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Visas and immigration (UK)

Visas and immigration (UK)
 



This section contains information about immigration categories for non-European nationals. It describes the eligibility requirements for each category, and explains how you can make an application inside or outside the UK.
 


If you are a national of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you should read the European nationals section.
 


If you do not know whether you need a visa to come to the UK, or which immigration category is most suitable for you, our Do you need a visa? questionnaire will help you find the answer.
 


 

Visiting the UK



Information for tourists and others who want to come to the UK for a short stay.

 

Studying in the UK



Find out how you can be a student at one of the UK's academic institutions

 

Working in the UK

 


Full details of all our immigration categories for migrants who want to work or do business here.

 

Partners and families



Find out how dependants of British citizens, people settled here and temporary migrants can join and remain with their family members in the UK.

 

Diplomats, government officials and members of governments



Information for diplomats, government officials and members of governments who want to travel to or through the UK.

 

While you are in the UK



Your rights and responsibilities while you are here, plus information and advice on topics such as travelling abroad and transferring your visa to a new passport.

 

Settling in the UK



When you have been in the UK as a migrant for some time, you might be able to settle here permanently.




 

Visiting the UK
 
 


This section describes the different categories of visitor to the UK, and helps you to choose which category is the most suitable for you. It also explains what you are allowed to do while you are in the UK as a visitor.

If you are coming to the UK as a visitor, you are allowed to stay here for up to 6 months in most cases. If you want to stay here for longer than 6 months, you should read the Visas and immigration section to find out about non-visitor immigration categories.

To be allowed to enter or pass through the UK, you must meet certain requirements. For information about these, and to find out what you can expect when you arrive at our border, you should read the Travel and customs section.

If someone in the UK will be 'sponsoring' you during your visit, they should read the Sponsoring a visitor pages.

Our service standards set out how quickly we aim to decide applications for coming to the UK as a visitor. The standard is that we will decide 90 per cent of applications within 3 weeks, 98 per cent within 6 weeks and 100 per cent within 12 weeks.



 

Tourism and visiting friends

 


If you want to visit the UK as a tourist or to stay with friends in the UK, you should apply to come here as a general visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18).


If you are a Chinese national and you will be coming to the UK as part of a group for a maximum of 30 days, you can apply for a visa as an ADS visitor.





 

Visiting family

 


If you want to visit members of your family in the UK, you can apply to come here as a family visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18).






 

Visiting to do business

 


If you want to do business in the UK, you should apply to come here as a business visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18). This includes academic visitors, and doctors undertaking clinical attachments or the PLAB test.

If you want to come to the UK as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), and you need to spend time here first in order to hold discussions and secure funding, you can apply for a visa as a prospective entrepreneur.






 

Visiting to study

 


If you want to study in the UK for up to 6 months (or up to 11 months if you will be studying an English Language course), and you will not work while you are here, you can come here as a student visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18).

If you intend to study in the UK under Tier 4 of the points-based system, but you have not completed the arrangements for your course of study, you might be able to apply for a visa as a prospective student.

If you have a child aged under 12 who will be studying in the UK under Tier 4 (Child) of the points-based system, you can apply to accompany them as a parent of a child at school.






 

Visiting as a sportsperson

 


There are special arrangements for athletes, coaches, officials and media representatives at the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games to come to the UK, if they have been accredited by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).

The Olympic/Paralympic Games visitors section explains how they can apply for a visa to visit the UK before 30 March 2012 to take part in a specific activity related to the Games. If they want to visit the UK between 30 March and 8 November 2012, the Olympic and Paralympic Games family member visitors section explains how they can come here without needing a visa.

If you want to take part in any other sporting events in the UK, you might be able to come here as a sports visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18). If you do not meet the requirements to be a visitor, you will need to apply under Tier 5 (Temporary workers - Creative and sporting) of the points-based system.








 

Visiting as an entertainer

 


If you want to perform or audition in the UK as an entertainer, you might be able to come here as an entertainer visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18). If you do not meet the requirements to be a visitor, you will need to apply under Tier 5 (Temporary workers - Creative and sporting) of the points-based system.





 

Visiting for other reasons

 


If you want to get married or register a civil partnership in the UK, and you intend to leave the UK soon after the ceremony, you should apply to come here as a visitor for marriage or civil partnership.

If you want to receive private medical treatment in the UK, you should apply to come here as a visitor for private medical treatment.






 

Transiting the UK

 


If you want to come to the UK for up to 48 hours on your way to another country, you can come here as a visitor in transit.







