Visiting the UK

This section describes the different types of visitor visa, and helps you to choose the right one for your circumstances. It also explains what you are allowed to do while you are in the UK as a visitor.

If you come to the UK as a visitor, you are normally allowed to stay here for a maximum of 6 months. If you want to stay here for longer than 6 months, read the other categories in the Visas and immigration section to see if you qualify for another type of visa.

See the Travel and customs section for general information about visas and travelling to the UK.

If someone in the UK will 'sponsor' you during your visit, they should read the Sponsoring a visitor pages.

Our service standards for visitor visas are that we will decide 90 per cent of applications within 3 weeks, 98 per cent within 6 weeks and 100 per cent within 12 weeks.

Tourism and visiting friends

If you want to visit the UK as a tourist or to stay with friends in the UK, you should apply to come here as a general visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18).

If you are a Chinese national and you will be coming to the UK as part of a group for a maximum of 30 days, you can apply for a visa as an ADS visitor.

There are restrictions on what you can do in the UK in these visitor categories. For example, you cannot get married.

Visiting family

If you want to visit members of your family in the UK, you can apply to come here as a family visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18).

If you want to stay longer than 6 months, you cannot come as a visitor. See the Partners and families section for information about other types of family visa.

Visiting to do business

If you want to do business in the UK, you should apply to come here as a business visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18). This includes academic visitors, and doctors undertaking clinical attachments or the PLAB test.

If you want to come to the UK as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur), and you need to spend time here first in order to hold discussions and secure funding, you can apply for a visa as a prospective entrepreneur.

If you want to come to the UK as a visitor to do short-term, fee-paid activity you can apply for a visa as a permitted paid engagement visitor.

Visiting to study

If you want to study in the UK for up to 6 months (or up to 11 months if you will be studying an English Language course), and you will not work while you are here, you can come here as a student visitor (or as a child visitor if you are under 18).

If you have a child aged under 12 who will be studying in the UK under Tier 4 (Child) of the points-based system, you can apply to accompany them as a parent of a child at school.

Visiting as a sportsperson

If you want to take part in any sporting events in the UK, you might be able to come here as a sports visitor or a visitor undertaking permitted paid engagements (or as a child visitor if you are under 18). If you do not meet the requirements to be a visitor, you will need to apply under Tier 5 (Temporary workers - Creative and sporting) of the points-based system.

Visiting as an entertainer

If you want to perform or audition in the UK as an entertainer, you might be able to come here as an entertainer visitor or a visitor undertaking permitted paid engagements (or as a child visitor if you are under 18). If you do not meet the requirements to be a visitor, you will need to apply under Tier 5 (Temporary workers - Creative and sporting) of the points-based system.

Visiting for other reasons

If you want to get married or register a civil partnership in the UK, and you intend to leave the UK soon after the ceremony, you should apply to come here as a visitor for marriage or civil partnership. If you want to live in the UK after you get married, see the Partners and families section.

If you want to receive private medical treatment in the UK, you should apply to come here as a visitor for private medical treatment.

Transiting the UK

If you want to come to the UK for up to 48 hours on your way to another country, you can come here as a visitor in transit.