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Visiting the UK

People wishing to come to the UK as a visitor (and not to work or study) are normally allowed to stay for six months.

Before you travel you should check whether or not you need to get a visa or, if wishing to frequently travel to the UK, apply for a multiple-entry visa which may be issued for two, five or 10 years.

Do I need a visa?

If you are a Visa national you will need a visa to enter the UK – and in some cases to transit through the UK.  You can find out if you are a Visa National by visiting the following website: https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa

If you are not a Visa national you do not need a visa to visit the UK for less than six months.

There are a number of different categories of visitors, the most common being:

  • General Visitors
  • Child Visitors
  • Business and Special Visitors – those visiting for business, sports, entertainment or a variety of ‘special’ reasons such as for private medical treatment, marriage, parent of a child at school or as a prospective student.

Generally, you must be able to show that you are 18 or over (except child visitors), intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit, have enough money to support and accommodate yourself and can meet the cost of your return or onward journey.

Tourism and visiting friends

If you want to visit the UK as a tourist or to stay with family or friends in the UK, you should apply to come here as a general visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18).

If you are a Chinese national and you will be coming to the UK as part of a group for a maximum of 30 days, you can apply for a visa as an ADS visitor.

Visiting for business

If you wish to do business in the UK you should apply to come here as a business visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18). You may be able to come to the UK as a business visitor if you are one of the following:

Film crew

You must be an actor, producer, director or technician who is on a location shoot only, and employed or paid by an overseas company or programme.

Representative of overseas news media

You must be employed or paid by an overseas company and be gathering information for an overseas publication.

 Academic visitor

 You must be:

  • on sabbatical leave from an overseas academic institution, and wanting to use your leave to carry out research in the UK (for example, to do research for a book); or
  • an academic (including a doctor) taking part in formal exchange arrangements with UK counterparts; or
  • an eminent senior doctor or dentist coming to take part in research, teaching or clinical practice.

(If you are on sabbatical leave from a private research company, you cannot be an academic visitor. Instead, you should apply for a visa under Tier 2 or Tier 5 of the points-based system.)

Additionally, you must not:

  • receive funding for your work from any UK source (except payments of expenses or reasonable honoraria, and payments on an exchange basis); or
  • engage in any work other than the academic activity for which you are being admitted; or
  • fill a normal post or a genuine vacancy in the UK.

Visiting professor accompanying students on a study abroad programme

You must be a professor or teacher from an overseas academic institution. While in the UK, you may undertake a small amount of teaching, limited to the institution hosting the students you are supervising. However, you must be employed and paid by the overseas academic institution, and must not intend to base yourself or seek employment in the UK.

Religious worker

You can come to the UK for a business visit (for example, to attend a conference) and undertake some preaching or pastoral work during your visit. You must be based abroad, and you must not intend to take up an office, post or appointment in the UK.

If you want to come to the UK to fill a vacancy as a religious worker for a recognised religion, and will be undertaking preaching and pastoral work, you will need to apply for a visa under Tier 2 of the points-based system.

Adviser, consultant, trainer or trouble shooter

You must be employed abroad by the company to which the client firm in the UK belongs, but this must not amount to employment for the UK firm. You must not do paid or unpaid work for the UK firm's clients.

Person undertaking specific, one-off training

 The training must be:

  • provided by your employer (or one of its UK branches); and
  • delivered in techniques and work practices used in the UK, provided this is not on-the job training.

Secondee from an overseas company

The UK company providing the secondment must have a contract to provide goods or services (but no corporate relationship) with your overseas employer, which must continue to employ and pay you. In some cases, you may need to apply for a visa under Tier 2 or Tier 5 of the points-based system.

Doctor undertaking a clinical attachment, or dentist undertaking a clinical observer post

 You must be a graduate from a genuine medical or dental school, and provide documentary evidence of a clinical attachment or dental observer post which will:

  • involve observation only and not treatment of patients; and
  • be unpaid.

Doctor taking the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test

 You must:

  • be a graduate from a genuine medical school;
  • intend to take the PLAB test in the UK; and
  • provide documentary evidence of a confirmed test date or of your eligibility to take the PLAB test.

