UK: Visiting The UK – Immigration Law & Practicalities

Last Updated: 20 August 2012
Article by Edward Reed and Helen Darling

This note provides guidance on the scope of the visitor category under the UK Immigration Rules and when visitors will be required to obtain prior entry clearance, i.e. a visa.

ENTRY CLEARANCE

Holders of certain passports, known as "visa nationals" always need a visa to enter the UK; "direct airside transit visa nationals" require a visa even to transit through the UK. The current list of countries whose citizens are classed as visa nationals can be found on the UK Border Agency's UK visas website at http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk.

Those who visit the UK frequently (either on business, for leisure or for family purposes), even if they are not visa nationals, may want to obtain from a British Embassy Visa Section or British Consulate a long term multiple entry visit visa in advance of travel. This allows unlimited entries to the UK for up to 6 months at any one time during the validity of the visa.

In certain cases, even non-visa nationals may require a prior visa to come to the UK as visitors: this depends on the sub-category they fall in when entering the UK.

GENERAL REQUIREMENTS

All visitors to the UK must show that:

  • they plan to leave the UK at the end of the visit;
  • they have enough money to support and accommodate themselves without working or help from public funds (or that they will be supported and accommodated by relatives or friends);
  • they do not intend to work or provide goods or services in the UK;
  • they do not intend to study (there is an exception for child visitors – see below); and
  • they can meet the cost of the return or onward journey.

Documentation should be carried which demonstrates the above are satisfied, in the event of questions from UK Border Agency officials.

BUSINESS VISITORS

Non-visa nationals can make a business visit to the UK without a prior visa.

A business visitor must be able to show that they only want to visit the UK for up to 6 months and that they meet the general visitor conditions. The most important requirements for business visitors are that they:

  • are based abroad;
  • receive their salary from abroad; and
  • have no intention of transferring their base to the UK, even if only temporarily.

Permissible activities for business visitors include:

  • attending meetings or conferences;
  • negotiating deals and signing contracts;
  • undertaking fact-finding missions; and
  • conducting site visits.

Other travellers and their activities which may come within the business visitor category include:

  • film crews on location shoots only (provided that they are employed or paid by an overseas company);
  • religious workers undertaking preaching or pastoral work;
  • advisers or consultants employed by a foreign group company; and
  • persons undertaking specific one-off training in UK work practices (but not on-the-job training).

For more business visitor categories see the UK Border Agency website (http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/visiting/business/business-activities)

A business visitor needs to satisfy the immigration officer on arrival that the visit does not have significant implications for the resident work force and that they fall on the right side of the "transacting business" versus "UK employment" line.

Academic visitors carrying out postgraduate or private research can enter the UK under the business visitor category and may stay for up to 12 months, subject to prior entry clearance (even for non-visa nationals) if they are staying for over 6 months.

SPORTS VISITORS

Non-visa nationals do not require entry clearance for a sports visit of up to 6 months.

A professional or amateur sportsperson can come to the UK to take part in a particular sporting event, tournament or a series of events, provided that they will not be paid other than cash prizes or board and lodging expenses. They will also have to meet the general visitor conditions.

ENTERTAINER VISITORS

Non-visa nationals do not require entry clearance for an entertainer visit of up to 6 months.

A professional or amateur entertainer can enter the UK to take part in particular events, including charity events, provided that they will not be paid other than cash prizes or board and lodging expenses and can meet the general visitor requirements.

This category includes entertainers and their entourages (such as press officers or dieticians) and technical people such as producers and stage assistants.

In addition, certain festivals will continue to be permit-free.

Furthermore, entertainers can come to the UK for personal appearances and promotions not involving performance or for negotiating contracts, arranging sponsorships and attending unpaid auditions. All these activities will come within the business visitor category.

PERMITTED PAID ENGAGEMENTS

Following a formal invitation, certain types of visitors can come to the UK for up to 1 month to undertake a short-term fee-paid activity. Non-visa nationals do not require a visa. The pre-arranged engagement must relate to the expertise and qualifications of the visitor and to the visitor's full-time occupation in his home country. This category is limited to visiting examiners or assessors, lecturers, overseas designated pilot examiners, qualified lawyers and professional artists, entertainers and sportspersons.

SPECIAL VISITORS

This category covers a variety of reasons for entering the UK. The parent of a child at school in the UK is able to stay for up to 12 months and a visitor in transit for up to 48 hours. All other sub-categories of special visitors are given leave to remain in the UK for up to 6 months.

CHILD VISITORS

Child visitors who are not visa nationals do not require entry clearance. In addition to the general visitor requirements, they must show that:

  • they are under 18;
  • suitable arrangements are in place for their travel to and care in the UK;
  • the parent or guardian of the child consents to the visit; and
  • if studying in the UK, the child is studying at a school which is not state-funded.

PARENT OF A CHILD AT SCHOOL

A parent of a child aged under 12 who is attending a private day school can come to the UK for up to 12 months. If staying for longer than 6 months, a parent who is a non-visa national must obtain entry clearance. The parent is not entitled to work and must show that they have sufficient finance to maintain a second home in the UK, as well as meeting the general visitor requirements.

VISIT FOR PRIVATE MEDICAL TREATMENT

A visitor for private medical treatment will not require entry clearance if a non-visa national. In addition to the general visitor requirements, they must show that satisfactory arrangements for the treatment and payment are in place, that the treatment is for a limited period of time and that, if suffering from a communicable disease, there is no danger to public health.

VISIT FOR MARRIAGE OR CIVIL PARTNERSHIP CEREMONY

A visitor coming to the UK to marry or register a civil partnership always requires prior entry clearance. A person planning to marry or register a civil partnership in the UK and then stay in the UK thereafter should obtain entry clearance as a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner.

STUDENT VISITOR

Student visitors can come to the UK for a course of up to 6 months (or 11 months if they will be studying an English language course) and do not require entry clearance if they are non-visa nationals, whereas prospective students coming to the UK always require entry clearance. Student visitors are not entitled to work, unlike those with leave to remain in the UK as students.

REPEAT VISITORS

There are no hard and fast rules restricting the number of visits that may be made to the UK and there is no requirement that a certain amount of time has to elapse between visits. However, the time between visits is likely to be taken into account by the immigration officer, who will be concerned by "serial visits". Essentially, the immigration officer must be satisfied that the visitor is not basing himself in the UK and is not working (or even overtly seeking work) in the UK without the appropriate authority.

The immigration officer will consider the stated purpose of the visit in the light of the length of time which has elapsed since previous visits. UK Border Agency guidelines state that visitors should not usually spend more than 6 months in any year in the UK.

PRACTICAL ADVICE ON ENTERING THE UK – CREDIBILITY IS KEY

Credibility is an important issue for immigration officers. To ensure that you have a smooth entry into the UK you should carry documentation with you to demonstrate that you are a genuine visitor in the terms of the Immigration Rules i.e. that you have sufficient funds in your bank account to support yourself and any dependants travelling with you, firm arrangements have been made for your accommodation during your stay and you have booked onward travel from the UK. In particular, it may be helpful to have your return or onward travel ticket with you on your arrival.

If the immigration officer is unconvinced, he has power to detain an applicant and can arrange immediate removal to the country from which the applicant has arrived (including authorising detention by others, such as aircraft captains charged with removing the applicant from the country). Given the penalties for misleading the authorities in an immigration matter, it is important not to answer questions incorrectly or to supply misleading evidence in support.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.