Choose a visa
You may need a visa to come to the UK to study, work, visit or join family.
There are different visas depending on:
- where you come from
- why you want to come to the UK
- how long you want to stay for
- your personal circumstances and skills
Before you apply, you must check if you need a visa and what type you need. Depending on your nationality, you might not need a visa.
Your application must be approved before you travel.
If you want to visit the UK
Check which visa you need to visit the UK:
- for a holiday or to see family or friends
- for a business trip or meeting
- to get married
If you have a visitor visa you cannot take a job in the UK. You can do up to 30 days of study, as long as it’s not the main reason for your visit.
If you’re travelling through the UK
You might need a visa if you’re travelling through the UK on your way to another country, for example if you have a layover between flights.
Apply for a visa to travel through the UK.
If you want to study in the UK
Your course length, type and place of study affect which visa to apply for.
A short-term study visa lets you to study for up to 6 months (11 months if you’re over 16 and studying an English language course).
A general student visa is for a longer course. You must be sponsored by a licensed college or university and have a confirmed place. You can do some work on this visa.
A child student visa is for 4 to 17 year olds who want to study at an independent school. If you’re 16 or over, you can do some work on this visa.
If you want to work or invest in the UK
You can work in the UK on a short or long-term basis with a work visa. There are many types of work visa.
The visa you need depends upon:
- your skills and qualifications
- if you have a job offer and sponsorship
- if you want to bring your family with you
- what you’ll be doing – for example sporting, charitable or religious work
You can also invest money in the UK with an Investor visa. You can set up a business with a Start-up visa or an Innovator visa.
If you want to join family in the UK
If you’re a spouse, partner or family member of someone who has British citizenship or settlement in the UK, you can apply for a family visa to join them. They may need to show that they can support you financially.
You may be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after a set amount of time living in the UK.
Family reunion visas for refugees
If you were separated from your partner or child when you were forced to leave your country, you can apply for them to join you in the UK.
To apply you must have been given asylum or 5 years’ humanitarian protection, and not have British citizenship.
Other ways to get permission to live in the UK
You can apply for an Ancestry visa to work in the UK if you have a British grandparent and meet other eligibility criteria.
You may have right of abode to live in the UK.
If you’re a Commonwealth citizen and cannot prove your right to be in the UK, read about the Windrush scheme.
If you had indefinite leave to remain (ILR) and left the UK for more than 2 years you’ll need to apply for a returning resident visa to come back.
There may be another visa that’s right for you based on your circumstances. Check what other visas you’re eligible for.
Prepare your application
If you have dependants who want to come to the UK with you, each person will need to apply and pay separately.
When to apply
The earliest you can apply is usually 3 months before your:
- planned travel date for visit visas
- course start date for study visas
- employment start date for most work visas
Get an estimate of how long it’ll take to process your application.
Settlement applications take up to 6 months and must be approved before you come to the UK. If you’re given permission to settle in the UK, you must travel before your permission ends.
There is a fee for each visa. The fee depends on which visa you apply for.
You can choose to pay more to get a faster decision for some visas.
The fees are the same for each family member who applies to come to the UK with you.
Pay for healthcare
You’ll need to pay the healthcare surcharge as part of your application, if you’re:
- a national of a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA)
- applying for a visa to work, study or join your family
- applying to stay for more than 6 months
- not applying to live permanently in the UK
Applying for someone else
You can apply for a visa for someone else. For example, a relative overseas who does not have access to a computer or your child, if they cannot apply for themselves.
You must get permission from the person you’re applying for, or written permission from their parent or guardian if the applicant is under 18.
Enter the applicant’s details into the form, not your own.
Change or cancel your application
If you want to change something in your application after you’ve sent it contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
You can ask to cancel your application by contacting UKVI. You’ll only get your fee refunded if the application has not been processed yet.
Attend an appointment
When you apply, you’ll be asked to make an appointment at a visa application centre to provide your biometric information (your fingerprints and a photograph).
At the appointment, you’ll need to submit documents that show your eligibility. The document checklist in your application explains what to provide.
Some visa application centres may need to keep your passport and documents while they process your application.
You may have to travel to get to your nearest visa application centre (this could be in another country).
Proving you do not have tuberculosis (TB)
If you’re coming to the UK for more than 6 months you might need to have a TB test.
Check if you’ll need a TB test.
If you do, you must provide a certificate showing you do not have TB with your visa application.
If you applied for someone else
The applicant will need to attend the appointment at the visa application centre to provide their biometric information and documents.
They’ll also need to sign a copy of their application form, to confirm that the information is correct.
Getting a decision on your application
You’ll get a letter with the result of your application. The letter will explain what you need to do next.
If your application is successful
You’ll be given a sticker (called a vignette) that goes in your passport.
- what you’ve been granted (for example, a Standard Visitor visa)
- the dates your visa is valid (start date and end date)
- the conditions you need to meet
Your visa conditions
A condition is a rule that states what you can and cannot do in the UK. For example, it might say:
- ‘No access to public funds’ – you cannot claim benefits
- ‘No work’ – you cannot take paid or unpaid work in the UK
- ‘Restricted work’ – you can only work for your sponsor
You’ll also be told if you need to register your personal details with the UK police.
Getting your vignette
If the visa application centre kept your passport, they’ll post it to you with the vignette inside.
If you kept your passport, you’ll need to take it to the visa application centre to collect your vignette.
If you’re a national of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates and you applied for an electronic visa waiver this permission is sent to you electronically (you do not receive a vignette).
If there’s an error in your vignette
If you notice an error in your vignette, you should contact your visa application centre immediately to correct it before you come to the UK.
If you notice the error after you’ve arrived in the UK, you must report it to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) within 3 months of arriving or you’ll need to make a new application.
Getting a biometric residence permit
If you’re coming to the UK for more than 6 months then you have to collect a biometric residence permit (BRP) after you arrive.
You must do this before the vignette sticker expires or within 10 days of arriving in the UK, whichever is later.
You choose where to collect your BRP from during your application.
When you get your BRP, check the details are correct. If your name is long it may appear ‘cut off’. This is not a mistake – it is because there is limited space on the BRP card. However, if there’s a spelling mistake, you must report it.
You need to report any errors in your BRP within 10 days of collecting it.
If your application is refused
You’ll get a letter explaining why your application was refused.
Your passport will be returned, if it was kept as part of your application.
Your refusal letter explains if you have the right to either an:
- administrative review
- immigration decision appeal