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Visas for the United Kingdom

London business buildings

Applying for a UK visa is a straightforward process that can be completed online for the majority of countries around the world. The UK has visa exemption treaties with over 70 countries, which means that many visitors will not require a visa unless they intend to work within the country or stay for a period exceeding 6 months.

If you are traveling from a country without a visa exemption treaty you will be required to provide some or all of the documentation outlined below with your visa application.

All accompanying documentation must be translated into English or the application will be rejected.

What you need to submit as your application

  • A valid passport
  • 1-2 passport sized photos, UK standard (45mm high by 35mm wide, or 1.771648 X 1.377949 inches)
  • A completed visa application form – available online
  • You will also need to pay a visa processing fee

Many applicants will also be required to supply:

  • Evidence of where you intend to stay
  • Bank statements evidencing your ability to support yourself during your visit

In addition to this documentation you will also need to attend an appointment at a Visa application center. These centers are located at most embassies throughout the world but you may need to travel to another country to attend a visa appointment. You can find a full list of centers and countries here.

You will also need to provide a certificate of TB testing if you are traveling from certain countries. You can find a full list here and can acquire a TB test certificate from most doctors.

Short stay visas

Applicants for short stay visas will need to supply the above documentation. However, the UK has visa exemption treaties with all EU member states and the following non-EU countries, including the US:

Andorra Antigua and Barbuda
Argentina Australia
Bahamas Barbados
Belize Botswana
Brazil Brunei
Canada Chile
Costa Rica Dominica
El Salvador Grenada
Guatemala Honduras
Hong Kong Israel
Japan Kiribati
Macau Malaysia
Maldives Mauritius
Marshall Islands Monaco
Mexico Micronesia
Namibia Nauru
New Zealand Nicaragua
Palau Panama
Papua New Guinea Paraguay
Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa
San Marino Seychelles
Singapore Solomon Islands
South Korea Taiwan
Timor-Leste Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago Tuvalu
Uruguay United States
Vanuatu Vatican City

Citizens traveling from any of these countries do not need a visa but will be required to complete a landing card upon entering the UK.

Working in the UK

If you intend to work in the UK you will need to complete a visa application unless you are made exempt by the EU labour treaty.

Countries that are exempt include:

Austria Belgium Bulgaria
Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark
Estonia Finland France
Germany Greece Hungary
Iceland Ireland Italy
Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania
Luxembourg Malta Netherlands
Norway Poland Portugal
Romania Slovakia Slovenia
Spain Switzerland Sweden

If you are planning on working in the UK and are a member of any of these countries, you will need to provide a current passport upon entry. You may also be required to provide an Immigration Status Document attainable from the UK Home Office that endorses your stay in the country.

Full work permit

For anyone wishing to work in the UK from outside the countries listed above, there are a variety of UK visa options.

The UK offers a vast array of different working visas. These are aimed predominantly at securing talent and investment from overseas. Investment Visas are valid for a period of 3 years and 4 months and require documented proof of investment. Skilled talent and thought leader visas require you to be recognized worldwide as a thought leader or expert in a specialized field.

The most common working visa is the Tier 1 or 2 General Work Visa. These visas are aimed at skilled workers wishing to work permanently within the country. You will need to provide a full visa application document and a Certificate of Sponsorship. The certificate is a reference from your employer containing your job offer, salary and the company’s details. This will be provided by your employer and will need to be completed at least 3 months prior to your arrival in the UK.

You will need to be offered a salary of £20,500 GBP per year or more to qualify for a general work visa.

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Temporary secondment in the UK

If you are from outside of the EU and working temporarily in the UK, you will need a Tier 5 Visa. These visas cover all temporary work placements in the UK including charity, events and temporary secondments.

You will need to provide a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) from your employer and make your application at least 3 months before your date of travel.

Long stay visas

If you intend to stay in the UK without working for a period exceeding 3 months and are not exempt from visa requirements then you will need to apply for a Long Visit Visa.

These require you to include proof that you can pay for your stay in the form of bank statements and/or records of income. If you cannot provide this evidence your application will be rejected.

For study

If you are studying in the UK you will need to provide a Certificate of Sponsorship from the academic institution where you will be conducting your studies in order to receive a Tier 4 Visa. The school, college or university where you will be studying should help you with this as part of your application with them.

For family reasons

If you are intending to remain in the UK for an extended period for family reasons you will need to apply for a Family of a Settled Person Visa.

These are valid for 2 and a half years for anyone who is a direct family member of someone who already has UK citizenship; or has been authorized to settle in the UK.

For staying in the UK without working

To stay within the UK without working you must have lived within the UK for at least 10 years – meaning you have to have been working or utilising other valid visas in order to qualify. If you are aged between 18 and 68 you will need to complete the Life in the UK Citizenship test and prove that you have sufficient English language skills.

These are just some of the different types of visas for the UK, but have a look at gov.uk to see which visa best applies to your situation so that there are no surprised come moving day.