There are many different categories of UK visa. Whether or not a foreign national will require a visa before they can visit the UK will depend on a number of factors. In particular:
- The purpose of their visit to the UK;
- The length of their visit to the UK;
- The nationality of the visitor;
- The country of residence of the visitor.
Where to Find Information About UK Visa Requirements
The UK Border Agency has a dedicated website to provide information about visa requirements for travel to the UK. Visitors to the site can complete a very short online questionnaire. From the answers provided the website will tell them whether or not they need a visa. The website also contains a list of all countries whose citizens require a visa to enter – or in some cases transit through – the UK. Alternatively any British Embassy or Consulate which provides visa services will be able to provide the necessary information.
The UK Border Agency visa website provides a complete list of the countries whose nationals require a visa to come to the UK. Citizens of countries which are included in this list are known as visa nationals. The citizens of countries not listed are known as non-visa nationals.
Coming to the UK as an EU Citizen
European Union and European Economic Area citizens do not, generally, require visas to live or work in the UK. However, citizens of some of the newer EU member countries may require permission if they wish to work in the UK.
Coming to the UK for a Holiday
A foreign national who intends to spend less than six months in the UK before returning home, and who can support themselves financially whilst they are here, is likely to be classed as a visitor for visa purposes.
If the visitor is a visa national they will require a visitor’s visa to come to the UK. A visitor’s visa may be valid for between six months and 10 years. The holder of the visa may leave and re-enter the UK repeatedly whilst the visa is valid as long as they never stay in the UK for longer than six months. Non-visa nationals will not need a visa to visit the UK for a holiday provided they leave within six months.
Coming to the UK to Study
Foreign citizens, other than nationals of EU or European Economic Area (EEA) countries who wish to study in the UK must obtain entry clearance before they travel to the UK. Anyone wishing to study in the UK who is not an EU/EEA national will require a visa. If the course they intend to study lasts less than six months they may be entitled to travel on a student visitor visa. Students who are due to study a full-time university or school course will require a full student visa.
Coming to the UK to Work
Citizens of the EEA are allowed to work in the UK without obtaining a visa. However, citizens of some countries who joined the EU recently may need to register with the UK Border Agency or obtain permission before they start work.
Nationals of other countries will require a visa before they can work in the UK. The visa, and method of application, will depend on the applicant’s skills and the type of work they do. From late 2008 the system for those applying for a work visa is due to change with different categories of worker and a new points-based system being introduced.
Travelling Through the UK
The nationals of some countries will need a visa even if they will only be travelling through the UK in transit to another country. Non-visa nationals will not require a visa to transit through the UK. Some visa nationals will not require a visa provided that they spend less than 24 hours in the UK and are guaranteed entry to their final destination. However, some visa nationals will always require a visa to enter the UK, therefore, it is vital that visa nationals check the requirements before they travel.