Whether it is for business, tourism, or to visit family, the United Kingdom is a popular destination for visitors. If you or someone you know is planning to visit the UK, it is wise to understand what a visitor is permitted to and limited by, before entering the country.
The Immigration Rules are constantly changing. They contain several requirements and restrictions specific to those wishing to obtain a visit visa. In this article we will attempt to address the five most common questions we are asked about applying for a visit visa.
1. Can I visit the United Kingdom on a visitor visa for business?
If you are asked to travel to the UK by your employer for a short period of time, the standard visitor visa appears the most convenient route for those travelling with little notice. You can stay for a period of six months and the application involves less tortuous immigration rules than that of commercial visas. Whilst this may appear to be the ideal visa for many, it must be understood that a visitor cannot work in the UK. The definition of ‘work’ within the realms of the Immigration Rules include:
- Taking up paid employment in the United Kingdom;
- Undertaking work, a work placement, or internship for an organisation or business in the UK;
- Running a business as a self-employed person;
- Directly selling anything to the general public;
- Provide goods and services
It is worth remarking that if you are found to carry out any of the above whilst on your stay in the UK, this will be regarded as a breach of Immigration Rules which is a criminal offence and may impact any future applications you submit for a visa in the UK.
2. I plan on marrying my partner in the UK, can I do this on a visit visa?
The short answer to this would be yes, though if you wish settle in the United Kingdom as newly weds, further explanation is required. Coming to the United Kingdom to marry your partner is not permitted on a standard visit visa. There exists a marriage visit visa however remaining permanently would breach the terms of a visit visa.
Anyone wishing to enter with the intention of marrying and settling in the UK would be better served by applying for a fiancé visa application under the Appendix FM Immigration Rules. This route grants leave for 6 months, and after the couple marry they are able to apply from within the UK or further leave. This route involves onerous evidential requirements which are where most applications fall short. It is important to seek assistance if you are not confident.
3. I am nearing the end of my visa as a visitor. Can I extend?
As long as you are not a visitor for a permitted paid engagement or transit visitor, you have the ability to make an application to extend your stay. Someone who has a standard visitor visa may extend their stay, however this is only generally permitted if you have applied for less than 6 months. By extending you will be permitted leave to stay for the remainder of the 6 months that you have not used. In practice however, most visitor visas are granted for the full 6 months limit and cannot be extended.
One may extend their leave for longer than 6 months if:
- You are coming to the UK for private medical treatment, up to 12 months
- You are, or are the dependant of, an academic on sabbatical and coming to the UK for research, up to 12 months
- You are an international medical graduate re-sitting or have recently passed the PLAB test to practise medicine in the UK, up to18 months
4. I am looking to visit in a month, how long will the application take to process?
This is a question that I am often reticent to answer, as it is almost impossible to determine how long the Home Office will take to provide a decision. Recent data made available by UK Visas & Immigration state that most decisions made on visit visa applications in January 2018 were processed within 30 days.
If you are planning to visit the UK in the coming months, it would be prudent to ensure your application is submitted over a month before you intend on arriving to avoid any unfortunate delay.
5. Is there a limit to how many times I can use visit visas to enter the UK?
Whilst there is no official cooling-off period for returning the UK under a visitor visa, you may wish to consider how your travel history appears to a case worker assessing your credibility as a visitor. Home Office guidance on this subject suggests that frequent or successive visits may cause a caseworker to consider whether you are making the UK your home without appropriate immigration status. This may cast doubt on the prospect of you returning to your home country, and the credibility of your application may suffer as a result.
It must be noted that this is a quick canter through a visa route with a dizzying kaleidoscope of requirements, a topic which we have covered in more detail previously. It can be tricky working out what the Home Office are looking for, and with an average refusal rate for visitor visa applications at 15%, it is important to have someone assisting you that knows what they are doing.
If you would like more information tailed to your situation, we offer consultations and a full application service to provide advice and assistance on the best course of action to take to secure your visit to the UK.