How to apply for Visit Visas

Your rights, prohibitions and obligations once in the country

This guide illustrates how you can apply to enter the United Kingdom as a visitor and describes your rights, prohibitions and obligations once in the country.

If you plan to travel to the United Kingdom for a short length of time, you will need to apply before departure for a Visit Visa at a British visa application centre in the country where you live.

Probably the most popular visit visas are general, family and business visas. However, there is a whole array of visit visas you might fit into. This guide will allow you to choose the one that best fits your circumstances.
The majority of visit visa applications are decided upon within 4 weeks from the date of application, thus do submit your application in due time to allow for a timely response.

Once granted a visit visa, you will be allowed to stay for up to 6 months (in most cases). However, you might be granted a shorter time. The exact length of your permission to enter will be stamped in your passport.

If you frequently visit the United Kingdom, you can apply for a multiple-entry visitor visa that is valid for 2, 5 or 10 years.

You are entitled to request an extension of your visa if you want to stay longer in the UK, but, if approved, this will in any case be only for up to the maximum total time provided for a visit visa.

Requirements to successfully apply for a visit visa

To come to the UK as a visitor, you must be able to show that:
– you want to visit the UK for no more than 6 months; and
–  you can support and pay for accommodation for yourself and any dependants in the UK, without help from public funds; or
– ensure that you and your dependants will be supported and accommodated by relatives or friends, and will not take employment; and
– you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit; and
– you can meet the cost of the return or onward journey

Supporting documents

Applying for a visit visa may seem relatively straightforward, but the statistics on the number of visa refusals show otherwise. Please pay extra attention to the documents you attach to support your application.

To support your application, you will need to produce the following documents:
1. a letter from you addressed to the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) detailing why you wish to visit the UK, for how long and the reasons for the visit, including why you will not remain longer than the visit visa duration if granted a visa to the UK;
2. evidence of occupation:
a. if you are employed, a letter from your employer granting leave of absence from your job for a specified period – the letter should also say how long you have been employed by that employer, in what job(s), and when you are expected back at work;
b. if you are self-employed, evidence of your business activities and financial standing;
c. if you are a student, a letter from your school or college stating the course you are on, its start and finish dates, and the dates of the holiday period when you intend to visit the United Kingdom;
3. evidence of your total monthly income from all sources of employment or occupation after tax;
4. evidence of any income from other sources e.g. friends, family, savings, property etc…;
5. bank statements going back over a period of several months;
6. evidence of any family or social ties and responsibilities to return to (a table showing all relatives in your home country, including the names, their relationship to you and their address)
7. evidence of your travel plans, such as: a planned itinerary, details of any hotel/flight bookings, if attending a wedding or event, an invitation card or ticket.
If your trip is being funded by a sponsor, you will need to provide:
8. an invitation letter from your Sponsor stating that he/she will undertake the cost of your flight, maintenance and accommodation during your stay in the UK
9. your Sponsor’s most recent 3-6 month bank statements
10. your Sponsor’s most recent 3-6 month wage slips/Accountant’s report
11. a copy of your sponsor’s employment contract
12. Evidence of your sponsor’s accommodation where you intend to stay: his most recent mortgage statement and photographs of the property

Business visitors

A business visitor is someone who works abroad, but who intends to visit the UK for short periods of time in order to do business on their own or their employer’s behalf.

If you plan to travel to the UK for business reasons, the maximum permitted stay you can apply is up to 6 months; up to 12 months if you are an academic visitor.

To stay longer, you will need to apply for a work visa.

Multiple entry visas are available for business visitors for 6 months, and 1, 2, 5 and 10 years.

Examples of business visitors

Examples of business visitors are: board-level directors; advisers, consultants, trainers or trouble shooters; academic visitors; doctors or dentists coming for observation; visiting professors; film crews on location shoots; representatives of overseas media gathering information for their publication; secondees from overseas companies; religious workers undertaking preaching or pastoral work; interpreters and translators; lorry drivers and coach drivers; tour group couriers; persons undertaking specific, one-off training in techniques and work practices used in the UK.

