Visiting the UK

If you're a general visitor to the UK you may need to know about topics such as documentation, entry entitlement, permission refusal and visitors' extensions. These topics may be extremely important during your visit.

A general visitor is entitled to stay within the United Kingdom for up to six months, or 12 months in the instance of accompanying an academic visitor.

General visitor requirements

This section covers the requirements that must be met if a person wishes to enter the United Kingdom as a general visitor.

For those who are nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA) or a member of their family, separate European citizen rules apply.

Any entrances must be able to prove that, during their visit, they do not plan to:

  • gain employment
  • produce goods or provide services (including the sale of any goods or services director to members of the public)
  • administer any activities of that of a business visitor, entertainer visitor or sports visitor
  • receive any private medical treatment
  • begin a course of study
  • marry, form civil partnership, or give notice of marriage / civil partnership

Additionally to enter the United Kingdom as a general visitor, proof must be provided for the following areas:

  • age; 18 years or over
  • visiting timescale intentions; within the authorised six months, or 12 months in the instance of accompanying an academic visitor
  • intentions to vacate the United Kingdom upon the end of the agreed timescale
  • that entrances have the finances to support and accommodate themselves without employment or assistance from public funds, or that entrances and any dependants will be accommodated and / or supported by relatives or friends where applicable
  • that entrances are financially able to cover costs of a return or onward journey; and
  • that entrances are not in transit to a country external to the common travel area

Appeals upon United Kingdom permission refusals

Upon the refusal of entry all applications are dealt with by the entry clearance officer and immigration officer. A detailed letter of refusal notice will be officially issued, while the entry clearance officer or immigration officer will provide information regarding entitlement of appeal.

When travelling without prior entry clearance, and having been refused border entry from an immigration officer granting permissions to enter the United Kingdom, an application for entry clearance can be sought from the country of residence prior to the attempt of United Kingdom re-entry.

Required documents for UK visitors

This section covers any documents that must be provided to be granted permission to enter the United Kingdom as a general visitor.

Documents required are:

  • in the event of employment; a letter written from the employer granting a leave of absence from the role for a specified period – detailing length of employment, job(s) description and the date of expected return to employment
  • for those who are self-employed, any evidence of business activities and financial standing
  • proof of property ownership within home country
  • in the instance that the visitor is a student; a letter from the school or college detailing the course, commence and end dates, additionally to the dates of the specified holiday period with the intended visit to the United Kingdom
  • any evidence of family or social ties, along with any returning responsibilities
  • proof regarding any set travel plans that have been made
  • bank statements dating back over a period of several months
  • any evidence of available savings

Prior to any travel, visas need to be checked, while in the event that a visitor frequently travels to the United Kingdom a multiple-entry visitor visa can be applied for which is valid in three available time periods:

  • two years
  • five years; or
  • ten years

Extending your stay as a general visitor

In the instance that a visitor enters the UK as a general visitor, a maximum stay of six months is authorised as standard, or 12 months when accompanying an academic visitor. Upon entering the UK, the permission length will be stamped on the entrances passport.

In the instance that permission to enter UK is granted for three months, and an extension is requested for a maximum of six (or 12) months total, an extension application will be required using the application form FLR(O).

Any visitors that were classed as child visitors and granted permission to enter the UK for three months; upon turning 18 can apply to extend their stay as a general visitor. The maximum amount of time of authorised stay within the UK will still be six months (or 12 months if you are accompanying an academic visitor).

In the instance that we allow a visitor to extend their stay, they must continue to meet requirements detailed on the previous section.

However all visitors, extended or not, are expected to return home when their permissions expire. It is not uncommon in some circumstances, to be able to transfer to another immigration category to extend a visit further.

Child visitors to the UK

It is specified within the immigration general visitor sections that a child visitor must be under the age of 18, and is entitled to visit the United Kingdom for up to six months, or 12 months with entry clearance and accompanying an academic visitor.

The section explains how an overseas national can enter the UK as a child visitor.

During a visitors stay it must be made clear that the visitor does not intend to:

  • gain employment
  • produce goods or provide services (including the sale of any goods or services director to members of the public)
  • receive any private medical treatment
  • marry, form civil partnership, or give notice of marriage / civil partnership

To enter the UK within this immigration category, proof must be provided within the following areas:

  • age; that the entrant is under 18
  • visitation time scale within the UK for up to six months, or 12 months if accompanying an academic visitor both with entry clearance
  • proof to show an intent of return from the UK to an external country at the end of the agreed visit
  • proof of finances required to support and accommodate without employment or support through public funds, or that any dependants will be supported and accommodated by friends or relatives
  • the suitable arrangement of travel to the reception and care within the UK; in the event of a foster carer or relative (not a parent or guardian) is be responsible for the child’s care, the arrangements must then meet standards detailed within UK Visas and Immigration's guidance
  • proof of parent or guardians within the for mentioned home country, who is responsible for care of the minor, additionally to providing contact details in the form of address, landline telephone number, and consent confirmation regarding the detailed arrangements of travel to, reception and care within the UK
  • proof of required finances, showing return travel costs can be met upon permission expiry
  • proof showing that the visitor is not in transit to a country outside the common travel area

