UK Visit Visa guidance

The Home Office has recently updated its guidance for caseworkers on the UK’s visitor route.

The document is intended for internal use by Home Office decision makers when assessing applications for Entry Clearance, permission to enter and permission to stay in the UK on the visitor route.

The changes that have been implemented to the latest version of the guidance are as follows:

  • New information about how visit visa applications are streamed.
  • New information about the offshore worker notification requirements.
  • A reference to decision makers requesting documents that applicants are not advised to submit has been removed.
  • A definition of UK Higher Education Institution has been added to provide further information about visiting lecturers undertaking Permitted Paid Engagements.

Who needs a visa to travel to the UK?

Under UK immigration rules, foreign nationals can visit the UK for temporary periods to carry out certain permitted activities. Depending on your nationality and your individual circumstances, you will either:

  • Have to apply for a Standard Visitor visa before you travel to the UK
  • Be able to visit the UK for up to 6 months without needing a visa.

You can check if you need a visa before you apply.

UK Standard Visitor visa

A Standard Visitor visa allows you to visit the UK for up to 6 months. You must apply for your visa online before travelling to the UK. It costs £100, and the earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel.

You can visit the UK as a Standard Visitor:

You cannot:

  • do paid or unpaid work for a UK company or as a self-employed person
  • claim public funds (benefits)
  • live in the UK for long periods of time through frequent or successive visits
  • marry or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership – you’ll need to apply for a Marriage Visitor visa instead.

Those using the Standard Visitor route for business purposes should take extra care to ensure the activities they are carrying out in the UK are permitted under the rules and do not constitute ‘work’, for which you would need to apply for a work visa instead. We recommend seeking advice from a qualified immigration advisor if you are unsure.

Visa-free travel (ETA)

Foreign visitors who do not need a visa to enter the UK for short stays should be aware of a forthcoming change which will impact future travel to the UK.

The Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) being introduced in 2023 is a digital ‘permission to travel’ scheme which will require visa-exempt nationals to apply for permission online and pay a fee before travelling to the UK.

The ETA scheme is being rolled out in phases, with the first phase set to launch in October 2023. By the end of 2024, the scheme will be a requirement worldwide for visitors who do not need a visa for short stays, including those visiting from Europe.

Help with your UK visa application

If you need help with an existing UK visa application, you are best advised to contact the Home Office directly. They can be contacted here.

If you require support with submitting a new application, Smith Stone Walters can help. To speak to an immigration advisor, please contact us today.

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