Expat FAQ

Do you have a general question on expatriation? FAQs give you answers to the most frequent questions: Departure.

UK: Do I need a visa?

Holders of passports or individuals who have permanent resident status of many countries worldwide do not need a visa to visit the UK for short visits. In some cases, passports must contain biometric chips that store personal information about the passport holder such as name, photograph, date of birth and fingerprint images. The length of time you may stay in the UK without a visa varies according to your country of origin and other factors, however, in most cases you may stay for up to six months. You may not work or pursue academic study during your stay.

Obtaining a Visa to Visit the UK

If you are a Visa National- a citizen or resident of a country that does not have visa-exempt status - you must obtain a visa to enter the UK or remain for any length of time. In addition, if you do not hold a passport or travel document recognized by the UK as official, you will also need a visa to visit the UK for any length of time. Depending on your circumstances, you may apply as a General Visitor, a Child Visitor (minors under age 18) or apply for an Approved Destination Status (ADS) visa (nationals from mainland China traveling as part of a group). If you travel to the UK as a General Visitor or as an ADS Visitor, you may not work, study, or pursue government assistance for medical treatment during your stay. General Visitors may remain in the UK for up to 6 months; Child Visitors may remain in the UK for up to 6 months if traveling alone, or up to 12 months if traveling with an academic visitor. ADS Visitors may remain in the UK for up to 30 days.

You may find it easier to obtain permission to travel to the UK if you have a sponsor willing to accept financial responsibility for you during your stay. Your sponsor must present documentation of his or her citizenship or residency status, along with a letter explaining his or her relationship to you and evidence of his or her financial circumstances. Having a sponsor does not eliminate the need to obtain a visa if you otherwise require one to enter the UK.

Allow sufficient lead time for processing your visa application. Lead times vary according to your country of citizenship and other factors. The self-imposed standard by the UKBA is to process 90% of visa applications within 3 weeks after submission, 98% of applications within 6 weeks after submission and all applications within 12 weeks after submission. Depending on your circumstances, the UKBA may request or require you to submit additional documents along with your visa application.

Document Requirements for a Visa Application:

  • Visa Application Form (PDF)
  • Current passport (or other relevant travel document)
  • One (1) passport photo
  • Evidence of sufficient finances for the duration of your stay
  • Additional supporting documents, if necessary


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