Visa types for UK

Do you need a visa to go to the United Kingdom?

There are various types of visas for the UK which are designed for different purposes and lengths of stay. Most visas require going to a UK visa application centre but the application for the UK electronic visa waiver is completed online.

Citizens of four countries (the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman) can obtain a UK EVW by applying online. The process takes a matter of minutes. The visa-waiver allows visitors to enter the UK for tourism, business, studying, or medical treatment for up to six months.

There are a number of nationalities who can enter the UK visa-free. All EU citizens can go to the United Kingdom freely and there are a number of other countries whose citizens can enter for limited periods of time. These countries include the US, Canada, Australia, Brazil and Argentina.

UK visa types

Most of the visa types for the UK require going to a UK visa application centre to complete the application. Citizens of countries which are eligible for the UK electronic visa waiver can complete the online application instead. Here is a list of UK visas:

Visitor visas

You can apply for a standard visitor visa from a UK visa application centre if you want to visit the UK for a range of reasons including:

  • Leisure (such as going on holiday or visiting family and friends).
  • Business purposes (such as a conference or meeting).
  • To participate in a sports or creative event.
  • To take part in an exchange programme or educational visit (if you are under 18).
  • For other reasons (such as private medical treatment).
  • Pass through the UK in transit (on your way to another country).
  • Convert your civil partnership into a marriage.

You cannot use a standard visitor visa to do paid or unpaid work, live in the UK for long periods, get public funds, marry or register a civil partnership. You can study in the UK for periods of up to 30 days as long as it is not the main reason for the visit.

You can apply for a visitor visa no earlier than three months before you travel. You should get a decision within three weeks though this can vary depending on which country you are applying from.

Work visas

The UK has a points-based system which controls the flow of workers going into the country. Whether it is possible to obtain a work visa depends on your profession, your nationality and other factors. EU citizens can live and work freely in the UK.

UK work visas are divided into different tiers depending on the type of work a person wishes to carry out in the UK. The most common types of UK work visas are the following:

  • Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent): For those recognised as leaders within their fields.
  • Very few of these visas are issued each year.
  • Tier 2 (Skilled Workers): For people offered a skilled job with a salary of at least £25,000.
  • Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer): For workers offered a transfer to a UK branch of their current company.
  • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion): For people offered a job within a faith community.
  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson): For elite sportspeople or coaches who have been endorsed by their sport’s governing body.
  • Tier 5 (Temporary Worker): For those wanting to do temporary work as a charity worker, sportsperson, creative worker, religious worker, on a government-authorised exchange or as part of an international agreement.
  • Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) For young people aged between 18-30 from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Monaco.

Student visas

There are different types of UK student visas which are designed for different purposes. The long-term student visas fit into the same tier-based system as the work visas:

  • Short-term study visa: For short courses such as an English language course or a training course. It is not designed for doing research as part of a degree or studying at a state-funded school. They are normally valid for either six or 11 months.
  • Tier 4 (Child Student): For children aged between 4 and 17 who have a place at an independent school in the UK.
  • Tier 4 (General Student): For over 16s who have been offered a place on a course.