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Complete guide to obtaining a standard Visitor Visa for the UK

The UK visitor visa which is also known as the Standard Visitor Visa is a UK short stay visa that allows its holder to stay in the UK for up to 6 months. However, the embassy has the right to issue visas for a shorter period of time. This visa is established for those that wish to travel to the United Kingdom for purposes of:

  • Tourism.
  • To visit family members.
  • Medical treatment.
  • For professional reasons.

The Standard Visitor visa has replaced the following types of visas:

  • Family Visitor visa.
  • General Visitor visa.
  • Child Visitor visa.
  • Business Visitor visa, including visas for academics, doctors and dentists.
  • Sports Visitor visa.
  • Entertainer Visitor visa.
  • Prospective Entrepreneur visa.
  • Private Medical Treatment Visitor visa.
  • Approved Destination Status (ADS) visa.

Do I Need To Apply for a Tourist Visa to Travel to the UK?

Whether you need to obtain a Tourist visa to be able to travel to the UK depends on your nationality.  You will need to obtain a UK tourist visa if you are a national of one of the countries listed here. To be eligible to apply for a tourist visa for the UK you must pass the general grounds for refusal.

How to Apply for a UK Visitor Visa?

The application for a UK visitor visa must be made from outside the UK. The earliest you can apply for this visa is 30 days prior to your planned travel to the UK.

To apply for a visa to visit the UK you will go through these simple steps:

  1. Check if you are eligible for a tourist visa.
  2. Complete the online application form.
  3. Collect the required documents.
  4. Schedule an appointment.
  5. Attend the interview.

Find a detailed overview of the steps you need to go through to apply for a UK visa.

Documents required for a UK Tourist visa application

The documents required to apply for a UK tourist visa are as follows:

  • UK tourist visa application form VAF1A. You should complete the form online.
  • Two photographs in accordance with the UK guidelines. They should be taken within the past six months and be in color.
  • Your valid passport with at least one blank page. It must be valid for three more months beyond the date you plan to leave the UK after your trip.
  • Proof of financial means to cover living costs while you are in the UK. This may be your bank statements for the last six months or payslips for the same period.
  • Specifics about your accommodation in the UK. You will need to present a document that shows where you will be accommodated while in the UK. Note that you do not have to fully pay a hotel/hostel in UK before getting the visa, just to get such a document. This could also be:
    • ID information and living address of a person covering your travel costs.
    • ID information and passport number of any relative living here.
  • Detailed travel itinerary. It has to contain dates of your onward and backward travel. Submit a travel plan that gives all the information regarding how and what you are planning to do in the UK. Include the travel dates, places you will visit, meeting agenda, booked tour, festival agenda, etc.
  • Previous travel history. This has to cover the period of the last 10 years. It can be proven through visas and entry/exit border stamps in current and older passports, or through separate residence titles.
  • Specifics about your living address in the home country. Also, you’ve to show how long you’ve been living there.
  • Biometric information. If you are applying for a visa that lets you stay in UK for more than 6 months, you will need to submit your biometric information. This includes giving your fingerprints and a digital photograph taken at the appropriate application center.
  • Letter of invitation from the host.
  • Paid UK visa fees. You should submit the receipt that confirms you have paid the visa fee as required.
  • Certified translations of any document that is not in either English or Welsh.
  • Recognized certificate of English language.
  • Your criminal history.
  • If you are a student: Academic and professional certificates.
  • The names and birthdates of your natural/adoptive parents. This has to be supported by information about the number of their annual earnings.
  • If you are employed in your home country: Contact and information of your existing employer.
  • Tuberculosis Test Results. Nationals of several world countries will need to submit the requests of a Tuberculosis Test in order to be eligible for a UK Visa. Check here if you need to provide the TB test results.

Additional documents to submit depending on your purpose of visit

If you’re an academic who is expecting to complete an exchange or research project in the UK:

  • Formal letter of a home-country employer. It must show you’ve been given the authorization to leave the current job for an exchange or research project in the UK. It has to show dates of such approved leave.
  • Formal letter of the host institution/organization in the UK. It must show in written they’ve made the needed arrangements for the specified exchange or research project.

If you’re expecting to take private medical treatment in the UK:

  • Letter confirming your medical condition. Issued by a UK doctor/consultant, naming your disease and the need for the cure in the UK. It has to also show costs, place and the period of private cure.
  • Proof of having paid the complete costs of medical care.
  • Letter confirming you need further care. (If you’re applying for a visa extension). Issued by a UK doctor/consultant confirming you need further treatment of the disease. It must be accompanied with documents showing you have got the money to pay costs of such treatment.