 
Studying in the UK
 


This section describes the immigration categories for people from outside Europe who want to study in the UK. It describes the requirements for each category, and explains how you can apply for a visa or permission to remain in the UK as a student.

The category you choose will depend on your age, and on the length and level of the course that you want to study.

Our quick guide describes the different categories, and can help you to choose the correct category for you.

If you think you know which category is suitable for you, select it from the list below for more information about the requirements and how to apply.

The British council has produced 2 brochures 'creating confidence - make sure that your time in the UK is safe and enjoyable'(861KB, opens in a new window) and 'Safety first - making sure your visit to the UK is safe and enjoyable' (2MB, opens in a new window) for people interested in studying in the UK.



 

Tier 4 (General)



For adults who want to come to the UK for their post-16 education.

 

Tier 4 (Child)



For children aged between 4 and 17 years old on a long course of study.

 

Student visitor



For adults who want to study a short course in the UK and will not work while they are here.

 

Child visitor



For children who want to study a short course in the UK and will not work while they are here.

 

Prospective student



For people who need to finalise their arrangements for their Tier 4 course of study in the UK.

 

Students under the old Immigration Rules



Information for students who are currently in the UK under the Rules that were in place before 31 March 2009.
 




 
Working in the UK
 


This section describes the immigration categories for non-European migrants who want to work in the UK. Each category has different requirements, so you should read the requirements for your chosen category before you apply for a visa.

If you are a UK employer and you want to employ migrant workers, the Business and sponsors section contains more information.

Most of our work-based categories are part of the UK's points-based system for immigration.
If you want to visit the UK for a short time as a businessperson, sportsperson or entertainer, you may be able to come here as a visitor. The Visiting the UK section contains more information.

If you are a national of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, the European nationals section explains your right to live and work in the UK.



 

High-value migrants



Investors, entrepreneurs, exceptionally talented people and recent graduates from UK universities can apply to enter or stay in the UK without needing a job offer - but you will need to pass a points-based assessment.

 

Skilled workers



If you have been offered a skilled job in the UK and your prospective employer is willing to sponsor you, you can apply to come or remain here to do that job.

 

 

Temporary workers



If an employer in the UK is willing to sponsor you, or if you are a national of a country that participates in the youth mobility scheme, you may be eligibleto come and work in the UK for a short period.

 

Other categories



You can also apply to work in the UK as a domestic worker; as the sole representative of an overseas firm; or as a representative of an overseas newspaper, news agency or broadcasting organisation.

 

For workers and businesspersons from Turkey



Turkish citizens can benefit from a European agreement with Turkey if they want to establish themselves in business in the UK, or if they are already working here legally.

 

For Commonwealth citizens with UK ancestry



If you are a Commonwealth citizen and at least one of your grandparents was born in the UK, you can apply to come here to work.





Partners and families
 


This section explains how non-European nationals can come to or remain in the UK as the partners, children and elderly dependent relatives of people who are already in the UK or are coming here in a different category.


It also explains:



  • how you can get married or register a civil partnership in the UK;
  • the help and advice you can get if you think you are at risk of forced marriage;
  • what you can do if you are experiencing domestic violence; and
  • what to do if your relationship with your partner permanently breaks down.


The information in this section is not for nationals of countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. EEA nationals have free movement rights in the EEA, including the UK, but their family members who are not EEA nationals may need to apply for an EEA family permit before coming to the UK. The European nationals section contains more information.



 

Family members of British citizens and settled persons



Find out how you can come to the UK with a view to settling here if you are the partner, child or elderly dependent relative of a British citizen or someone who is settled or settling here.

 

Family members of migrant workers and students



Information for the partners and dependent children of migrants who have temporary (limited) permission to stay in the UK.

 

Reuniting asylum seekers with their families



The UK Border Agency's family reunion programme.

 

Marriage and civil partnership



How to get married or registering a civil partnership in the UK, whether you are coming for a short visit or planning to stay here.

 

Forced marriage



Support and advice for people who have been or are at risk of being forced into marriage.

 

Domestic violence



Support and advice for people who have come to the UK and are experiencing domestic violence from a partner or other family member.

 

If your relationship ends



What to do if you are a British citizen or settled person and you end your relationship with someone who currently has permission to enter or remain in the UK as your partner.





 
Diplomats, government officials and members of governments


This page is for diplomats, officials and members of governments. It explains how you can travel to or through the UK, and which application form you need to complete.

If you are travelling to or through the UK for private reasons (for example, as a tourist or to study), you should apply for a visa in the normal way. You can find details of the different categories and ways to come to the UK in the 'Visas and immigration' section. The application forms are in the applying section of each category.


