APPLYING FOR A UK VISA – what you need to know

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 to visit or transit through the UK. Your application must be approved before you travel. You do not need to apply for a visa if you’re an Irish citizen.

If you’re from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein

If you or your family member started living in the UK by 31 December 2020, you may be able to apply to the free EU Settlement Scheme instead of applying for a visa. The deadline to apply was 30 June 2021 for most people. You can still apply if either:

  • you have a later deadline – for example, you’re joining a family member in the UK who was living in the UK by 31 December 2020
  • you have ‘reasonable grounds’ for being unable to apply by 30 June 2021 – for example, you had an illness, or were the victim of domestic abuse

If you want to visit the UK

Apply for a Standard Visitor visa to visit the UK for up to 6 months. For example:

  • for a holiday or to see family and friends
  • for a business trip or meeting
  • to do a short course of study

You must apply for a Marriage Visitor visa if you want to visit the UK to get married or register a civil partnership. If you have a visitor visa you cannot take a job in the UK.

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.

If you want to study in the UK

Your course length, type and place of study affect which visa to apply for. A “Standard Visitor visa” lets you do a short course of study that lasts no longer than 6 months. A “Short-term study visa” lets you come to the UK to study an English language course that is over 6 months and up to 11 months. A “Student visa” is usually for a longer course. You must be sponsored by a licensed college or university and have a confirmed place. You may be able to 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

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.

If your family member is in the UK on a visa

You may be able to apply for a visa to join a family member who’s in the UK on a visa. They must be either:

  • your spouse or partner
  • your parent if you’re 18 or under

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