If you’re expecting to give your organ to a person in need in the UK:

  • Letter naming you as a donor match or the need for getting tested as a potential donor match. It must be issued by the main nurse/director of the UK’s NHS Trust’s Living Donor Kidney Transplant Team, or a registered doctor as an NHS consultant. It has to show details of when and where the tests or transplant will take place.
  • Proof of residence in the UK of the organ recipient. Your organ recipient’s photocopied British passport, or UK valid residence permit.
  • Proof that the organ recipient will be in the UK before transplantation date. (If the organ recipient is out of the UK). Details of their travel to the UK, their name, nationality and their date of birth.

If you’re visiting with the intention to become a UK Entrepreneur in the Future:

  • Support letter from venture capital firms in the UK. The firm issuing it must be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
  • Letter of support from an endorsed UK entrepreneurial seed funding competitions.
  • Supportive letter from UK departments.

If you’re expecting to attend a Professional Training/Assessment:

  • Confirmation letter for an arranged PLAB or OSCE test. (If you’re expecting to sit a PLAB/OSCE test). It must be issued by a General Medical Council & Nursing and Midwifery Council, confirming that the test has been arranged.
  • Formal job offer as a clinician/dental observer. (If applicable). It must not be a gainful job and you must not have worked before in the same job position.

What can you do with a UK Visitor Visa?

With the UK tourist visa, a holder must not use public medical services only private ones, must not use public funds, get married or enter a civil partnership and not announce any of them, and must not get a voluntary job.

Job-related activities allowed for a Standard Visitor Visa holder are:

  • Participate in a conference, regular meeting, or training, or in a sport-related event;
  • As an artist to perform in an artistic, entertaining, or music activity;
  • As an academic to do a research study;
  • As academic accompanying students who are about to enroll in Foreign Studies Programme;
  • Engage in a clinical duty, or in a job as an observer, doctor or dentist;
  • Undertake a test of the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB), or of the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE);
  • Undertake a test of the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB), or of the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).

How Long Does it Take for a UK Standard Visitor Visa Application to Process?

The decision on your UK visitor visa is taken in 8 weeks if you apply by post. However, the decision is made on the day you apply if you use the premium service.

A longer period may apply for taking a decision if further documentation is required.

Standard Visitor Visa Extension

There are some exceptional circumstances upon which you may extend your Standard visitor visa. Typically the complete period of extension together with the visa period doesn’t exceed 6 months, except for the following cases:

  • If you’re on private medical treatment. You may get an additional 6 month period of visa extension to get medical care. You have to prove that you have paid your care costs, that you can pay additional costs and you haven’t broken immigration and visa rules.
  • If you’re an academic completing a research project. The amount of extension and the initial visa period shouldn’t be more than 12 months.
  • If you’re sitting the PLAB examination for the second time. You may get an additional 6 months through extension.
  • If you want to engage in a clinical duty after having passed PLAB examination. The period through extension doesn’t exceed a year and a half.

UK Tourist Visa Fees

It costs £89 to apply for a UK Tourist Visa. However for private medical treatment given for 6 up to 11 months and for an academic to do research for up to 1 year the fee is £179. While for a long-term visa for 2 years is £337, £612 for 5 years and £767 for 10 years.

To apply for an extension it costs £993 for an application through the post and £1,583 for an application in person.

How Long Can I Stay in the UK With a Visitor Visa?

With a UK visitor visa you may stay in the UK for the following periods:

  • At most 30 days. If you are a traveler under an ADS agreement.
  • Up to 6 months. If you are traveling for a family visit or tourism.
  • Up to 11 months. If you are traveling for private medical treatment.
  • Up to 12 months. If you are an academic completing a research project in the UK.

What is the UK Long-Term Standard Visitor Visa?

This is a visitor visa with validity period 2, 5 up to 10 years, issued if you’re someone who needs to travel regularly to the UK for temporary visits.

To apply for a UK Long-Term Standard Visitor Visa you need to provide the following documents:

  • Evidence of regular temporary visits to the UK.
  • Proof of intention to leave the UK at the end of the visa period.
  • Confirmation that you won’t change the reason for which you’re requiring this visa.

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