The United Kingdom offers foreign travellers a range of different visas for a variety of purposes. These are available to international visitors fitting specific requirements and for different durations.
At present, all nationalities with the exception of visitors from Australia, the United States and/or Japan, must hold a valid visa or visa waiver before entering the UK.
EU passport holders can also travel to the UK visa-free at the moment. However, as a result of Brexit, it is expected that visa waivers will be instigated when the withdrawal transition between Britain and the EU ends in 2021.
The majority of UK visas for purposes such as tourism, work, studying and medical treatment must be acquired from a consulate or embassy.
However, the government has indicated plans to introduce a new UK Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) visa waiver for non-visa nationals (NVN). This will be quickly and easily obtainable online and is expected to grant multiple short trips to holders visiting the UK.
This page explains the different types of visa that travellers can get to enter the UK. It gives applicants a list of UK visas available and guidelines on what types of visit can be permitted by each available travel authorization.
Online Visas for the UK
There are a few situations where eligible foreign nationals can obtain a UK visa online. This is only for short trips and citizens must apply for approval a few days before traveling to Britain. There are 2 different types of online visa that are available to visitors depending on the nationality of the applicant.
UK Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
The British government is planning to launch a brand new Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA UK). This document will be applied for online and will allow travellers to visit the UK for multiple short trips whilst it is valid.
Details are still being finalised on the precise requirements of the new eTA. However, it is expected that it will be necessary for Non-visa nationals and European Economic Area citizens to acquire one before arriving in the UK.
Countries currently in the EEA include:
UK Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW)
The UK offers citizens of Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW UK) to travel to the UK. The EVW is a single-use travel authorization which allows passengers to stay in the UK for up to 180 days for travel purposes such as business and tourism.
Travelling with a UK Visitor Visa
The easiest way to visit the UK is with an eTA, which will be available for many nationalities. For all other tourists to the UK, it is possible to obtain a British Standard Visitor’s Visa from an embassy or consulate.
A Standard Tourist Visa is available to travellers entering the UK for the following reasons:
- Vacations or visiting friends and family
- Business travel
- To take part in sports or arts events
- To engage in an exchange programme or educational visit
- Private medical treatment
- To pass in transit through the UK (to another destination)
The Standard Visitor’s Visa and Electronic Travel Authorization can also be used for business trips and tourism. It is also expected it will be accepted for travellers entering for some medical procedures and short-term study purposes in the UK. However, it is not possible to use either of these documents to engage in activities such as full-time work or long term residence.
Travelling to the UK with a work visa
At present, the United Kingdom uses a points-based system to access work visa applications for foreign nationals.
The type of visas for the UK foreigners are entitled to depends on a number of factors such as:
- Their qualifications
- Future earning potential
- Spoken English language skills
- Sponsorship from a recognised UK entity
- Funds to support you during your stay
Following a candidates’ assessment by the British authorities, a number of possible visa types for the UK can be issued.
Work visas are granted to cover the following criteria:
- Tier 1 visa: issued to investors, highly skilled workers and exceptional talent
- Tier 2 visa: issued to sponsored full-time workers
- Tier 5 visa: issued to sponsored temporary workers
Visas for studying in the UK
Around 500,000 students from overseas travel to the UK every year to take up a place of study at one of its many universities and educational institutions. The country boasts a world-renowned reputation for its quality of education and academic facilities.
Most prospective foreign students need a valid Tier 4 Study Visa to be educated in the United Kingdom. However, visitors with a valid eTA can also study in the UK for up to 6 months.
In all other cases students travelling to Britain will need one of the following authorizations:
- Short Term Study Visa: To study for up to 6 months in the UK
- General Student Visa: For a longer course. Applicants must be sponsored by a licensed college or university
- Child Student Visa: For Children aged 4-7 wishing to study at an independent school