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About: UK Visitor visas

Visitor Visas are for individuals seeking to visit the UK for a short-term period of up to six months. This can be for a number of reasons including:

  • Visiting family and friends
  • Business meetings
  • Work
  • Medical procedures
  • Short-term study

Not all individuals are required to seek a visitor visa to enter the UK. Those who do not need to seek prior permission before travelling to the UK due to their nationality are known as non-visa nationals. Those from countries requiring prior permission are known as visa nationals and listed under the Immigration Rules. The visitor visa rules apply equally to visa and non-visa nationals.

When wishing to visit the UK as a non-British national, an individual must be able to show that they have a genuine intention to visit. With no specific documentary requirements, the Home Office have a wide discretion when considering whether an individual has a genuine intention to visit.

We at Winckworth Sherwood understand the importance of being able to visit the UK, whether that be to visit family and friends, business or for medical treatment. Offering clear, concise and honest advice from the outset, we aim to make the process as seamless as possible, giving you the best chance of success applying for a visa open to wide discretion.

Drawing on our team’s years of experience and success making successful applications from all over the world, we offer a free 30-minute consultations in order to confirm the requirements and whether you satisfy the rules. We will then advise of your options, the costs and anticipated timescales. Any potential issues will be highlighted from the outset so that you know what the prospects of success are before commencing the process

The requirements for a UK Visitor Visa

In order to obtain a visitor visa, an individual must satisfy the Home Office that they have a genuine intention to visit. This intention is determined with consideration to a number of factors, including the following:

Personal circumstances

When looking at the individual’s personal circumstances, the Home Office will look at a number of factors such as:

  • Their previous immigration history, in the UK and elsewhere;
  • Length of previous visits to the UK;
  • Their financial circumstances;
  • Their personal and economic ties to the country they live in;
  • The reasons for the visit and whether that is consistent with the information provided by the individual.

Travel and immigration history

When considering an individual’s travel and immigration history, the Home Office will consider how often they have travelled outside their country of residence. Previous travel to the UK that has complied with the visitor visa rules can be a positive indicator of a genuine intention to visit. Frequent visits to the UK and the gap between these visits will be a consideration too. This may be of interest to them if they deem that an individual is travelling frequently to the UK and effectively making the UK their main home.

It is important to note that there is no maximum period which an individual can spend in the UK in a given 12 month period; the maximum period is based on single visit and not a cumulative period. This means that as long as a single visit does not exceed the maximum six-month period of a visitor visa, there is no “6 months in 12 month” maximum period.

Maintenance and accommodation

There is no set level of funds required to show a genuine intention to visit and third parties can provide funds in support of the visit. Emphasis is placed upon there being sufficient funds available for an individual to maintain and have accommodation for themselves for the duration of their stay. The level of funds will therefore need to cover the anticipated costs of the visit, such as accommodation, food, visiting landmarks etc.  If third parties are providing funds, evidence of this must be provided.

Specific types of visits:

There are different types of visits cited by the rules on visitor visas. Below are some of the most common ones. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Business activities

Visits for business activities are permitted but are limited. The Home Office will consider whether an individual is seeking to make the UK their main place of work. This is open to interpretation.

The Home Office specifically state that attendances for conferences or seminars are permissible, as long as it does not amount to recreational study. Attending the UK for discussions to secure funding for projects is possible too.

Seeking to start a business or consider setting up a branch in the UK as a Representative of an Overseas Business, the Rules do not specifically bar these activities. The Home Office’s own guidance states that business activities will “normally be linked to the person’s employment overseas and activities for visitors are mostly incidental to their employment”. As setting up a business is usually linked to an individual’s overseas business activities, it is envisaged that this would be permissible.

Other types of business activities are permitted but very much depend on the specific circumstances of the UK engagement.

Medical treatment

Individuals wishing to travel to the UK for medical procedures may do so by seeking a visitor visa first. The maximum length of the visit is 11 months. This medical treatment will not be under the NHS unless exemptions from charges applies in law.

When considering whether to issue a visitor visa for medical treatment, the Home Office will look at the following:

  • The length of the treatment. A letter from a UK based doctor or consultant is required detailing:
      – The medical condition that requires their expertise;
      – The likely costs of the treatment;
      – The likely duration of the treatment;
      – Where the consultation will take place.
  • Proof of funds.

Home Office guidance specifically states that it does not prevent visitors already in the UK from undertaking private medical treatment, as long as this is not the primary reason for visiting the UK and they return to their country as planned prior to the treatment.

Organ Donation

Organ donors must have a genetic or close personal relationship with the intended recipient in the UK. When considering what a “close personal relationship” is, the Home Office guidance refers to spouses, partners or close friends.

For those who are in a paired or pooled donation, where a group of donors and recipients are matched, the Home Office state that these applications will not come under visitor visa rules but will be considered as applications outside the Immigration Rules.

Permitted Paid Engagements (PPE)

Permitted Paid Engagements (‘PPE’) are activities which individuals are permitted to receive payment for in the UK. These are limited and strictly for short engagements, with consideration of whether an individual’s main employment is overseas. Examples of PPE include the following:

  • Visiting lecturers;
  • Qualified lawyers;
  • Arts, entertainment or sporting professionals;
  • An artist, entertainer or musician visiting the UK to perform at one or more of these Permit Free Festivals.

How much does a UK visitor visa cost?

Home Office fees are regularly reviewed and may change by the time an application is submitted. Please note that as the application is made from overseas, the fee will be charged in US dollars, Euros or local currency and is usually more upon conversion. You can apply for single one-off visitor visa or one which provides permission to visit the UK for a maximum of six months at a time for up to 10 years. The current fees [as at January 2022] are as follows:

  • 6-month validity visitor visa – £95
  • 2-year validity visa – £361
  • 5-year validity visa – £655
  • 10-year validity visa – £822

If your application for a UK visitor visa is successful

If successful, an individual who has made an application for a visitor visa will be given a vignette endorsement in their passport. The length of the endorsement will be for 6 months, 2 years, 5 years or 10 years, depending on what was applied for.

A word of caution – when applying for a visitor visa, the online application requires confirmation of travel plans, including dates of the visit to the UK and the return date. It is highly recommended that individuals avoid changing these plans to avoid future visa refusals. It is not uncommon to see visitor visa refusals where the Home Office cite the fact an individual did not stick to the dates they had planned to travel and return as a reason why they they should not be granted a further visitor visa.

If your application for a UK visitor visa is refused

If an application is refused, there is no direct Right of Appeal or Administrative Review.  The options are as follows:

  1. To re-apply. A good option if an application is refused due to a lack of evidence.
  2. To challenge the decision by way of Judicial Review. This is the only viable option in some situations, for example where an application is refused on the basis of alleged deception.

Please contact us for advice on your specific circumstances.

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Senior Associate, London

Tel: +44 (0)20 3735 1970 | Mob: +44 (0)7815 634 083

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