Whether you want to work or study in the UK, you’ll need a UK visa to enter the country. There are multiple visa categories, each with its own requirements and eligibility criteria.
These conditions specify the time duration you’re being allowed to stay in the country and other benefits that you’re entitled to receive once your visa application is approved under a specific category.
Because of the current situation, the UK has enforced numerous restrictions on non-UK visa applicants. There’s a lot of uncertainty, especially for those who live outside the UK and want to apply for the UK visa during the Coronavirus pandemic.
This UK Visa Guide is for the applicants living in the UK, visa applicants who live outside the UK, and the British national overseas, who’s looking to apply for a passport impacted by travel bans linked with the pandemic.
In this UK Visa Guide, you’ll get to know about the different UK Visa categories and the general eligibility criteria along with some of the requirements that are part of each category.
After going through this Visa guide, you would be able to process your application successfully. Also, you would be able to improve your chances of getting your UK visa application approved.
A UK visa is basically the authorizing document that enables foreign nationals to enter the country and stay there (temporarily or forever) for study or work.
If you’re granted a visa, it means that you’re allowed to live in the UK and that you fulfill the prerequisites of the specific visa category that you’ve applied for.
Keep reading this comprehensive UK Visa Guide about UK visas if you’re not sure about how to get started, or you’re looking to get updates on the current visa process after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Table of Content
- 1. Who needs a visa to enter the UK?
- 2. How to apply for a UK visa?
- 3. When you should apply for a UK visa?
- 4. What are the UK visa requirements?
- 5. What are the different types of UK visa?
- 6. What is PBS?
- 7. How to apply for a UK Residence Card?
- 8. How to get an Electronic Visa Waiver to enter the UK?
- 9. How to prepare for your UK visa application?
- 10. How long is the UK visa processing time?
- 11. What are the most common reasons for UK visa refusal?
- 12. Visiting UK with a criminal record
- 13. UK visas and registering with the police
- 14. Ask an immigration lawyer
1. Who needs a visa to enter the UK?
Residents of the EEA, Switzerland, and Commonwealth countries are not needed to apply for a UK visa before entering the country. You may, however, have to apply for the UK visa if you belong to any one of the countries listed on this page.
2. How to apply for a UK visa?
Hundreds of thousands of people visit the UK every year. Some of them are interested in sightseeing while some want to pursue their studies or avail an employment opportunity in the UK.
The UK visa application process depends on the type of visa you’re interested in. We’re going to talk about some of those types in the subsequent sections of this UK Visa Guide. For instance, if you’re looking to apply for the Visit Visa, you can submit your application here.
But, for other visa categories, you’ll have to apply online using the Visa4UK service. All you need to do is to make an account (if you don’t have one). If you already have an account, simply sign in and enter relevant details to get started.
3. When you should apply for a UK visa?
According to Consulate, the earliest you can apply for any UK visa category is 3 months before the actual date of your planned trip.
Here, it is important to understand that the Foreign Office takes up to 3 weeks to process your visa application. Therefore, we suggest you should apply in advance so that the consulate can have enough time to process your visa application.
4. What are the UK visa requirements?
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office takes a final decision on your application. Their decision mainly depends on the authenticity of the required documents for each visa category.
Make sure you collect all documents beforehand and attach them with your visa application before you forward it to the relevant UK authorities.
As a general rule, you should submit the following documents with your UK visa application.
- According to the visa type you’re applying for, you may need to fill in the application form available online. We’ve already mentioned the online application links in the ‘How to apply for a UK visa’ section of this UK Visa Guide
- Two colored photographs that should be taken within the past 6 months
- A valid passport with at least one blank page for the visa
- You should also provide proof of having financial means to cover the costs while staying in the UK. You can either attach your bank statements or payslips as evidence
- You may have to submit a detailed travel itinerary that gives all the information about your travel plan, including travel dates, locations you’ll visit, and meeting/festival agenda
- You will have to submit a document that shows where you’ll be accommodated while in the UK
- If you’re applying for the UK visa for more than 6-months, you may have to provide your biometric information, including your fingerprints and a digital photograph
- Residents of several countries may also have to submit tuberculosis test results with their visa application
- The receipt that validates that you’ve paid UK visa fees
- Translations of any documents that are not in English/Welsh
5. What are the different types of UK visa?
In this UK Visa Guide, we’ll have a quick look at different types of UK visa categories available for the applicants.
