UK Visa Types and Immigration: The Ultimate Guide

Updated: 17 January 2023

People apply for visas to enter the UK for a variety of reasons, including to work, study, do business, join family members, visit as a tourist, transit through the country, get private medical care, seek refuge, or settle permanently in the UK.

UK visas and immigration are popular topics among those who want to visit the country. In this article, we’ll help you to understand how UK visas work in general and which fits you the best.

What You’ll Find in This Article

What Is a UK Visa 

A UK visa is a stamp in your passport or a document issued by a British consulate or embassy in your home country.

A UK visa permits you to enter the United Kingdom. Whether you are visiting the country temporarily or permanently, your visa will be an important part of your immigration process.

A UK Visa can be obtained for several purposes, such as:

  • Business 
  • Education
  • Short trips to the UK and tourism
  • Joining family members who are already in the UK
  • Transit via the UK 
  • Long-term residence
  • Refugee status

Who Needs a UK Visa

If you’re a citizen of the European Economic Area, Switzerland, and a Commonwealth country, you’ll not be required to apply for a UK visa. The same applies to USA citizens too.

If you’re going to stay in the UK for more than six months, you’ll need a visa regardless of your nationality. 

UK Visa Application

How to apply for UK visa is very dependent on the type of visa you are seeking. Especially if your visa falls under the heading of the Points-Based System. Although the majority of the requirements are the same for each category, the system evaluates them differently. Certain extra requirements differ by type.

For example, if you’re going to apply for an investor visa, you’ll need to prove that you have sufficient funds. If you’re an employee and want to work for a company in the UK, you can apply for a skilled worker visa, on the condition that your employer is an eligible one.

Points-Based System Category

The United Kingdom’s Point-Based System (PBS) is a system that regulates immigration to the country. To be eligible for a visa in the UK’s new points-based system, you must score a particular number of points for each visa, and you must demonstrate that you can do so.

UK Visa Requirements

Your visa application is decided by the relevant UK authorities. There are specific documents that must be submitted for each UK visa. 

Make sure the essential paperwork for the UK visa you’re seeking meets the UK Home Office’s requirements.

Documentation for each UK visa is different, however, in general, you’ll need to present the following:

  • Your passport
  • Photos
  • Relevant visa application form
  • Proof of accommodation
  • Proof of funds
  • Your travel itinerary

UK Visa Types

There are many different types of UK visas available, from short-term to long-term, and the best one for you will depend on why you want to come to the UK and how long you want to remain.

Work visas, student visas, family visas, tourist visas, business visas, and transit visas are all available. Many UK visas can also be used to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain, which is an important step on the path to British citizenship.

UK visa categories include:

  • Business Visas
  • Family Visas
  • Settlement Visas
  • Study Visas
  • Transit Visas
  • Visitor Visas

You can apply for a UK visa online by filling out the appropriate application form. You will also need to provide some supporting documents as part of your application to demonstrate that you meet the visa’s eligibility requirements.

UK Visa Types

Visa TypeEligibility
Skilled Worker VisaFor skilled workers with a job offer in the United Kingdom
Temporary Worker VisaFor temporary workers in the UK for less than one year
Youth Mobility Visa2-year work permit for young people aged 18-30
(eligibility is limited to certain countries)
Paid Permitted Engagement VisaShort-term entry for experts invited to the UK
Sportsperson VisaWork permit for sportspersons
Minister of Religion VisaWork permit for religious workers
Intra-Company Transfer VisaFor employees transferring to work in a UK branch
Business Visitor VisaFor business people who travel to the UK for up to
six months for business activities
Adult Student VisaFor students who want to study in the UK
Two-year Post-study Work VisaFor international students who studied a bachelor’s or
master’s course in the UK
Student Visitor VisaStudying in the UK temporarily
Child Student VisaFor children between 4-17 to study in the UK
Spouse VisaFor spouses of British Citizens or settled people
Fiancé VisaFor fiancés of British Citizens or settled people
Unmarried Partner VisaFor long-term partners of British Citizens or settled people
Adult Dependent VisaFor foreign nationals requiring care from their relative in the UK
Innovator VisaFor international entrepreneurs who invest £50,000 in a business in the UK
Investor VisaFor international investors with a minimum of £2 million to invest in a UK business
Startup VisaFor applicants who have approved sponsors to start their business in the UK
Transit VisaFor passengers who pass through the UK on their way to another country
Tourist VisaFor visitors who travel to the UK for up to six months for leisure

