Visitor Visas and Transit Visas

Visitor visa and Transit Visas
Legally reviewed by: Sherena Lawrence

Visitor Visas

UK immigration law states that passport holders from certain countries are not allowed to travel to or through the UK without a visitor visa. If this applies to you, we can help you obtain a visitor or airport transit visa to travel in advance so you can enter the country without any problems.

General Visa Requirements

Applications for visit visas need be made while you’re still outside the UK. To apply for a visitor visa, you need to:

  • Complete an online application
  • Pay the required fee, once your application is complete
  • Provide any required biometrics
  • Provide a valid travel document

To be successful with your application, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have a genuine reason to visit and that you will leave the UK when it is over.

You will not be allowed a visa if it is believed that you:

  • Intend to live in the UK for extended periods by making frequent or successive visits
  • Intend to make the UK your main home
  • Intend to undertake any prohibited activities

Previous Visa Categories

The standard visitor visa has replaced a number of previous visa categories. These are:

  • Family visitor visa
  • General visitor visa
  • Child visitor visa
  • Business visitor visa
  • Sports visitor visa
  • Entertainer visitor visa
  • Prospective entrepreneur visa
  • Private medical treatment visitor visa
  • Approved Destination Status (ADS) visa

This means that if you wish to come to the UK for any of the reasons listed above, you will need to apply for a standard visit visa. Standard visitor visas are usually valid for six months.

Financial and Maintenance Requirements

You also need to be able to prove that you have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs for your trip. You are not entitled to work or access public funds to cover costs while you’re here.

Your funds must include the cost of your return or onward journey, additional costs of any dependants travelling with you, and the cost of activities you plan to undertake while you’re here, such as private medical treatment.

Insufficient Funds

If you can’t prove that you are going to support yourself and any dependants during your stay, you can still prove that maintenance and accommodation is going to be provided by a third party instead.

In these situations, the third party is referred to as your ‘sponsor’.

Your Relationship With Your Sponsor

If you intend to travel with the support of a sponsor, the Home Office needs to be satisfied that you and the sponsor have a genuine professional or personal relationship.

It’s also important that your sponsor isn’t themselves in breach of UK immigration laws when the decision is made, or else your entry will be refused.

Undertaking in Writing

Your sponsor may be asked to give an ‘undertaking in writing’. This is a written guarantee that they take responsibility for your maintenance and accommodation while you’re here.

If your sponsor doesn’t provide this documentation when asked, your application will be refused.

Documents You Need to Provide

When applying for a standard or long-term visitor visa, you will need to provide:

  • Your passport
  • Evidence that you can support yourself during your trip e.g. bank statements to explain source of cash deposits
  • Money transfer receipts confirming money sent from the UK to you (if applicable)
  • Payslips
  • Details of where you intend to stay as well as any travel plans
  • A statement of what you intend to do in the UK
  • Details of all your family members in the UK
  • Accommodation details
  • A provisional itinerary
  • Exchange of emails and messages discussing plans
  • Details of commitments in the country you are travelling from e.g. proof of residence
  • Employment details including contracts and terms of employment
  • Family make-up and personal circumstances
  • Sponsor documentation

If you are being sponsored, then your sponsor needs to provide:

  • Proof of their relationship to you
  • Their sponsorship declaration
  • Three months of bank statements

Visa Restrictions

If your visit visa is granted certain restrictions will apply. For instance you must not:

  • Intend to work in the UK
  • Receive payment from a UK source for any activities undertaken in the UK – exceptions do apply
  • Intend to study in the UK – exceptions do apply
  • Intend to access medical treatment other than private medical treatment or to donate an organ
  • Intend to marry or form a civil partnership, unless you are on a marriage visitor visa
  • Access public funds

Why Your Visitor Visa Application Might be Refused

We oversee many successful visitor visa applications every year. However, there are certain minimum requirements that every applicant must meet to be granted a visitor visa.

If you don’t meet these requirements your visa application may be rejected by the Home Office. For instance, if:

  • You have a record showing deportation or criminal convictions
  • You provided false information in your application
  • You have breached UK immigration law
  • You didn’t produce satisfactory identity documents or other requested information
  • You have debt to the NHS
  • Other medical reasons

Conduct and Character

An application may also be refused if the decision maker believes it would be for the public good.

For example, if an applicant’s conduct, character or associations make it undesirable to grant them entry to the UK.

Refunds and Cancellations

If you are given a shorter visa than the one you applied for, or if your application is refused, your application fee won’t be refunded.

