Standard Visitor Visa

If you are planning on coming to the UK as a tourist or to visit family and friends, it is quite possible that you will need a standard visitor visa
Standard Visitors visa in passport

Visiting the UK

If you are planning on coming to the UK as a tourist or to visit family and friends, it is quite possible that you will need a standard visitor visa issued by the UK government. You may need to apply for this in advance of your trip. Obtaining standard visitor visas can vary from straightforward to highly complex depending on your personal history and circumstances.

Non-visa nationals

For now, European nationals continue to enjoy the right to visit the UK freely without needing a standard visitor visa. Also, citizens of countries such as the US, Japan, Brazil, Australia and Canada (amongst others) do not need to apply for a visa in advance. Citizens from non-visa countries can board vessels (planes or boats) bound for the UK and apply for a visitor visa on arrival at the airport or port of entry. They will need to satisfy the Immigration Service that they are genuine visitors and that they will be leaving the UK at the end of their visa before being issued with a visitor visa.

Citizens from non-visa countries with a bad immigration history in the UK or other complex personal circumstances (e.g. criminal convictions, outstanding debts in the UK etc) may need to apply for a visa prior to travelling to the UK.

Visa nationals

If you are a national of a country on the Visa National List you will need to formally apply for a standard visitor visa in any visa application centre, British diplomatic mission or consular post overseas where entry clearance applications are accepted.

You should be present legally in the country or territory you’re applying from.

Detailed evidence about your personal and financial circumstances – job/studies, family ties, etc – needs to be provided in order to persuade a UK government official (Entry Clearance Officer or ECO) that you are a genuine visitor and not someone posing as a tourist, without the intention of leaving the UK at the end of your holiday. The application is made online. Biometric information (fingerprints, photograph) is enrolled at a visa centre following online payment.

Length of standard visitor visa

Visitors are allowed to spend 180 days (six months) in the UK in a year. These 180 days can be split throughout the year or taken as a block. 

Documentary evidence required

Valid passports need to be provided. Rather unhelpfully, there is no official guidance as to what other documentation is needed. The online form does not provide many clues either. However, ECOs often penalise applicants for not providing documentation that was not requested. Broadly speaking, you should provide as much evidence as possible of your ties to your country of residence to avoid any doubts as to whether you intend to return.

If required, here is a helpful template for an invitation letter.

Application fees and refusals

The fee for a 6-month visitor visa is £100. It is possible to apply for 2, 5 or 10-year multiple entry visas at enhanced rates. In our experience, it is only advisable to apply for longer multiple entry visas after the applicant has visited the UK once or twice.

If your application is refused you can only appeal if it engages any aspect of the Human Rights Act. If not, the only option available to you is Judicial Review. 

Difficulties securing standard visitor visas

Our firm has extensive expertise advising on visitor visas. In our experience, citizens of certain countries appear to encounter difficulties securing visitor visas, even if they have an impeccable immigration history in the UK and travel extensively. We can advise you about the best documentation to submit in support of the application. We can also draft representations on your behalf, explaining your plans in the UK and why you will be returning home at the end of your holiday.

Useful links from Gov UK site

Article prepared by Ana Gonzalez, who is an immigration solicitor and Partner at Wilson Solicitors LLP. With over 20 years working in the field, Ana has very extensive expertise in all aspects of UK Immigration and Asylum Law.

Ana Gonzalez Photo