News & Insights

Visitor Visa Route

Overview of the route

The rules for visitors coming to the UK have been simplified under the new immigration rules published by the Home Office.

The visitor route is for a person who wishes to visit the UK for a temporary period, usually up to six months, for purposes such as tourism, visiting friends or family, carrying out a business activity, or undertaking a short course of study.

Anyone who wishes to come to the UK as a visitor will need to meet the requirements of the visitor route, even where they are travelling as a family group, a tour group, or a school party.

The rules recognise four types of visitors:

  • Standard visitor: anyone wishing to undertake a permitted activity (see below), such as tourism and visiting family, usually for up to six months.
  • Marriage and civil partnership visitor: anyone seeking to come to the UK to marry or form a civil partnership, or to give notice of the same.
  • Permitted paid engagement visitor: experts coming to the UK to undertake specific paid engagements for up to one month.
  • Transit visitor: anyone who wishes to transit the UK on route to another country outside the Common Travel Area.

A standard visitor can apply for a visit visa of six months with validity for two, five or ten years. This would allow for multiple visits to the UK within the period of validity, although each visit cannot exceed the length of permitted stay endorsed on the visit visa (usually six months).

What you need to apply

Visa nationals (unless an exception applies), marriage and civil partnership visitors (unless they are a relevant national) and anyone seeking to visit the UK for more than six months will need to obtain entry clearance before they enter the UK.

Visitors coming to the UK may seek permission to enter on arrival where they are either a non-visa national (unless they are also a marriage or civil partnership visitor or seeking to stay for longer than six months) or they are a visa national and an exception applies.

Whether applying for entry clearance or for permission to stay as a visitor, the applicant must complete the specified form and ensure the following requirements have been met:

  • any fee has been paid
  • any required biometrics have been provided
  • a passport or other document that satisfactorily establishes their identity and nationality has been provided.

Suitability requirements

An applicant will not be suitable where a mandatory ground of refusal applies to them. For example, if the applicant were to have a criminal conviction obtained either in the UK or overseas, they would not be able to apply to come to the UK through the visitor visa route, although they may be able to apply under the Skilled Worker route.

If applying for permission to stay, the applicant must also not be in breach of immigration laws or be on immigration bail.

Eligibility requirements

The applicant will need to satisfy the decision-maker that they meet the following eligibility requirements, as well as any specified additional eligibility requirements if applicable (for example where the applicant is coming to the UK to receive medical treatment or to study etc.).

The applicant must satisfy the decision-maker that he or she is a genuine visitor. This means that they:

  • will leave the UK at the end of their visit
  • will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, nor make the UK their main home
  • are genuinely seeking entry or stay for a permitted purpose under the visitor route
  • will not undertake any of the prohibited activities (see below)
  • have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to their visit without working or accessing public funds.

In assessing whether an applicant has sufficient funds, their travel, maintenance and accommodation may be provided by a third party, but only if the third party:

  • has a genuine professional or personal relationship with the applicant
  • is not (or will not be) in breach of immigration laws at the time of the decision or the applicant’s entry
  • can and will provide support to the applicant for the intended duration of the applicant’s stay as a visitor.

Prohibited activities

The applicant must not intend to:

  • work in the UK (unless expressly allowed, for example by a permitted activity)
  • study in the UK (except as permitted by a permitted activity)
  • access medical treatment (other than private medical treatment or to donate an organ)
  • get married or form a civil partnership or give notice of the same (unless they apply for an entry clearance endorsing such a visit).

The visitor must also not receive payment from a UK source for any activities undertaken in the UK, except in limited circumstances, for instance reasonable travel and subsistence expenses and prize money.

Permitted activities

There are various permitted activities that a standard visitor can undertake. In addition to tourism and leisure activities, they may also visit for general business activities. This can include attending meetings and giving one-off, or a short series of talks, negotiating and signing contracts, carrying out site visits and attending trade fairs (provided they are not directly selling).

Intra-corporate activities are also permitted where an employee of an overseas-based company visits the UK to advise and consult, provide training, share skills and trouble-shoot, provided it is on a specific internal project with UK employees of the same corporate group and no work is carried out directly with clients.

If you have any questions about the contents of this article or if you need any assistance with the Visitor Visa route, please contact [email protected] in the immigration team at FSP.