You should complete the appropriate diplomatic application form if you are:



  • a diplomat coming to the UK on a posting;
  • a dependant of a diplomat who is coming to the UK on a posting;
  • a diplomat travelling to the UK on official business;
  • a diplomat who is in transit through the UK to take up a diplomatic posting in another country;
  • a member of a foreign government coming to the UK on official government business; or
  • a member of a foreign government passing through the UK to another country on official business.



You can find the forms on the right of this page.
 


VAfDIP1 - This form is for diplomats posted to the UK
 


VAFDIP1DEP -This form is for dependants of diplomats posted to the UK.
 


VAFDIP2 - This form is for diplomats travelling to the UK on official business and for members of foreign governments travelling to the UK on government business.



VAFDIP3 - This form is for diplomats who are 'in transit' through the UK to take up a diplomatic posting in another country or for members of foreign governments who are 'in transit' through the UK to another country on official business.
 



As part of your application, you will need to enrol your fingerprints and facial image (known as 'biometric information') at a visa application centre.
 


Select your country in our country finder to find out:
 


  • how to apply in your country
  • the location of our visa application centres
  • how long we generally take to process visa applications
  • how your documents will be returned to you


If your application is successful, you can find information about what will happen at the border (including customs requirements) in the Customs and travel information section.
 



 
While you are in the UK
 



This section provides information and advice on a range of topics to migrants who have come to the UK, whether they are here for a few months or settling here permanently.
 


Please select any of the following topics for more information.
 


 

Rights and responsibilities



Find out what your rights and responsibilities are during your stay.

Extending your stay



What to do if your permission to stay has expired or will expire soon.

 

Biometric residence permits



Find out whether you need a biometric residence permit, and how you can use it.

 

Expired passport



What to do if your passport containing your visa has expired.

 

Travelling abroad



How to travel abroad while you have permission to stay in the UK.

 

Marriage and civil partnership



How to get married or register a civil partnership during your stay.

 

Marriage or relationship break-up



What to do if your marriage or relationship with your partner ends.

 

Bereaved partners



What to do if your husband, wife or other partner has died.

 

Domestic violence



How to stay in the UK if you are a victim of domestic violence.




 
Settling in the UK
 



This section explains how you can apply to settle permanently in the UK if you are a migrant from outside Europe. It also tells you whether you can return to the UK if you have gone to live abroad after being granted settlement here.
 



Biometric residence permits are being introduced for more immigration categories

 

From Wednesday 29 February 2012, all applicants in the UK will need to obtain a biometric residence permit if they are applying to stay here for more than 6 months. To obtain a permit, they will need to enrol their biometric information (fingerprints and facial image). Please ensure you use the new version of the application form.



After you have lived legally in the UK for a certain length of time, you may be able to apply for permission to settle here. This is known as 'indefinite leave to remain'.


If you are applying to enter the UK as the partner or child of a British citizen or a person who is settled here, we may be able to give you immediate permission to settle here permanently. For more information, see the Partners and families section.
 

If you are currently in the UK, your right to apply for settlement will depend on your current immigration category. You should read the web pages for your category (in Working in the UK, Partners and families or Asylum) to find out whether and when you can currently apply for settlement.


If you are considering applying for settlement in the future, please note that the Immigration Rules are subject to change. You must meet all the requirements of the Immigration Rules at the time when you make your application.
 


Most applicants for settlement must show that they have a knowledge of language and life in the UK.

 
 

Applying for settlement from inside the UK

 



There are two ways of applying for settlement: by post or through a public enquiry office. If you apply by post using application form SET(M), you can also use the settlement checking service to submit your application. This is a service offered by local authorities in partnership with us.
 


The How to apply for settlement section contains information about sending your application and which application form to use. You must be in the UK when you apply using one of these application forms.
 


Please do not send us your application more than 28 days before you become eligible to apply. If you do, we may refuse your application with no refund of the application fee (if a fee is charged for your application type). However, you must make your application before your current permission to stay in the UK expires.
 


If you are already in the UK but you have not been here long enough to apply for settlement, you can apply to extend your temporary permission to stay.
 



 

Returning to the UK if you are settled but have been living abroad

 



If you were given permission to settle here but you then decided to live abroad for some time, you may be able to return to the UK as a settled person. The Returning residents page contains more information.
 


 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

  • What is my immigration status while my application is being decided?Close If you make an application before your authorised stay ends, your existing immigration status will continue until your application is decided, even if the decision is not made until after the end of your permitted stay. If your existing visa or other permission to stay here allows you to work, you can continue to do so until your case is decided.




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