How to apply for a General Visit Visa


Rules to come to the United Kingdom to stay for leisure for under 6 months

big-ben-londoneye.pngIf you plan to travel to the United Kingdom for a short length of time and no longer than 6 months and you are a visa national (that is someone who who needs a visa for every entry to the United Kingdom – generally a non-EEA citizen), you will need to apply for a Visit Visa at a British Embassy/High Commission or visa application centre in any country, not necessarily the one where you normally live.

Find a full list of the countries that require a visa for the UK here.

You can start the visa application process up to 3 months in advance of your planned travel date. The UK Border agency advises you to start the visa application process at least 5-10 weeks prior to your planned travel date.


You qualify as a general visitor if you are coming to the United Kingdom for leisure:

• to visit tourism sites

• to visit friends

To apply for leave as a general visitor, you will need to fill in Application Form VAF1A .

As a general visitor, you can visit the UK for a maximum of 6 months (or 12 months if you are accompanying an academic visitor).

Any family member accompanying a visitor applying for leave to enter under any category, needs to apply for a general visitor visa, in line with the family member’s application.

A child is required to do the same, filling in Part 7 of the application form.

You will need to apply for this category of visitor visa also if you do not qualify for any other visa category.

Requirements to successfully apply for a visit visa

To be granted leave to enter the UK as a visitor, the Entry Clearance Officer needs to be satisfied that:

• you want to visit the UK for no more than 6 months; and

• there are sufficient funds available to finance your stay (and that of any dependants) without help from public funds and you can cover the cost of your the onward or return journey; and

• you do not intend to undertaking any activity which is not allowed by the rules relating to visitors (e.g. setting up in business or taking up employment); and

• you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit.

In addition to meeting the normal requirements for visit visas, to be granted leave to enter the UK under this category, the Entry Clearance Officer needs to be satisfied that you are a genuine visitor, hence, during your stay, you must not intend to:

carry out activities which are not allowed by the rules relating to visitors (e.g. take up employment; set up a business; produce or sell goods or services);

carry out activities that would qualify for a different category of visitor (e.g. receive private medical treatment; undertake a course of study; marry or form a civil partnership; do business; perform in shows; take part in sports events)

Supporting documents

Applying for a visit visa may seem relatively straightforward, but the statistics on the number of visa refusals show otherwise. Please pay extra attention to the documents you attach to support your visa application.

To support your visit visa application, you will need to provide the following documents:

1. a letter from you addressed to the Entry Clearance officer detailing why you wish to visit the UK, for how long and the reasons for the visit, including why you will not remain longer than the visit visa duration if granted a visa to the UK;

2. evidence of occupation/employment/how you derive an income: ideally last 3-6 months payslips

a. if you are employed, a letter from your employer granting leave of absence from your job for a specified period – the letter should also say how long you have been employed by that employer, in what job(s), and when you are expected back at work;

b. if you are self-employed, evidence of your business activities and financial standing;

c. if you are a student, a letter from your school or college stating the course you are on, its start and finish dates, and the dates of the holiday period when you intend to visit the United Kingdom;

3. evidence of your total monthly income from all sources of employment or occupation after tax;

4. evidence of any income from other sources e.g. friends, family, savings, property etc…;

5. bank statements going back over a period of 3-6 months;

6. evidence of any family or social ties and responsibilities to return to (a table showing all relatives in your home country, including the names, their relationship to you and their address)

If your trip is being funded by a Sponsor, you will need to provide:

7. an invitation letter from your Sponsor stating that s/he will undertake the cost of your flight, maintenance and accommodation during your stay in the UK

8. your Sponsor’s most recent 3-6 month bank statements

9. your Sponsor’s most recent 3-6 month wage slips/Accountant’s report

10. a copy of your Sponsor’s employment contract

11. Evidence of your Sponsor’s accommodation where you intend to stay: his most recent mortgage statement and photographs of the property

You will also need to provide the specific evidence required for the category of visitor visas you are applying for.

In addition to the normal documentation for visitors, you need to provide:

• evidence of your travel plans, such as: a planned itinerary, details of any hotel/flight bookings, if attending a wedding or event, an invitation card or ticket.

• details of any hotel/flight bookings etc

• a supporting letter from any friends/sponsor

Duration of a visit visa

Once granted a visit visa, you will be normally allowed to stay for up to 6 months (in most cases). However, you might be granted a shorter time. The exact length of your permission to enter will be stamped in your passport.

If you frequently visit the United Kingdom, you can apply for a multiple-entry visitor visa that is valid for 2, 5 or 10 years.

Generally, there is no restriction on the number of visits you may make to the UK nor is there any requirement that a specified time must elapse between each visits.

However, Entry Clearance Officers may consider the stated purpose of the visit in the light of the length of time that has elapsed since previous visits.  A visitor should not, for example, normally spend more than 6 out of any 12 months in the UK.

Extension of a visit visa

The maximum time that you can spend in the UK at any one time as a visitor is 6 months, unless you are an academic visitor or a parent of a child at school (12 months).

Thus, you are entitled to request an extension of your visa if you want to stay longer in the UK, but, if approved, this will in any case be only up to the maximum total time provided for your category of visit visa.

A child may apply for an extension as a ‘general visitor’ if they were given permission to enter the as a child visitor, and they are now 18.

Applications for leave to remain for a period beyond the six-month maximum period is only granted in the most exceptional compassionate circumstances such as the illness of a close relative.

Family members applications

If you want to take your family members along with you during your visit, they should apply for a general visit visa (or a child visitor visa if under 18 years of age), in line with your visitor application.

Family members are defined as your wife, husband, civil partner, same sex partner, unmarried partner and a child/children under the age of 18 years old.

They will be able to stay for up to 6 months (or 12 months if you are an academic visitor or a parent of a child at school), with a prohibition on employment.

Right of appeal for visitors

If your visitor's application is refused, the Entry Clearance Officer will tell you the reasons why in a detailed, written refusal notice.

You can appeal the refusal decision only if you meant to visit a close member of your family and applied under the family visitor category.

The only visit visa that attracts a full right of appeal is a family visit visa. In all other cases, appeal rights are very limited and can be only brought under certain grounds such as under section 19B of the Race Relations Act 1976.


Related guides:

Child visitors: applying for a special visitor visa if you are under-18 
Business visitors: how to successfully apply for a UK visa
Sports visitors: a guide to apply for a UK visa
Entertainment visitors: a guide to apply for a UK visa
Academic visitors: a guide to apply for a UK visa
Visiting family in the UK: How to apply for a family visitor visa 

By Federica Gaida
Edited by Raheela Hussain,
Principal Solicitor
Greenfields Solicitors
December 2010

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Disclaimer: The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. Information is offered for general information purposes only, based on the current law when the information was first displayed on this website.

You should always seek advice from an appropriately qualified solicitor on any specific legal enquiry. For legal advice regarding your case, please contact Greenfields Solicitors for a Consultation with a Solicitor on 020 8884 1166.


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