USA and the UK
What is a UK Visa?
UK visas are documents given to applicants that allow you to visit, work or live in the UK within a given period of time. There are many types of visas available, and your reasons for travelling to the United Kingdom dictate what sort of visa you should apply for at any given point. You must ensure that your visa application has been approved before you travel.
Foreign nationals can obtain multiple different visas over the course of their time spent in the UK, to keep up with the changing nature of their personal requirements for staying in the country. The type of visa that you can obtain are dependent on:
- Your nation or territory of origin
- Your reasons for coming to the UK
- How long you plan to stay in the UK
- Your personal circumstances or specific skillset.
- What is a UK Visa?
- What Types of Visas Does the United Kingdom Offer?
- Who Is Exempt from Applying for a UK Visa?
- Standard Visitor Visa
- Study in the UK Visas
- Work in the UK
- Family Visas
- How to Apply for a UK Visa
- What Documents Do I need for UK Visa Application?
- What Do I Do if My Visa Application Was Refused?
- How Can IAS Help?
What Types of Visas Does the United Kingdom Offer?
Examples of the types of UK visas you can apply for as a foreigner are:
If you are a U.S citizen, you do not need to apply for a short-term visitor visa. This means that if you plan to go to the UK for tourism, visiting friends or family, visiting for business purposes or medical purposes, then you will only need a valid U.S passport to travel.
If you plan to be in the UK for longer than six months, then you will need to apply for the visa most relevant to your circumstances and reasons for staying.
Below is a list of countries that don’t usually require a visa to visit the UK on a short-term basis (under six months). If you have dual citizenship with these countries then these will apply to you.
EU, EEA, Swiss and Commonwealth States
Visa-free entry is offered for up to six months for citizens from the EU, EEA, Switzerland, USA, and most Commonwealth states, so long as they present a valid passport at border controls. You can check whether you need a visa for the UK by using this government checker – please note this list is subject to change, and depending on your circumstances you may still need to apply for a visa. If you’re unsure, we can help – contact us today online or call us on +1 844 290 6312.
The Common Travel Area (CTA)
The Common Travel Area is an agreement between the UK, the Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey), the Isle of Man and Ireland. It states that residents of these islands are allowed to travel, work, live and sometimes vote freely in each of these jurisdictions. Access to government benefits and health services are also available.
Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW)
The electronic visa waiver program is available to nationals of certain Middle Eastern countries. You are eligible for an electronic visa waiver if you are from one of the following countries:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates.
The EVW fee is £30 and allows you to visit the UK for up to six months for tourism, studying, business or medical treatment. If you are travelling for different purposes, you may need to apply for a visa instead.
Standard Visitor Visa
This is one of the most common visas that applicants can apply for. With this visa, you can do the following:
- Travel around the UK
- Visit friends and family
- Conduct business meetings or attend interviews
- Study short recreational courses
- Short-term volunteering
- Travel for medical purposes (£200)
- Travel for academic purposes (£200)
- Take part in a short-term school or university exchange programme.
You are not allowed to work on this visa. This Standard Visitor visa costs £100 and must be applied for within 3 months of travelling to the UK. Please note that if you are a U.S citizen, you do not need to apply for this visa as you enjoy exemption.
If you travel in and out of the country regularly, you can opt for a long-term Standard Visitor Visa instead, which allow you to be in the UK for up to 6 months each year.
|6 month short-term Standard Visitor visa||£100|
|2 year long-term Standard Visitor visa||£376|
|5 year long-term Standard Visitor visa||£670|
|10 year long-term Standard Visitor visa||£837|
If you plan to visit the UK to get married, you must apply for a Marriage Visitor visa or register a civil partnership.
If you are travelling to another country but need to stopover in the UK for less than 48 hours, you can apply for a Standard Visitor Transit Visa instead, which costs £64. Again, U.S citizens are exempt from this requirement.
Study in the UK Visas
A student visa allows you to study in higher education institutions for the duration of your course. The institution must sponsor you and provide you with written confirmation of your placement on the course.
Usually, you can work on this visa too.
Child Student visas are available for children ages 4-17 who want to come to the UK to study at an independent school.
The cost of an adult or child student visa is:
- £363 to apply for a student visa from outside of the UK, or
- £490 to extend or switch to a student visa whilst in the UK.
Graduate visa routes are also available in the UK.
The UK offers long and short-term basis work visas to foreign nationals, and there are many different types of work visas available. Work visas allow you to work and live freely in the UK.
Visa holders may be able to apply for permanent residence (indefinite leave to remain) after a period of time working in the UK (typically after 5 years or longer, but some work visas offer the opportunity after 3 years).
The new Points-Based System (PBS)
The points-based system is a new immigration system deployed in 2021 that offers visa flexibility for skilled foreign nationals being recruited by UK companies.
In order to apply to work in the UK, all foreign nationals must achieve 70 points or higher to be considered in criteria including skills levels, salary levels, education level and English language skills.
Work Visas Available for Foreign Nationals
Some visas are temporary work visas, which allow you to work on a short-term basis in the UK. Generally, temporary work visas allow you to work for up to one or two years, so long as you continue to meet the visa eligibility requirements.
