On the 24th April 2015 the House of Commons adopted changes to the Immigration Rules affecting Visitor Visas for the UK.
The changes seek to clarify the policy regarding visitors and to increase flexibility in the system, specifically with regard to the activities visitors can undertake in the UK.
As part of these changes there has been an amendment made to the number of visas in the visitor route, reduced from 15 to 4.
The 4 new routes are:
- Visitor (standard)
This consolidates the following existing routes:
- Visitors for Private Medical Treatment
- Visitors under the Approved Destination Status (Ads) Agreement with China
- Prospective Entrepreneur
- Visitors Undertaking Clinical Attachments
- The Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) Test
- The Objective Structured Clinical Examination Board (PLAB) Test
- The Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
The visitor (standard) route, retains specific visit visa categories for those entering to carry out research as an academic.
- Visitor for marriage or civil partnerships
- Visitor for permitted paid engagement
- Transit visitor
The Student Visitor route has been rebranded as the ‘Short Term Study Visa (STSV)’.
Visit Visa (standard) holders can come to the UK for up to six months.
There are exceptions for medical treatment and visitors under the Approved Destination Status Agreement (ADS Agreement) – please refer to the Immigration Rules Appendix V for further information.
The Visit (standard) visa would be suitable for an applicant to attend an interview for a course at Warwick, or for a graduand to attend Graduation Ceremony.
Graduand may also attend the Graduation Ceremony using their valid Tier 4 visa- check further guidance here.
It is also suitable for anyone coming to the UK to visit you for a holiday, to attend your graduation ceremony or to stay with you for a short period of time.
Visit (standard) visas cannot be extended and you are not entitled to work during their stay.
Visitors must be able to show that they will return home by the end of their visit as specified on their visa application form.
It is possible for a Visit (standard) visa holder to study for a short period, perhaps on a distance learning course.
There are a number of limitation on this, see below for further information.
Please note you can NOT extend or apply to transfer to a Tier 4 Visa within the UK from a Visitor (standard) Visa or any previous visitor visas.
Nationals of countries on the ‘visa national list’ - see the Home Office website for this list, must apply for a Visit (standard) visa from a British Embassy, High Commission, British Consulate or Visa Application Centre before travelling to the UK.
The application form used will vary depending on the purpose of the visit.
Information about where to apply in each country can also be found from the Home Office website.
It is possible to apply for a Visit (standard) visa from any country, not just your home country.
If your country is not on the visa national list and you are a non-visa national:
- You can apply for a Visit (standard) visa before travelling as above
- If you are seeking to visit the UK for more than 6 months, you must apply before travelling in all circumstances.
- You can make a Visit (standard) visa application on arrival at a UK port if:
- You are travelling to the UK to marry or to form a civil partnership,
- To give notice of this
- You will need to show evidence that you can support yourself financially for the duration of your time here.
To avoid any problems on arrival to the UK, we would recommend applying for a Visit (standard) visa before leaving for the UK as this is the safest option.
Applying for Entry Clearance on arrival at a UK Port
If applying on arrival, how much supporting evidence you need to provide will depend on the questions you are asked and the answers that you provide.
You should be prepared to show the following documents to the Border Force Officer:
- Evidence of sufficient funds to cover the cost of their stay (e.g. bank statements)
- A document confirming the purpose of their visit, e.g. an invitation letter from the person who has invited them - see below for a sample letter
- The data page from the passport of the person who has invited them to the UK, if applicable, together with evidence of their immigration status in the UK, if applicable
- Evidence of any accommodation booked
- Evidence that the visitor will leave the UK at the end of the visit, for example a letter from their employer and details of their return travel arrangements
Applying for Entry Clearance
Different Embassies/Visa Centres have varying application procedures and processing times.
Although the majority of complete, valid applications are usually processed within 15 days, we recommend allowing longer for an application to be processed, as Embassies/Visa Centres get especially busy in the summer months.
You can also check historical visa processing time online.
Although there are standard documents that any applicant requires, individual posts might also ask for slightly different things.
We recommend an applicant makes contact with the Embassy to check their procedures and requirements first.
The standard documents required for a Visit (standard) visa application are:
Complete the correct online application form
Where the online application process is not available, the applicant must follow the instructions provided by the local visa post or application centre on how to make an application
Pay the correct application fee
Provide your biometrics if required
Provide a valid travel document
A recent passport-sized colour photograph.
