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UK Visitor Visa - NEW 2021 Requirements & Guide

A short-term UK visitor visa is a comprehensive document that includes multiple purposes. It is a one-in-all visa that has replaced the UK tourist visa, business visa, and family visit visa, among others. 

The document allows you to stay in the UK for up to six months and hence, is the best option when you plan to enter the country for a short visit. To give you further clarity, here’s our detailed guide on the standard visitor visa.

When Should You Apply for a Standard Visitor Visa?

A standard visitor visa has taken over all the regular, earlier types of short-term visas such as:

  • Family visitor visa
  • UK Tourist visa (tourism, leisure, holidays)
  • Child visitor visa
  • Business visitor visa
  • Sports visitor visa
  • Entertainer visitor visa
  • Prospective entrepreneur visa
  • Private medical treatment visitor visa
  • Approved destination status (ADS) visa

You can apply for a standard visitor visa if you want to enter the UK for:

Leisure, holidays, and tourism: A standard visiting visa allows non-EEA nationals to travel to the UK and stay here for up to six months if they arrive for leisure purposes. These activities can include family visits, sightseeing, holidays, regular visits, and travel.

Business: A standard visit visa allows you to attend conferences, meetings, training, events or business appointments provided the required time is six months. Other professionals like academics undertaking research or accompanying students to attend a study-abroad programme OR doctors/dentists aiming to take clinical attachment or observer post OR foreigners wanting to appear for the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test or Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) -- are all eligible for a standard visa.

Sports: Standard visit visas are also applicable to professionals partaking in sports events or competitions.

Entertainment: Artists, entertainers, or musicians coming to the UK to perform can apply for a standard visit visa as well.

Medical treatment: A standard visitor visa offers you the option to avail private medical treatment in the UK.

Entrepreneurship: If you wish to secure funding to start, acquire, join or run a business in the UK, you can again apply for a standard visitor visa.

Studies: A standard visit visa also allows you to study for up to 30 days, as long as it’s not the main reason for your visit.

NOTE: A short-term standard visa does not allow you to engage in any paid or unpaid work, reside in the UK for long periods of time through frequent visits, get public funds, or marry or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership. Please contact us for further information or to discuss your application in detail.

Eligibility Criteria

On a broader perspective, here’s what you need to prove when applying for a standard visa.

  • You will exit the UK once your visit period is over
  • During your stay in the UK, you have enough funds to support yourself and your dependents
  • You are financially sound to pay for your return or onward ticket
  • You have evidence of the activities you intend to carry out in the UK


Visiting for Academic Purposes

A short-term standard visa, used for academic purposes, can be issued for a stay up to 12 months. However, you must have solid proof, validating that you are a the highly qualified individual in your subject or on a sabbatical from your institute in your home country.

Academic visas allow you to:

  • Partake in an exchange program with a partnering institute in the UK
  • Conduct your own research or be a part of someone else’s research, teaching or clinical practice. Of course, you cannot take up a permanent job with this visa

Visiting for Private Medical Treatment

As already mentioned, a standard visa allows you to travel to the UK to receive treatment for a medical condition, which demands private consultation.

For this purpose, you need to prove that you have:

  • Already paid for the scheduled consultations or treatment
  • Enough funds to carry out your treatment, support yourself, and return or travel to another country
  • Proof that you will exit the UK once your visa expires or your treatment is over
  • Evidence that you do not carry an infectious disease, which can affect the public health

Note: If you are traveling to the UK as an organ donor, you must be able to prove that you are donating an organ(s) to a family member with whom you share a genetic connection. The patient can also be a close person such as a friend or spouse. The person who will accept the organ must be a legalized citizen of the UK.

What Documents do I need for Uk Visitor Visa?

Now that you have a fair idea of the requirements, needed for each type of short-term standard visas, here’s a rundown of the documents needed to apply for the same:

  • A current passport, which is valid for your planned stay in the UK and has a minimum of one unused page. A passport can be replaced with a valid travel identification as well
  • If your documents are not in English or Welsh, they need to be certified and translated
  • Travel history for the past 10 years
  • Evidence of sufficient funds in the form of bank statements, building society books, or a letter from your employer stating the details of your employment. You can also submit proof that a legally authorized third party in the UK will be able to offer financial support to you. Of course, in this case, they will need to present proof of the same.
  • Evidence of legal residence (if you are not a national of the country of origin or your passport does not specify your right to reside)
  • Details of your academic or professional background. This can be a letter from your employer on a company letterhead, detailing your employment specifics; a letter from your educational facility, stating your date of enrollment and grant of leave. If you are self-employed, you can attach your business registration documents.