Other business persons

 You can also apply to come to the UK as a business visitor if you intend to carry out any of the following 'permitted activities' here:

  • attending meetings (including interviews that have been arranged before you come to the UK) or conferences;
  • arranging deals, or negotiating or signing trade agreements or contracts;
  • undertaking fact-finding missions;
  • conducting site visits;
  • delivering goods and passengers from abroad (as a lorry driver or coach driver, for example, provided you are genuinely working an international route);
  • accompanying a tour group as a tour group courier, provided you are contracted to a firm outside the UK, and you intend to leave with that tour group;
  • speaking at a 'one-off' conference where this is not run as a commercial concern;
  • representing a foreign manufacturer by coming to service or repair its products within their initial period of guarantee;
  • representing a foreign machine manufacturer by coming to erect and install machinery too heavy to be delivered in one piece, as part of the contract of purchase and supply;
  • interpreting or translating for visiting business persons, provided you are employed by the overseas company and are coming solely to provide this service for the visiting company member;
  • acting as a monteur (a worker such as a fitter or serviceperson) for up to 6 months to erect, dismantle, install, service, repair or advise on the development of foreign-made machinery;
  • attending board meetings in the UK as a board-level director, provided you are not employed by a UK company (although you may be paid a fee for attending the meeting); and
  • representing a computer software company by coming to install, debug or enhance their products. You may also come here as a business visitor to be briefed about a UK customer's requirements – but if you use your expertise to make a detailed assessment of a potential customer's requirements, we will regard this as consultancy work, for which you will need a visa under the points-based system.

If you want to come to the UK as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), and you need to spend time here first in order to hold discussions and secure funding, you can apply for a visa as a prospective entrepreneur.

If you want to come to the UK as a visitor to do short-term, fee-paid activity you can apply for a visa as a permitted paid engagement visitor.

Visitors undertaking permitted paid engagements

This is a new category announced in April 2012 and is for a defined list of visitors who are invited to come to the UK because of their particular skills and expertise. They may apply to come here for up to 1 month without the need to be sponsored under the points-based sytem. The category is for visiting examiners or assessors; lecturers; overseas designated pilot examiners; qualified lawyers; and professional artists, entertainers and sportspersons.

Visiting to study

If you want to study in the UK for up to 6 months (or up to 11 months if you will be studying an English Language course), and you will not work while you are here, you can come here as a student visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18).

If you intend to study in the UK under Tier 4 of the points-based system, but you have not completed the arrangements for your course of study, you might be able to apply for a visa as a prospective student.

If you have a child aged under 12 who will be studying in the UK under Tier 4 (Child) of the points-based system, you can apply to accompany them as a parent of a child at school.

Visiting as a sportsperson

If you want to take part in any sporting events in the UK, you might be able to come here as a sports visitor or a visitor undertaking permitted paid engagements.  For example if you want to:

  • take part in a specific event, tournament, or series of events (including charity events and exhibition matches) as an individual competitor or a member of an overseas team; or
  • join an amateur team as an amateur sportsperson (provided you receive no payment except for travel and other expenses);
  • make a personal appearance or take part in a promotion such as a book signing or television interview;
  • negotiate a contract or discuss a sponsorship deal;
  • take part in a trial (which must not be in front of an audience, either paying or non-paying);
  • do a short period of training, as an individual or as part of a team.

You can also come to the UK as a sports visitor if you are:

  • a member of the technical or support staff of amateur or professional sportspeople, and you are attending the UK with them for the same event or series of events; or
  • an official attending a sporting event or series of events as, for example, an umpire.

Visiting as an entertainer

If you want to visit the UK for a short time to take part in some major arts festivals, music competitions and charity events, you may be able to come here as an entertainer visitor. You can come to the UK as an entertainer visitor if you are:

  • taking part in a music competition as a professional entertainer;
  • an internationally famous person taking part in broadcasts or public appearances, provided you are not being paid;
  • taking part in an audition, provided this is not in front of an audience (either paying or non-paying);
  • an amateur entertainer coming for a specific engagement as an individual performer;
  • part of a group of amateur entertainers (such as a choir or youth orchestra) coming for a specific engagement;
  • a professional entertainer taking part in a charity concert or show, provided the organisers are not making a profit and you are receiving no fee;
  • an amateur or professional entertainer taking part in a cultural event sponsored by a government or recognised international organisation, or a major arts festival;
  • a member of the technical or support staff (such as a dietician, bodyguard or press officer) of amateur or professional entertainers, attending for the same event; or
  • an official (such as a choreographer, stage manager or designer) attending the same event as the entertainer.

Visiting for marriage or civil partnership

If you want to come to the UK to get married or register a civil partnership, and you and your partner intend to leave the country within 6 months, you can apply for a visa as a visitor for marriage or civil partnership.

If you want to live in the UK after your marriage or civil partnership ceremony, you cannot come here as a visitor.

Visiting for private medical treatment

If you want to come to the UK for a short time to receive treatment for a medical condition, you can apply as a visitor for private medical treatment. You will not be able to receive treatment from the National Health Service.

Please contact us for further information.

Fees breakdown

Our fee for managing visit visa applications is:

Out of country application:

£650 + VAT

The Home Office charges are:

Visit Visa – short term (6 months):

£89

Visit Visa – long term (2 years):

£337

Visit Visa – long term (5 years):

£612

Visit Visa – long term (10 years):

£767

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