A tourist visa for the United Kingdom is a necessary requirement for any foreign traveller visiting the UK from a country without a visa-free agreement. This must be acquired before travelling to or entering Great Britain or Northern Ireland.
The easiest way to visit the UK for leisure and tourism purposes is with a UK eTA visa waiver. The Electronic Travel Authorization can be fully procured online 72 hours before arrival for eligible citizens who meet the correct requirements.
The only other exception is for citizens of Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Oman, who may visit the UK for tourism with an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW). This single-entry document can also be obtained online and used for tourism purposes.
However, for travellers from non-eligible countries, without a visa-free agreement, a Standard Visitors Visa will be obligatory. The EVW and Visitors Visa permit the holder to travel to the UK and stay for 6 months. The eTA on the other hand, can be used for multiple trips of a few months at a time.
What UK tourist visa do I need?
There are 2 ways to apply for a tourist visa depending on your nationality:
- Those eligible for a UK eTA or a UK EVW, applicants will need to complete an online form before travelling to Great Britain
- Visitors from other countries need to book an appointment at a UK embassy or consulate to obtain a Visitors Visa. Supporting documentation will be needed and a decision on the approved visa is normally given within 3 weeks
What documents are needed to obtain a British tourist visa?
Foreign tourists travelling to the UK must fulfill a number of requirements in order to be granted a valid eTA, EVW or Visitor Visa.
These prerequisites include:
- Submitting valid identifying documents, such as a national passport
- Providing an accommodation address for the stay in the United Kingdom
- Giving details on a travel itinerary to Britain
- Paying the visa fees
In the case of the Visitors Visa, it may also be necessary to provide further evidence, especially if travelling for medical treatment.
Who needs a tourist visa to travel to the UK?
At present, anyone travelling to the UK from a country without a visa-free arrangement needs a visa or visa waiver to enter. All nationalities with the exception of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and The United Arab Emirates and non-visa nationals (NVNs), must travel with a Standard Visitors Visa to visit Britain for tourism.
Standard visas granted for tourism purposes are valid for a maximum of 180 days from the traveller’s date of arrival in the UK. Citizens from the 4 aforementioned countries are eligible for an Electronic Visa Waiver (UK EVW).
Can a UK tourist visa be extended?
It is possible to extend a UK Standard Visitors Visa if the applicant’s total time spent in the UK is less than 6 months. For example, visa or visa-waiver holders who travelled to the country with a document valid for 3 months, can extend their stay for a further 3 months.
However, foreign citizens visiting the UK for tourism purposes can only remain in the UK for a maximum of 180 days at a time. To stay in the UK for longer or to work, they will require an alternative type of visa.
In most cases, the UK government can provide a Biometric Residence Permit for those who need to stay longer than 6 months. However, these are normally granted with your initial visa and do not always have to be applied for separately.
This is not expected to apply to the soon-to-launch UK eTA. This visa waiver is intended to be for short trips only and instead permits the holder to enter the UK multiple times during its validity for 90 day periods at a time.