Additional Documents for Specific Purposes

Visa for Business & Entertainment Visits

  • If your visa is for carrying out any business activities in the UK, you have to share a letter from your employer explaining the entire details of the trip (people you will meet, expenses or payment etc.), accompanied by a letter of invitation from the hosting organization in the UK.
  • For performances and entertainment visitors, details of where and what you will be performing in the UK. This should be accompanied by a letter of invitation from the organizer, detailing the performance dates and payments to be received by you.

Visa for Academic Visits

  • A letter from your employer in the country of origin, validating that you have been granted a sabbatical for the exchange or research work.
  • A letter from the hosting organization in the UK, stating that you have made the required arrangements to carry out the said research activities.

Visa for Private Medical Treatment

Standard visas for private medical treatment can be issued in six, as well as, 11 months.

  • You must submit a letter from the medical professional in the UK, which contains the details of your ailment, the expected cost and time of the treatment, the location of the treatment center.

You can also extend the stay period provided by this visa -- if you can submit a letter from a registered medical practitioner, working at a private clinic or NHS hospital, who is employed in an NHS consultant post or whose name is present in the Specialist Register of the General Medical Council. The letter should also state that your medical condition needs additional treatment. Additionally, you have to prove that you have already paid for the treatments received to date.

Visa for Prospective Entrepreneurs

  • A letter of support, issued by a registered venture capitalist firm, which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority
  • A letter of support from a UK entrepreneurial seed funding competition, endorsed by a UK government department

Visa for Training Purposes

  • A letter from the General Medical Council & Nursing and Midwifery Council, which confirms that you have made arrangements for appearing for the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board or Objective Structured Clinical Examination Tests
  • Confirmation that you have taken up unpaid clinical attachments or dental observer posts in the UK

Visa for Permitted Paid Engagements

  • An invitation letter from a higher education institution, a creative arts or entertainment facility, a sports organization, a research organization, or an aviation training institute (under the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority)
  • Proof of your profession in your home country

Visa for Tourism/ Family Visit

  • Holiday booking confirmation
  • Proof of staying arrangements in the UK

NOTE: The list of documents for a UK standard visitor visa is exhaustive and the immigration the department may ask for additional papers as well if required. If you get a little confused, you can seek the help of your expert team who will help you in this process and fasten your approval process.

Application Procedure & Fees

An application for a short-term standard visit visa is online. However, before proceeding with your application, you need to book an appointment at a visa application center. During your appointment, the center will take your fingerprints and photographs.

Once you finish your online application, you can submit your completed visa application within 48 hours and three months from your planned travel dates. But you should remember that the visa processing time can take up to three weeks for applicants who are not from the EEA and Switzerland.

Applicants from non-EEA countries usually need to pay £95 for a short-term visit visa. But this amount can vary slightly, depending on your country of origin.

Visa Extension

Generally, all short-term standard visit visas allow a foreigner a maximum stay of six months. According to immigration rules, you cannot use this visa for frequent or successive visits. If you belong to the United States, China, Pakistan, India, and other non-EEA countries, you can also apply for a long-term visit visa. They come in stay durations of two years, five years or ten years. We have covered the details of these visas in detail in our long-term visa section here.

Now, if you have already applied for a short-term visa and wish to extend its tenure, here’s how you can go about it.

  • You should lodge an application before your current visa expires.
  • If your purpose is receiving private medical treatment in the UK, you can extend your visa by further six months, provided you have already paid for the past treatments, can afford to cover the additional costs for the extended stay, and continue to meet all the eligibility requirements. A UK-registered medical practitioner or NHS the consultant must share evidence of your arrangements for the treatment, a letter stating the duration of the treatment, a progress report of the treatment.
  • You need to apply online for a visa extension
  • You have to submit biometric information and supporting documents
  • You have to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVACS) service point for submitting the biometric information
  • Supporting documents can be uploaded online or scanned during the UKVCAS appointment. You must not travel outside of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
  • For visa extension, you need to pay a fee of £993 and £19.20 for giving the biometric data

Usually, it will take around eight weeks for the immigration department to provide you with a decision. If your reason is urgent and you opt for super-priority services, you can get a decision by the end of the next working day, following your UKVCAS appointment. If your appointment is at the weekend, you might have to wait for two working days.

Once you receive the approval, it will take another 10 days for the biometric residence permit to arrive. However, if there are discrepancies in your documentation or you need to attend an interview, the decision might take longer and the authorities will contact you. Once you get the permit, you can stay in the UK up to the approved stay period.

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