Do I need a visa to visit the UK?


Each year, millions of people make the journey to the UK to visit friends and family, attend business meetings or simply have a holiday.

In fact, last year 40.9 million people from overseas graced UK shores. And do you know what they all had in common? Yes, they applied for a visitor visa.

As with most countries around the world, the application process is all online. Then for a fee of £95 you will be able to stay in the country for up to six months (in most cases).

There are some exceptions though, with slight differences between people visiting for business and those just wanting to have fun.

To find out which route is right for you, the different categories of visiting the UK are detailed below.

Visiting the UK for business

Sometimes, people need to travel to the UK for work-related business.

For example, you may have an important meeting in London. Or you may need to attend a conference or training programme in Birmingham.

Basically, if you want to visit the UK for a short-term business or academic related activity, then you will need a visitor visa.

Another reason could be that you have been invited to visit as an expert in your field.

But what does it mean to be a visiting expert? Let’s find out.

Visiting the UK as an expert

You can visit the UK as an expert in your field if you are:

  • A guest lecturer.
  • Providing legal advocacy.
  • Taking part in sporting, art or entertainment activities.
  • Working as a fashion model.

If you match the description to one of the categories above, and you will be paid by a UK company, then you are a visiting expert.

This is a slightly different category than what is covered by the Standard Visitor Visa, so you will need to apply for a Permitted Paid Engagement Visa. The fee for this is £95 and you will be allowed to stay in the UK for one month.

Business-related activities in the UK

It’s possible to stay in the UK for up to six months on a Standard Visitor Visa, even if you’re visiting for business.

But you can only do certain activities, such as:

  • Go to a conference or training.
  • Attend a business meeting.
  • Join students on a study abroad trip.
  • Do academic research.
  • Perform as an artist, entertainer or sportsperson.

However, if you want to work in the UK, then you will probably have to apply for a different visa, like the Tier 5 Temporary Worker Visa.

For a full list of all the activities you can do with a UK Standard Visitor visa, visit the British government website here.

Visiting the UK for travel or leisure

Visiting somewhere for fun is always the best type of travel.

This usually means visiting as a tourist, or to catch up with friends and family. If this is why you want to visit the UK, then you just need a Standard Visitor Visa that will allow you to stay for up to six months.

There are exceptions though.

If you are visiting the UK for private medical treatment, you might be able to stay for up to 11 months. This visa has a fee of £190.

Or, if you are an academic and visiting the UK to do research, then you and your partner could stay for up to 12 months. Again, this costs £190.

Some people need to come to the UK on a regular basis, like when visiting family or for monthly business meetings.

In this case you can apply for a long-term Standard Visitor Visa that will last for two years, five years, or ten years. Each visit can be for a maximum of six months.

But there is an additional fee for the long-term Standard Visitor Visa.

For a two-year visa, the cost is £361.

If you want a five-year visa, the fee is £655.

To apply for a ten-year visa, you will have to pay £822.

So, as you can see, there is a Standard Visitor Visa, but there are also exceptions involved to accommodate most reasons for visiting the UK.

Visiting the UK from an EU country

Right now, the UK is still in the transition phase of Brexit and will be until 31st December 2020.

This means that visitors from the EU, EEA and Switzerland can visit the UK without applying for a visitor visa. All you need is a valid passport or national identity card.

The government has not yet announced if there will be any changes to this from 2021.

Traveling to the UK for another reason

If none of the descriptions above match your reasons for coming to the UK, then you might need to apply for a different visa.

The most common visa routes are work, study, and to join family.

There is also a whole archive of articles about applying for a UK visa on VisaFox. Feel free to browse to find more information about the different visa options available.

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Article Created By Hayley Maguire