LOGIN or JOIN
information for global expats



Visas and Passports in the United Kingdom

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: July 2013

*In the referendum of 23rd June 2016, a majority of UK voted to leave the European Union. At present, however, until October 2018 at the very earliest, this decision will not have any effect whatsoever on UK immigration laws.

The first stage of preparing for immigration is to make sure you have the correct entry documents. You will always need a passport to travel into the UK, or an equivalent travel document if for example you are a stateless person or refugee. The passport or other document must be valid for the entire length of your planned stay in the UK. Depending on the reason for your stay, you may also need to provide passport-style photos of yourself to complete the immigration process.

The main types of UK visa are called Transit, Visitor, Student, Work and Family. Do you need a visa, and if so, which one? The answers depend on both which of the above categories you fall into and where you come from (see below). Individual cases may vary, but broadly the answers are as follows:

Category Transit Visit Study Work Join Family

EEA + Switzerland

No

No

No

No

No

Visa National

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Non-visa National

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes


So, if you are from a country in the European Economic Area (European Union countries plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) or Switzerland, you generally do not need a visa. Most of the remaining countries in the world fall into the category ‘visa nationals.’ You will almost always need a visa to come to the UK if you come from one of these countries. To check whether your country is in this category, click on ‘More information’ at the bottom of this web page: https://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/general-info/

The above website also contains detailed information on all UK immigration matters. If your country is not in either of the above categories, it will be in the third category, ‘non-visa nationals.’ This category is for people from some of the countries which have historical ties to the UK, such as Australia and the USA, and some other countries, such as Brazil and Argentina. If you are a national of one of these countries, you will not need a visa if you are passing through Britain on the way to another country (in transit), or if you are visiting for up to six months. However, if you are planning to study or work for longer than six months, or join a family member already resident in the UK, you will need a visa.

There are a lot of different kinds of visa for immigration into Britain, while transit and student visas are quite straightforward, there are several types of visitor visa. For example, there are tourist and family visitor visas, which are for people who simply want to stay in the UK for a while. There are also business visitor and student visitor visas, for those who want to come to the UK perhaps for a conference or a short language course. In all cases, it is worth taking some time to find out which visa you will need. The different types of work visa are looked at in more detail in Expats Working in the UK. We also have an article on the new UK Investor visa.

Application

UK visa fees have seen several increases in recent years and are currently somewhat more expensive than those in neighbouring European countries. Furthermore, UK visa application forms are more complicated and longer than those of some other countries. This makes it all the more important to find the correct visa and fill in the form correctly. If you need advice on these matters, it may be a good idea to contact a UK immigration adviser. For more details, visit the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) website here: https://oisc.homeoffice.gov.uk/

Once you have filled in the application form, assembled any other documents you need and have enough money to pay the visa fee, you will be ready to make an appointment at your local UK visa application centre. There should be one of these in your country’s capital and in other large cities. In many home countries, you can download, print and fill in the application form you require, pay your UK visa fees and book a visa appointment online.

 

Contribute

We value input from our readers. If you spot an error on this page or have any suggestions, please let us know.

 

Moving to the United Kingdom

If you are considering moving to the United Kingdom or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated United Kingdom section including; details of immigration and visas, United Kingdom forums, United Kingdom event listings and service providers in the United Kingdom.

picture1 Read More

Living in the United Kingdom

From your safety to shoppingliving in the United Kingdom can yield great benefits as well as occasional drawbacks.  Find your feet and stay abreast of the latest developments affecting expats in the United Kingdom with relevant news and up-to-date information.

picture1 Read More

Working in the United Kingdom

Working in the United Kingdom can be rewarding as well as stressful, if you don't plan ahead and fulfill any legal requirements. Find out about visas and passports, owning and operating a company in the United Kingdom, and general United Kingdom culture of the labour market.

picture1 Read More


 
 
 
 

Information

About | Useful Links | Global Media Partners | Media | Advertising And Sales | Banners And Widgets | Glossary | RSS | Privacy & Cookies | Terms And Conditions | Editorial Policy | Refer To A Friend | Newsletters | Contact | Site Map

Important Notice: Wolters Kluwer TAA Limited has taken reasonable care in sourcing and presenting the information contained on this site, but accepts no responsibility for any financial or other loss or damage that may result from its use. In particular, users of the site are advised to take appropriate professional advice before committing themselves to involvement in offshore jurisdictions, offshore trusts or offshore investments. © Wolters Kluwer TAA Ltd 2017. All rights reserved.

The Expat Briefing brand is owned and operated by Wolters Kluwer TAA Limited.