In the instance that a child visitor has been accepted on a course of study, they must be able to prove that your education provider is:

  • inspected by either Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education in Scotland, the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted), Estyn, Northern Ireland's Education and Training Inspectorate or the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).
  • licensed under Tier 4 of the points-based system; or
  • accredited through an accreditation body that’s pre-approved by UK Visas and Immigration; or

in the instance that any visitor wants to enter the United Kingdom entirely on the basis of partaking in an exchange or educational visit, extensive proof must be provided by;

  • a school within the maintained sector; or
  • a non-maintained special school; or
  • an independent fee-paying or non-fee-paying school

on the basis detailed within UK Visas and Immigration guidance.

Additionally child visitors who are visa nationals require a valid entry clearance stating that they are unaccompanied, or in the event that they are accompanied, identifying the adult accordingly. Entry clearance will not be valid in the event of an accompanied adult referred to not being physically present to accompany the child.

Visiting the UK for medical treatment

You should be aware of the following rules if you wish to visit the United Kingdom for private medical treatment.

A visitor seeking private medical treatment in the UK must be able to prove:

  • they meet the required specification for leave to enter as a visitor
  • in the instance of suffering from a communicable disease, that there is no danger to the health of other members of the public
  • that the course of treatment is for a limited period of time
  • that satisfactory arrangements for the consultation or treatment needed have been arranged
  • that finances to cover the cost of treatment, support and accommodation is not an issue, and that not state funding will be required
  • that the visitor plans to leave the United Kingdom at the end of the treatment

Required documentation needed to enter the United Kingdom for private medical treatment

This section covers the documentation required in visiting the United Kingdom as a visitor for private medical treatment. Each one of the following requirements met below strengthens any candidate application made:

  • evidence of savings available to cover treatment costs
  • evidence of any property owned within their home country
  • a letter signed from a general practitioner who is acting as an official consultant for the NHS; or who is on the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council, confirming the arrangements of any satisfactory private medical treatment made, the length of treatment, end date, whether the treatment has already commenced, and how it is progressing
  • an official written letter from the visitors employer granting leave of absence for a specified time period, detailing the length of employment through that particular employer and details regarding the job(s);
  • if the visitor is self-employed they will require evidence of business activities and financial standing
  • in the event that the visitor is a student; a letter from the school or college attended, stating course details, start date, finish date, and dates of the agreed holiday period during which they intend to visit the United Kingdom
  • it can also be considered beneficial to demonstrate any family or social ties and responsibilities to return to
  • evidence of any firm travel plans made
  • bank statements dating over a previous months

Refusal of entry into the UK to receive private medical treatment

In the event that a refusal of application has been made then the Immigration Officer or Entry Clearance Officer will write to the applicant detailing the reason for refusal. There will be no option for appeal in this form of United Kingdom visitor entrance.

In the event that a visitor travels to the United Kingdom without any prearranged entry clearance (permission to enter) and is then refused entry permission, it is recommended that an application for entry clearance is made prior to attempting to travel to the United Kingdom again.

How to sponsor a visitor to the UK

If you are sponsoring a visitor to the UK it is advisable to read the general visitor requirements to check that they meet the relevant criteria. It is also advisable to read the private medical treatment requirements if this is the purpose of the visitor's travel to the UK, in order to ensure their eligibility.

Documentation needed from the sponsor

The required documents are dependent on the circumstances of each specific case. The government may require receipt of the following:

  • evidence of the sponsor’s own immigration status within the United Kingdom
  • an official letter of sponsorship detailing the relationship between the sponsor and visitor applicant, as well as the purpose of visit and accommodation information.

In the event that a sponsor will provide financial support and accommodation for the general visitor and/or pay for travel to the United Kingdom, the following information should be supplied as evidence of financial status and ability to do so:

  • bank or building society statements and payslips for the last six months; or
  • a copy of a savings account book.

In the instance of sponsoring a person for business purposes, the government may require a letter from the sponsor’s employer, outlining the corresponding links between companies, explaining what the visitor plans to do and whether the company is financing the trip.

Arrival in the UK

To secure entry to the United Kingdom the visitor will have to satisfy immigration officials that all the requirements are met for entry.

General Visitor's Documents

In the event that a general visitor is a non-visa national and is not already in receipt of entry clearance it will assist the visitor’s application if they have a return ticket and letter of sponsorship.

Sponsor's Documents

It is advisable that the acting sponsor meets the visitor at the port or station and brings evidence to support the claim. For instance, if it is agreed that the sponsor will be covering the costs of the visit, evidence should be brought detailing financial security to do so.

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