Requirements to successfully apply for a business visitor visa

As well as the normal requirements for visit visas (Requirements to successfully apply for a visit visa), to come to the UK under this category, you must show that:
– you are based abroad and have no intention of transferring your base to the UK, even temporarily;
– you do not intend to charge members of the public for services provided or goods received;
– you receive your salary from abroad, although you are allowed to receive reasonable expenses to cover your cost of travel and subsistence.

You must also show that you plan to do one or more of the following activities, which include:
– attending single meetings, interviews, briefings, seminars or conferences;
– arranging deals or negotiating or signing trade agreements or contracts;
– undertaking fact finding missions or conducting site visits;
– shooting films on locations;
– delivering goods and passengers from abroad;
– interpreting or translating for visiting business persons;
– installing, dismantling, servicing, repairing or advising and in general implementing parts of a contract between an overseas and UK company.

These activities are permissible only provided:

– they were arranged before coming to the UK;
– they are one-off engagements or jobs and not established commercial events;
– they do not qualify as consultancy work for which entry under the points-based system would be required;
– the visitor is employed by an overseas company or institution and not employed by the UK company;
– the visitor’s base is overseas and they are not filling a normal post or a genuine vacancy in the UK.

Academic Visitors

Academic visitors are allowed to stay in the UK for up to 12 months.
An academic visitor is either:
– A person on leave from an overseas academic institution who wishes to carry out their own private research or exchange information on research techniques;
– Academics (including doctors) taking part in arranged exchanges;
– Eminent senior doctors and dentists, coming to take part in research, teaching or clinical practice.

They should be able to produce evidence that they have been working as an academic in an institution of higher education overseas, or in the field of their academic expertise immediately prior to seeking entry or entry clearance in this category.

Your application as academic visitor is likely to be turned down if you are a:
– recent graduate: you are unlikely to have sufficient expertise
– postgraduate researcher: if you are studying to achieve a UK academic qualification you should apply for a student visa; if you receive a grant to undertake research, you should seek entry under Tier 2.
– lecturer: if you plan to undertake a series of lectures, of commercial nature, you should seek entry under Tier 2; if it is a one-off engagement, apply for a mainstream business visitor visa
– sponsored researchers: you should seek entry under Tier 5 – Government Authorised Exchange

Those who are on sabbatical leave from private research companies are not eligible for leave under the academic visitor provisions.


If you are coming to the UK as a business visitor, your dependants can also come for up to 6 months, provided they apply for entry clearance.Your dependants are a wife, husband, civil partner, same sex partner, unmarried partner and child under the age of 18 years old.

Number of visits

Generally, there is no restriction on the number of visits you may make nor is there any requirement that a specified time must elapse between each visits.

However, Entry Clearance Officers may consider the stated purpose of the visit in the light of the length of time that has elapsed since previous visits. A visitor should not, for example, normally spend more than 6 out of any 12 months in the UK.

Occasionally, a business visitor may be required to stay for a period of weeks or even months (for example, where machinery is being installed or faults being diagnosed and corrected). However, the ECO should be satisfied that a person’s presence in the UK on business for more than 6 out of any 12 months does not mean that they are basing themselves in the UK and taking up a specific post which constitutes employment and would therefore require the individual to seek entry under the points-based system.

Extension of leave as a business visitor

The maximum time that you can spend in the UK at any one time as a business visitor is six months – unless you are an academic visitor. 

If you want to stay longer, you must seek leave to enter for work under the points-based system.

Visa Refusal: right of appeal for business visitors

Business visitor visas do not attract a full right of appeal. If your application is refused, the entry clearance officer or the immigration officer will tell you and you will be given a detailed written refusal notice. This will tell you if and how you can appeal.

By Federica Gaida

*Please note that the above article does not relate to nationals of the European Union.
Disclaimer: The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. Information is offered for general information purposes only, based on the current law when the information was first published.

You should always seek advice from an appropriately qualified solicitor on any specific legal enquiry. For legal advice regarding your case, please contact Greenfields Solicitors for a Consultation with a Solicitor:
Tel. +44 (0)20 8884 1166