Before making plans to travel, foreign nationals should ensure that they know whether or not they need a visa or entry clearance to enter the UK. It should be noted that a foreign national who holds a valid visa could still be refused entry to the UK if it is decided that they provided false information or withheld relevant information to obtain the visa or if their circumstances have subsequently changed.
Below are some of the questions that foreign nationals should ask themselves before travelling to the UK.
Where Do You Come From?
The nationals of some countries will always need a visa to come to the UK regardless of the length or purpose of their visit. A list of all countries whose nationals must obtain a visa is available on the UK Border Agency’s visa website. The nationals of some countries will require a visa even if they are only passing through the UK in transit to another country.
Nationals of countries who always require a visa to come to the UK are known as visa nationals.
Will You be Transiting Through the UK?
Visa nationals may not require a visa if they will only be in the UK in transit to another country provided that they will be in the UK for less than 24 hours, have a confirmed onwards booking and have all the documents they need to enter the next country they are travelling to .
Foreign nationals who will usually require a visa to transit through the UK are known as Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV) nationals. DATV nationals may be able to transit through the UK without a visa in certain circumstances, including those who hold: an EU country resident’s permit; a visa and onward airline ticket for the United States, Canada, Australia or New Zealand; or, a permanent resident’s card for either Canada or the US.
Do You Intend to Stay in the UK for Longer than Six Months?
For immigration purposes foreign nationals who intend to stay in the UK for no longer than six months will usually be classified as visitors and may not require a visa provided that they are not visa nationals, intend to leave the UK at the end of their visit and can support themselves financially whilst they are in the country.
Foreign nationals who intend to stay in the UK for longer than six months may need a visa even if they are not visa nationals.
What is the Purpose of Your Visit?
Some foreign nationals, who would not ordinarily require a visa to come to the UK, may need one based on the purpose of their visit. Foreign citizens may require a visa if they are coming to the UK:
- As the parent of a child under the age of 12 who is at a private fee-paying school in the UK and they intend to remain in the country for more than six months;
- As an academic visitor and intend to stay in the UK for longer than six months. A visa in this category will allow them to remain in the UK for up to 12 months.
- In order to apply for a place on an educational course.
Do You Have a Recognised Passport?
Some categories of people will always require a visa to come to the UK. They include stateless people, people who hold a passport issued by an authority which is not recognised by the UK and people whose passport or other travel document does not give them the nationality of the country which issued it.
Are You Coming to the UK to Get Married?
Foreign nationals may come to the UK to get married or to enter into a civil partnership. However, unless both members of the couple are European Economic Area or Swiss nationals a visa will be required before coming to the UK to marry.
Will You be Studying While You are in the UK?
All foreign nationals of countries outside the European Economic Area who wish to study in the UK for longer than six months will require a visa in order to do so. To obtain a visa they will have to provide evidence that they have been offered a place on a course offered by a recognised educational institution.
Will You Be Working Whilst You are in the UK?
Foreign nationals who wish to work in the UK will generally require a visa unless they are nationals of countries within the European Economic Area or Switzerland. Some European nationals will have to satisfy additional requirements, such as registering, even if they do not need a visa.