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Applying for a visit visa to come to the UK: FAQs

Applying for a visit visa to come to the UK: FAQs

The UK immigration system divides visitors to the UK in two categories, those requiring a visa prior to their departure (known as visa-nationals) and those who do not need a visa (non-visa nationals). The visit visa process for visa nationals can often be a tedious process and if not done correctly, it can lead to a refusal.

How do you apply?

Non-visa nationals

Non-visa nationals do not need to go through the application process and can simply travel to the UK and seek leave to enter at the UK Border. This can be from an Immigration Officer, or if you are of a specified nationality, you can use automated e-gates.

Visa nationals

The online visa application has been re-designed to make the process more efficient. Once the application is complete, the applicant will need to make payment using a debit or credit card. The applicant will then need to attend a local commercial partner of the UKVI to provide their supporting documents and their biometric data (facial image and fingerprints).

When should you apply?

A visit visa should be applied well in advance of the proposed dates of visit. The UKVI allows an application to be made 3 months prior to these dates. Once the application is submitted the normal processing time for such an application is 15 working days, with an option to expedite by paying an additional fee.

What type of visa?

Recent changes in the Immigration Rules have unified the Standard Visitor Visa route, allowing an applicant to travel the UK for business, tourism, visit family and friends, or to receive private medical treatment.

The Standard Visitor Visa does not allow the visitor to work in the UK (although business meetings are allowed) and the technical aspects of what you can and cannot do whilst in the UK can become complicated. If you are unsure whether your purpose of visit falls within these categories, contact us for further advice.

For those who intend on entering the UK for a short-period of time (up to one month) for work, can also consider applying for the Paid Permitted Engagement Visa.  The short-term categories of visas are:

Visa Type Allows work? Allows study? Maximum length of stay Cost
Standard Visitor visa No, in most cases Yes (up to 30 days) but not as the main reason for your visit 6 months 6-month visa – £95
Permitted Paid Engagement visa Yes (if it’s related to your main job or area of expertise) Yes (up to 30 days) but not as the main reason for your visit Up to 1 month £95
Short-term study visa No Yes 6 to 11 months 6-months: £95

11-months: £186

Parent of a Tier 4 child visa No No 6 or 12 months £516
Visit the UK in a Chinese tour group No No Up to 30 days £95
Visa to pass through the UK in transit No No 48 hours – if you pass border control

24 hours – if you do not pass border control




The UKVI does not provide a clear guide of the documents you need to apply for a visit visa. However, you will be expected to provide documents in support of the information you provide on the application form. For example, you must provide evidence of your personal circumstances in your home country and clear reasons for your visit to the UK. Documents you may provide include:

Monica Atwal

Managing Partner

View profile

+44 118 960 4605

A visit visa should be applied well in advance of the proposed dates of visit.

What documents should you submit?

  • Current and previous passports
  • Financial documents such as bank statements
  • Details of employment and/or business
  • Evidence of your sponsor in the UK, if relevant

Why do applications get refused?

Most refusals are based on failing to satisfy whether your visit is genuine or that you will return to your home country after the end of your visit. In most cases, this is because the application has not been properly organised or key evidence has not been provided.

This could include failing to clearly identify the source of your income or identifying unknown transactions. Further reasons include failing to provide evidence of your ties to your home country (such as evidence of family, property and other commitments). In other cases, whilst the evidence is provided it is not clear enough for Entry Clearance Officer or in rare cases the documents have not been translated.

If you have been refused in the past, it is important to seek legal advice to reduce the risk of a further refusal on a further application. In some cases, it may also be appropriate to challenge the refusal by seeking Judicial Review. If you have received a refusal, you can contact us to discuss next steps.

About this article

This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

Monica Atwal

Managing Partner

View profile

+44 118 960 4605

About this article

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