months and the latest two days in advance the travel date. With this visa there is no possibility to include dependents, everyone must apply separately.
To apply for this visa is simple, and only the following information must be provided:
- Passport information;
- The place where the candidate will be living in the UK;
- Travel itinerary with planned dates of entry and leave
Note: The candidate must pay £15 to apply for this visa.
There is a possibility to have change information in this visa when needed, i.e. change as regards of airport, train station, bus station or similar, change as regards of the time of entering the UK and similar.
Upon the application, the visa will be received in one day in a form of a link, in the email address of the candidate for download. As such, it must be printed to be shown at the UK borders when entering.
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;
Is Having a Booked Flight Required to Apply for a UK Visa?
Booking a flight for a UK visa application is not compulsory. The UK authorities permit you to apply without having one. You should still submit a travel itinerary, in which you include the intended entry and exit dates.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Visa for the UK?
It may take around three weeks for a UK visa to be processed. The current UK Visa processing time differs from one application to the other based on several factors. These are:
- the visa type you are applying for,
- the country from where you are applying,
- your specific situation,
- the number of applications the UK consulate/visa processing center is receiving at the time, etc.
Can I get my visa faster?
Depending on the visa type you are applying for, you may be eligible to use the ‘priority service’ or even the ‘super-priority service’ when filing your application.
The ‘priority service’ enables you to get a decision on your application within five working days for an additional fee of £500. Whereas, the ‘super priority service’ that will cost you £800 aside from the visa fee, and enables you to get a decision by the end of the next working day.
What is the Immigration Health Surcharge?
The Immigration Health Surcharge is an amount of money you have to pay when you apply for a visa to the UK. Once you are in the UK with a visa, you are entitled to use services of the NHS the same as other UK citizens. Please note that you will still need to pay for services as prescriptions, dental treatment, eye tests and assisted conception.
The health surcharge costs £300 per year for a student or Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa, and £400 per year for all other visa and immigration applications.
What Are the Reasons for UK Visa Denial?
Some of the most common reasons why UK visas are refused are as follows:
- Missing documents. This is the most common reason why applications are rejected. One missing document and the embassy will be done with your application. You won’t even get a second chance to submit what is missing. You will need to start a brand new application.
- Incorrect and mismatching information in your documents.
- Insufficient financial means to support your stay in the UK.
- Not meeting the English language requirement.
- Incorrect organization of documents.
What Can I Do In Case of Visa Denial?
If your application for a UK visa is rejected, you can just give up, or:
- Reapply for the visa. If you reapply, make sure that you do not make the previous mistake, or you improve your situation in order to meet the requirements.
- Appeal on Human Rights ground. You should have a strong basis to appeal a visa rejection decision.
- Challenge the decision via judicial review. You can do this if you have a strong reason to believe that your application has been rejected illegally or irrationally or there has been procedural unfairness during the processing of your application file.
Will I get a refund?
No, it is not possible to have the fee you paid refunded. The fee for a UK visa is required in order to cover the expenses that come out of the processing of your application, thus refunding is not possible if your visa is denied or you decide to withdraw your application while it is being processed.
Moreover, when you reapply for a UK visa after your fist application has been rejected, you will need to pay the fee again.
Can I Get a UK Visa If I Have a Criminal Record?
If you have been involved in criminal activity in the past, the UK authorities will still receive and process your UK visa application. Yet, the Home Office will treat your application differently from the way it treats applications of people with no criminal past.
The length of your sentence and the time that has passed since then are very important in such cases. Your application will be automatically rejected if you have been imprisoned for:
- 4 years or more.
- Between one to 4 years, unless at least 10 years have passed since the end of the sentence.
- Less than 12 months, unless at least 5 years have passed since the end of the sentence.
Your application will also be rejected on the spot if within the period of 12 months before the application is decided, you have been convicted of or admitted an offense for which you received a non-custodial sentence or out of court disposal that is recorded on your criminal record,
Do I Need to Register With the Police?
If the visa sticker on your passport contains the words ‘Police registration’ or ‘Register with police in 7 days of entry’ then you will need to register with the police once you are in the UK with a valid visa.
You have seven days to go to the police for registration after you arrive in the UK. Note that if you do not register with the police, your visa validity will be shortened and you may need to leave the UK.
Can I Travel Abroad While I Am in the UK With a Valid Visa?
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.
If you need to obtain a Schengen visa from the UK, it is required that you purchase a Schengen visa health insurance plan that covers your entire period of stay in Europe.
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.