Leave to Enter as a Visitor

If you wish to come to the UK on a short term basis, you can come to the UK as a Standard Visitor for any of the following reasons:

  • for tourism, for example on a holiday or to see your family and friends
  • for certain business activities, for example attending a meeting
  • to do a short course of study
  • to take part in research or an exchange programme as an academic
  • for medical reasons, for example to receive private medical treatment


You’ll need to prove that you meet the eligibility requirements by showing that:

  • you’ll leave the UK at the end of your visit
  • you’ll not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK your main home
  • you’re able to support yourself and your dependants during your trip (or have funding from someone else to support you)
  • you’re able to pay for your return or onward journey (or have funding from someone else to pay for the journey)
  • you have proof of any business or other activities you want to do in the UK, as allowed by the Visitor Rules

If you’re applying to study for up to 6 months

You must prove one of the following:

  • you’ve been accepted onto a course of no more than 6 months provided by an accredited UK institution (this cannot be an academy or state-funded school)
  • you’re at least 16 years old and have been accepted by a UK higher education institution to take part in research that’s relevant to the course you’re studying overseas
  • you’re at least 16 years old and are doing an ‘elective’ (an optional additional placement) as part of an overseas medicine, veterinary medicine and science, or dentistry course

You must already be enrolled on a course that is the equivalent of a UK degree, before applying to do research or a placement in the UK.

To study or research certain subjects, you may need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate. You need to apply for the ATAS certificate before starting your course.

If you’re applying as an academic

You can stay in the UK for up to 12 months if you’re applying as an academic. You must prove you’re:

  • highly qualified in your field of expertise, for example you have a PhD
  • currently working in that field of expertise at an academic institution overseas
  • visiting for a formal exchange or to carry out research
  • not filling a permanent teaching post

If you’re applying to visit for private medical treatment

You must prove that you:

  • have a medical condition that needs private consultation or treatment in the UK
  • have made arrangements for consultations or treatment
  • have enough money or funding to pay for your treatment
  • will leave the UK once your treatment is completed, or when your visa expires
  • are not a danger to public health if you have an infectious disease, such as leprosy

If you’re applying as an organ donor

You can only visit the UK to donate organs to:

  • a family member who you’re genetically related to (for example your sibling or parent)
  • someone you have a close personal relationship with (for example your spouse or friend)

You must prove that the person you’re donating an organ to is legally allowed to be in the UK.

If you’re applying for a long-term Standard Visitor visa

You must prove that you’ll only ever be coming to the UK to visit and that you plan to leave at the end of each visit.

You may be given a visa for a shorter period than requested if you do not do this. You will not get a refund of the application fee if you get a shorter visa or your application is refused.

Your visa may be cancelled if your travel history shows you are repeatedly living in the UK for extended periods.

How long you can stay

You can usually stay in the UK for up to 6 months.

You might be able to stay for longer if:

  • you’re coming to the UK for private medical treatment – up to 11 months
  • you’re an academic and meet the eligibility requirements – you, your spouse or partner and your children may be able to stay for up to 12 months

If you’re staying in the UK for longer than 6 months, you must collect your biometric residence permit when you arrive. You may also have to take a tuberculosis test as part of your application depending on where you come from.

If you need to visit the UK regularly

You can apply for a long-term Standard Visitor visa that lasts 2, 5 or 10 years if you need to visit the UK regularly over a longer period. You can stay for a maximum of 6 months on each visit.

If you’re under 18 years old when you apply, your long-term Standard Visitor visa will only be valid for up to 6 months after you turn 18. You cannot get a refund on the fee.

When to apply and how long it takes

If you need a visa, you must apply online before you come to the UK.

As part of your application, you’ll need to book an appointment at a visa application centre to prove your identity and provide your documents.

Allow time to attend your appointment, as the visa application centre could be in another country.

The visa application centre may keep your passport and documents while processing your application.

The earliest you can apply is 3 months before you travel.

Getting a decision

Once you’ve applied online, proved your identity and provided your documents, you’ll usually get a decision on your visa within 3 weeks.

Extending your stay as a visitor

You cannot switch from a Standard Visitor visa to another type of visa.

You can only extend your stay for specific reasons, for example needing further private medical treatment.

If you want a visa to do something other than visiting, for example work or longer-term study, you’ll need to leave the UK and make a new application.

Makka Solicitors provides comprehensive immigration advice on Visit Visa applications. Please refer to our Fees page for full details of all of our fees for immigration applications.