5.1 Work and Business Visas
The UK offers a wide range of visa options for highly skilled foreign nationals. Some of those options include:
5.2 UK Work Visa Categories
- Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Visa: This visa category is part of the UK’s PBS. It is for those non-UK nationals who have been acknowledged as a recognized/emerging leader
- Tier 2 (General) Visa: Tier 2 (General) visa category is for the highly skilled workers from outside the EEA and Switzerland, who have a job offer in a shortage area
- Tier 2 (Sportsperson) Visa: This visa category is for those foreign sportspeople who wish to move to the UK on the basis of sponsorship
- Tier 2 (Intra-company) Visa: This visa category is for those skilled workers who work in a multinational company operating in a foreign country and looking to get transferred to the UK branch
- Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) Visa: This visa category is for those skilled workers who want to come to the UK for a full-time job in a religious organization
- Tier 5 (Temporary Worker)Visa: This visa category is for non-EEA and non-Swiss nationals who want to move to the UK temporarily for work
- Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) Visa: This visa category is ideal for citizens of Canada, Australia, Monaco, Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, and Taiwan. A holder of the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme can enroll in studies or get almost any job
5.3 UK Business Visa Categories
- Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa: The Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa is issued to that foreign businessperson who wants to invest at least £50,000-£200,000 in the UK. They can either start a new business or work in collaboration with any other existing business
- Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa: The Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa is granted for 1-year to nationals of overseas countries who’re graduate and have an innovative business idea
- Tier 1 Investor Visa: This visa category is for those foreign investors who’re willing to invest at least £2,000,000 in the UK
5.4 Visitor Visas
The UK is one of the most popular tourist destinations. Many people want to visit the country just for sightseeing purposes or a short-stay visit. UK visit visas are granted for less than 6-months, and you can’t apply for a job during this period.
5.5 Study Visas
Those who want to study in the UK can apply for short term study visas.
5.6 Family Visas
The UK Family visa category is for people who have family members living or working in the UK. This visa is granted for more than 6-months. UK Spouse visa, UK Parent visa, and UK Child visa are some of the popular Family visa categories.
While other visa types are also part of this list, we’ve highlighted only the most popular ones in this UK Visa Guide
6. What is PBS?
PBS is the major immigration route for non-EEA foreign nationals who want to come to the UK to study, invest, or work.
7. How to apply for a UK Residence Card?
You don’t have to apply for a UK Residence Card if you’re a family member of an EEA or Swiss national. A UK Residence Card generally lasts up to five years and costs £65 for each person.
8. How to get an Electronic Visa Waiver to enter the UK?
You’re eligible to apply for an EVW if you’re a national of Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, or UAE. An Electric Visa Waiver will cost you £30 and let you visit the UK for up to 6-months.
9. How to prepare for your UK visa application?
There are many steps when applying for a UK visa. Gathering all of the required documents before time will help everything go smoothly and effectively.
There are different requirements for each visa category. However, the basic documentation needs are more or less the same as what we’ve discussed in the ‘What are the UK visa requirements’ section of this UK Visa Guide.
10. How long is the UK visa processing time?
As mentioned in the previous sections of this visa guide, your application for a Standard Visitor visa should be made no earlier than 3-months before you plan your visit. The FCO does not take more than 3-weeks to process your visa application. So, make sure you submit your application accordingly.
11. What are the most common reasons for UK visa refusal?
Most common reasons for UK visa refusal include:
- False documentation
- Applying for the wrong visa type
- Failing to show an employment qualification
- Documents not presented in the current format
- Lack of evidence
- Non-disclosure of important information
- Relying on legal advice from UKVI
12. Visiting UK with a criminal record
A UK Visitor visa is an expensive affair. So, if you have a criminal record, it’s important to have a good understanding of whether your visa application is likely to be acknowledged.
According to theyworkforyou website, “
Applicants for entry clearance and those applying to remain in this country are checked for UK criminal convictions.
Those seeking permission to enter the UK will normally be refused if they have previously been convicted of a criminal offense punishable by at least 12 months imprisonment.
A person may be refused permission to stay on the basis of his character, conduct or associations or if he represents a threat to national security.
Entry clearance officers will take account of any available local intelligence about a person’s criminal activities overseas, but the agency does not have access to foreign governments’ criminal records.”
13. UK visas and registering with the police
Some applicants may have to register with the police after arriving in the UK. Make sure you check the sticker in your passport and register within 7-days if it has ‘Police Registration’ on it.
14. Ask an immigration lawyer
One of the biggest mistakes that applicants make is to rely on the Foreign Office for legal advice. Here, it’s important to understand that the job of FCO is to review and approve/reject your submitted applications. You must contact your immigration lawyer if you need answers to any of your legal queries.
There you have it. This UK Visa Guide will act as an all-inclusive guide to help you get started and proceed with your UK visa applications. Feel free to share your feedback in the comments section below as we would love to hear back.