Your visa may be cancelled and you may get a long-term ban on visiting the UK if your travel history shows you are repeatedly living in the UK for extended periods.

Withdrawing Your Application

You are allowed to withdraw your application at any time before a decision is made.

If you want to do this, you need to request it in writing or email to the visa post or application centre where your application was submitted. This is called your ‘notice of withdrawal’.

Notice of Withdrawal

Once your notice of withdrawal is received, no decision will be made on your application. Any documents you provided, such as your passport, will be returned. Any fees you’ve paid cannot be refunded.

You may want to ask for your travel documents back before your application is complete. If so, you need to email or write to the visa post or application centre that received your application. If you do this it will be treated as a notice of withdrawal, unless you explain otherwise.

When You Shouldn’t Apply for a Visitor Visa

Visitor visas are not always the most appropriate choice. For instance, if you are intending to travel to the UK before applying for a more long-term visa.

If the Home Office suspects that you intend something other than visiting the UK for up to six months they will deny your visa application, because you’re not allowed to apply for most other visas whilst you are in the UK on a visitor visa.

If you intend to work, live or study in the UK, we recommend you speak to an expert immigration solicitor first to ensure you’re applying for the right visa so your application runs smoothly at every stage.

Applying for a Friend or Family Member

If you already live in the UK and a friend or family member is planning on visiting you on a visitor visa, you may be able to apply online on their behalf.

Make sure that all the data you provide for the “applicants details” are for the visitor and not you.

After you have completed all their forms, your visitor will need to go to a visa application centre to have their photographs and fingerprints taken.

Visiting the UK on Business

If you are a visa national and want get the visa to visit the UK on business, you may be eligible for a standard visitor visa. You can apply for this type of visa if you are:

  • Visiting the UK for a conference or training
  • Travelling to the UK for a business meeting
  • Taking part in a sporting event
  • Going to perform in the UK as an entertainer or musician
  • Undertaking academic research in the UK
  • Taking part in a clinical attachment as a doctor or dentist
  • Taking part in the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test
  • Sitting the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
  • Looking to get funding to start a business in the UK

If Your Visa is Refused

If your visitor visa application is refused then you will need to start again with a fresh application. Individuals are not allowed to appeal decisions made on visitor visas.

We can help you make your fresh application, looking at why your first visa was refused.

Transit Visas

A transit visitor is anyone who wants to travel via the UK on their way to another destination outside the common travel area. If you’re seeking to transit in the UK without passing through the UK border, you may need a Direct Airside Transit Visa.

Visa Nationals

Anyone who lands in the UK just to change flights won’t go through UK border control. If you are a visa national in this situation, then you have two options. The first is obtaining a transit visit visa. The second is seeking ‘leave to enter’ at the UK border under the transit without visa scheme.

General Requirements

To be able to travel using a UK transit visa you must meet certain minimum requirements. You need to:

  • Be in transit to another country with enough funds and the intention to travel on
  • Be able to prove you can enter that country
  • Be able to show that the only purpose of your visit to the UK is transit
  • Provide evidence that supports your application

You need to be able to satisfy the decision maker that you:

  • Are genuinely in transit to another country outside the common travel area. This means that the main purpose of your visit is to pass through the UK via the most reasonable route
  • Will not access public funds or medical treatment, work or study while you’re here
  • Genuinely intend and are able to leave the UK within 48 hours of arrival
  • Are assured entry to your country of destination and any other countries you are passing through on your way

Long-Term Visit Visa

You can also apply for a long-term visit visa if you can prove you need to pass through the UK regularly over a longer period. Long-term visit visas allow you to stay for a maximum of 48 hours on each visit. They can last for one, two, five or ten years.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for a long-term visit visa you need to meet certain minimum requirements. You must be able to prove that:

  • You have a frequent and ongoing need to pass through the UK in transit
  • Your reason for passing through the UK is unlikely to change significantly while the transit visa is valid
  • You plan to leave the UK at the expiration of your transit visa

Providing the Right Evidence

Like all valid visa applications you need to provide the right evidence to support the statements you make. Documents that you will need to provide in support of your long-term visit visa application are: 

  • Current passport
  • Evidence that you are assured entry into the country you are travelling onto, such as a residence permit, green card or visa
  • Evidence that your onward journey from the UK has been booked and confirmed

If you are not a national or resident in the country you’re heading to, you may need to provide evidence of your reason for going there, such as a holiday booking confirmation.

A 30-minute consultation with one of our immigration solicitors can be held in our offices or over the phone or Skype. We do not offer free advice and will charge a non-refundable £95 fee per consultation.

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