Evidence that the visitor has access to sufficient funds to cover the costs of accommodation and living expenses for the visit.
For example: bank statements or payslips from the last three months, or evidence of support from a sponsor or family member.
- Evidence that the visitor will leave the UK at the end of the visit
- For example a letter from their employer and details of their return travel arrangements).
- A letter from the person they are visiting explaining their relationship with them and the purpose of their visit - see a sample letter below.
- A copy of the passport data page (the page containing their photograph) of the person they are visiting and if applicable, evidence of their immigration status in the United Kingdom.
It is also advisable to show:
- Evidence of accommodation arranged, such as a contract or hotel booking.
Sample Invitation Letter
The Student Reception in Senate House can provide a status letter to show that you are a genuine student here, but as you are the person your friends or relatives are coming to see, you should also write an invitation letter to them for the entry clearance or immigration officer to read.
Here is a template for you to adapt:
Length of visa
Visitors can usually enter and leave the UK any number of times while the visa is still valid (if a multi-entry visa).
They can only stay for up to six months on each visit or the date of leaving that they provided on the application form or on arrival, which ever is soonest.
Visit visas issued overseas, see below to find out if this applies to your situation, can be valid for six months or up to ten years.
Overseas, someone can apply for a visa valid for any period though the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) may occasionally limit a visa so that it is valid for only one or two entries.
Biometric data collection
All applicants are required to supply fingerscans and a digital photograph when applying for a UK visa.
Applicants should enquire at their nearest Embassy for details.
Those coming to the UK for less than six months are not entitled to use the National Health Service (NHS).
Therefore, visitors should purchase adequate travel insurance before travelling which includes cover for any medical costs for the duration of the visit.
In most cases, eligible dependants, spouse and children under the age of 18 will need separate visit visas.
Any dependants who are under 16 years old and included on the visitor’s passport can be included on their application form but those older will need to complete separate forms.
They should each use the documents listed above.
Can I study on a Visitor (Standard) Visa?
When coming to study on a distance learning course, the most suitable type of visa is normally a Short-term Student Visa.
Visitors on a Visit Visa (Standard) may carry out the following study, as long as it is Incidental to the main purpose of their visit, for example, where the visitor is coming to the UK for a holiday or work and also undertaking a couple of days of study:
- Educational exchanges or visits with a UK state or independent school; or
- A total of up to 30 days on:
- Recreational courses (not English language training);
- A short-course (which includes English Language training) at an accredited institution.
Can I study on a General or Business Visitor visa?
If you already hold a General or Business Visitor Visa, which has now been replaced by the Visitor Visa (Standard), you maybe able to study on these visas - please see below:
When coming to study on a distance learning programme, the most suitable type of visa is normally a Short-term Student Visa.
Following lobbying by the University of Warwick and others of the Home Office the Immigration Rules changed on 1 October 2013, studying is now also permitted on a General or a Business Visitor visa and a Visitor visa (standard) provided that:
You obtained you leave prior to 6th September 2012 or had your General or Business Visitor visa application decided on or after the 1st October 2013;
You will be studying for no more than 30 days.
This can either be alone or taken together with any other course and whether continuous or otherwise during any single visit to the UK;
General visits to the UK (as opposed to study visits) must continue to be the primary reason for holding the general visit visa and business visit to the UK must continue to be the primary reason for holding a business visitor visa.
I have finished my course and my Tier 4 visa has expired.
I wish to return to the UK for general visit.
I previously held a 5-year Standard Visitor Visa which has not expired.
Is it still valid?
A person cannot hold two types of immigration permission at the same time.
When your Tier 4 visa was granted, the 5-year visitor visa should have been cancelled with a line crossing out with “Recommend cancel without prejudice” written diagonally across the redundant visa (in red ink).
More information can be found on the GOV website.
However, sometimes the visa officials do forget to cancel that visa when granting your Tier 4 visa.
In this case, your 5-year visitor visa would remain valid and there is no prohibition for you to travel using this visa.
As with any other visitors, when you arrive in the UK, the border force official has the discretion to question your intention of coming to the UK and you are advised to bring sufficient evidence in your hand luggage such as an invitation letter to attend Graduation, conference invitation, invitation to an interview, flight booked to leave the UK etc., if you are questioned.
If you would like, you can also re-apply for a long-term visitor visa if you have grounds to do so.