Below is a list of the type of work visas you can apply for:
- Overseas Domestic Worker visa
- Skilled Worker visa
- Health and Care Worker visa
- Global Business Mobility visas
- Representative of an Overseas Business visa
- Seasonal Worker visa
- Government Authorized Exchange visa
- Creative Worker visa
- Religious Worker visa
- Charity Worker visa
- International Agreement visa.
If you have family members or a spouse living permanently in the UK, or family members who are British citizens, then you can apply for a family visa to live with them in the UK. This is also a route towards permanent settlement in the UK.
If you want to travel to the UK on a long-term basis to be with family, then you can apply for a family visa.
If you wish to visit family on a short-term basis and your country doesn’t qualify for visa-free entry into the UK, then you can apply for the short-term Family Visitor visa. This visa is also the best option if your family member is in the UK on a visa themselves.
If your family member is from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
If your family member was living in the UK before 31 December 2020, then you can apply for a free family permit, which allows you to live, work and study for up to 6 months in the UK.
How to Apply for a UK Visa
The application process for applying for UK visas depends on which visa you are hoping to get. Most applications can be applied for online, or you can apply in paper form at the UK Consulate or immigration centre in your country of origin.
Each nation has a different relationship to the UK, and therefore there are unique opportunities available to different foreign citizens. If you have dual citizenship, it is recommended that you check out the visa options available to both countries. For example, if you have U.S and Irish dual citizenship, it may be better to make use of your Irish citizenship when travelling to the UK, due to Ireland being part of the Common Travel Area.
Waiting times for visa approvals vary from visa to visa – some take as little as one week, and others can take up to six months or longer, depending on how lengthy the application process is. It is therefore important to make sure you apply within a comfortable time frame before you travel.
Many applicants are eligible for more than one type of visa as their circumstances cover several scenarios. It can be difficult to know which visa is right for you. That’s where IAS can help. Contact us online or call us on +844 290 6312 for expert legal advice today.
What Documents Do I need for UK Visa Application?
In general, you will require the following documentation:
- A completed visa application form
- Two recent passport photos
- A valid passport with at least 3 months available before expiry
- Proof of financial means to be in the UK for the duration of your stay
- Proof of accommodation, such as a hotel receipt or a letter confirming your visit to a friend/relative
- Travel itinerary – including any festivals, tours, meetings or places you plan to visit during your stay
- Confirmation of visa payment.
- Depending on the visa you apply for and where you come from, you may also need to provide:
- Biometric information – especially for visas that allow you to be in the UK for longer than 6 months
- Tuberculosis test results
- UK visa invitation letter from your employer or educational institution
- Translations of relevant documents into English or Welsh.
Please note further documentation may be required depending on the visa that you apply for, and in some circumstances you may be required to attend an interview.
What Do I Do if My Visa Application Was Refused?
Sometimes, applications for visas are refused by the Immigration Office. There are various reasons why – sometimes it is simply down to an error in your application, such as submitting incorrect documentation. However, sometimes there may be a wider issue at hand, especially if you have been detained, have a significant criminal conviction or have ever entered or stayed in the UK illegally.
If your application is refused, you will receive a letter or email explaining the reasons for refusal. It should indicate further steps you can take if you wish to challenge the decision. Usually this will be in the form of:
- An administrative review, or
- Immigration decision appeal.
Finding the right visa for you can be a challenging process, particularly if your personal circumstances are complex. You may be eligible for more than one visa, and are not sure which one is the right visa for you. Perhaps your plans in the UK span several years and will require multiple different types of visas. Perhaps you are from a country that doesn’t require a visa for short-term purposes, but you are not sure whether you should still apply for a longer-term visa for your circumstances.
If you have already applied for a visa and have had your application refused, it can be especially challenging to know what to do next. Reviews and appeals can be expensive, and visa refusals are marked on your immigration record, which could cause issues in the future when applying for other visas, or even if you decided to apply for indefinite leave or citizenship.
This is why IAS exists – we have a team of expert immigration attorneys to support you with your visa applications and refusals, and can advise you on the best action to take so that you can feel confident that you will get the results you want, and can enjoy your time in the UK worry-free. Contact us today online or call us on +1 844 290 6312.
Last modified on August 10th, 2023 at 6:59 am
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The Standard Visitor visa generally takes around 5 weeks to receive. Most other visas may take longer – some can take up to six months or longer. Application process times vary depending on which visa you apply for, and whether you will be required to provide additional documentation or attend an interview during the process.
It is therefore essential to apply with plenty of time between your application date and the date you plan to visit the UK, as you will not be able to enter the country without a valid visa unless you are from a visa-free nation.
Applying for a UK visa with a criminal record negatively impacts your visa application process, however it does not necessarily mean that you will be refused a UK visa. Your chances of having your visa accepted depend on the severity of your conviction and punishment. If you committed a serious crime that involved a long prison sentence, then it will be more difficult to enter the UK.
If you are from the United States and wish to travel to the UK for a period of six months or less, and don’t plan to earn money in the country during that time, than you will not be required to apply for a visa, as the U.S is listed as a visa-free nation for the United Kingdom.
However, if you plan to be in the UK for more than six months or are travelling for work, to study or for family reunion, then you will need to apply for either a long-term Standard Visitor visa, or the relevant visa that aligns with your circumstances.
Please note you will still require a valid passport within 3 months of the expiry date as well as any further documentation listed in the article above.