UK Work and Business Visas

If you’re coming to the UK for business or work purposes, you’ll need a visa that allows you to do so. The following work visas are available in the United Kingdom:

Long-term Work Visas

  • Skilled Worker visa
  • Health and Care Worker visa
  • Intra-company visas
  • Minister of Religion visa (T2)
  • International Sportsperson visa

Short-term Work Visas

  • Temporary Work – Charity Worker visa
  • Temporary Work – Creative Worker visa
  • Temporary Work – Government Authorised Exchange visa
  • Temporary Work – International Agreement visa
  • Temporary Work – Religious Worker visa
  • Temporary Work – Seasonal Worker visa
  • Youth Mobility Scheme visa
  • Graduate visa

Investor, Business Development and Talent Visas

How To Start a Business in the UK:
The Ultimate Guide Click to read >

UK Study Visas

The United Kingdom is home to some world-class educational institutions, making it a popular choice for international students. Foreign students must get a visa that allows them to study in the UK before coming to the country.

UK study visas include:

  • Student visa
  • Child Student visa
  • Study English in the UK (Short-term study visa)

UK Tourist and Visitors Visas

The United Kingdom is a popular tourist destination. Visitor visas are provided for short stays, tourism visits, and other similar purposes. This type of visa grants rights to visit the country, they don’t function as a work permit.

If you’re a non-EEA citizen and plan to stay in the UK for less than six months, a tourist visa can be right for you. The regular UK visitor visa can be used for a variety of things, such as:

  • Visiting family and friends
  • Visiting the United Kingdom as a tourist
  • Obtaining private medical care
  • Getting married in the UK
  • Registering your marriage in the UK

UK Family Visas

This visa is for people who have family members working and residing in the United Kingdom and want to join them as their dependents for more than six months. You may be eligible for a UK family visa if you want to live with your spouse or partner, child, parent, or relative who will look after you long-term.

UK Transit Visas

If you’re passing through the UK in transit which means that you’re passing through on your way to another country, you might need to get a transit visa. To get a transit visa:

  • You must be in transit to another country with sufficient cash and the intent to continue traveling 
  • You’re able to prove you can enter that country
  • You’re able to show that your visit to the UK is solely for transit

If you can show that you need to pass through the UK in transit frequently for a longer amount of time, you can apply for a long-term visit visa. Each visit is limited to 48 hours, and your visa is valid for two, five, or 10 years.

You can get either a direct airside transit visa or a visitor in transit visa depending on your pass through immigration or not.

EEA or Swiss nationals are exempted from UK transit visas.

UK Refugee Visa

Temporary Refugee Visas are for individuals who were forced to flee their country. This visa is applied for from within the United Kingdom.

UK Visa Processing Time

UK visa processing time can take up to three weeks. The processing time for UK visas varies from one application to the next due to a variety of variables, such as the visa type, your situation, and eligibility.

Priority Services To Apply for UK Visa 

Fast processing is available for UK visa applications. If this service is available in the country where you’re applying, you can pay the additional cost and make use of priority services. Through this service, a decision will be made within five working days of your appointment.

There is also a next-day collection service which is also known as super-priority.

UK Visa Types and Fees

UK visa applicants must pay a fee to the Home Office for their application to be processed. The amount you must pay will be determined by the type of visa you are seeking and the country from which you are applying.

Here is a chart that shows the UK visa application fees* for an individual that is applying from the US:

Visitor visa (valid for up to 2 years)$508
Student visa – main applicant and dependents$489
Tier 1 investor – main applicant and dependants$2,283
Family visas – Adult dependent relative$4,571

*Data collected on February 2022 (Source:

Tracking Your UK Visa Application Status

If you’ve made your application outside of the UK, you can contact the visa application center where you’ve made your application from. If you’ve made your application in the UK, you can contact the “UKVI” a Home Office body.

Note that there are fees involved in contacting the center.

UK Electronic Visa Waiver

Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, or United Arab Emirates citizens can get an electronic visa waiver (EVW) instead of a visa. An EVW costs £30.

You can stay in the UK for up to 6 months on an EVW for vacation, business, study, or medical treatment. If you’re traveling for a different reason, check if you’ll require a visa.

In your application, you’ll present the following:

  • Your passport 
  • Your address in the UK 
  • Your travel itinerary

UK Indefinite Leave To Remain

Indefinite leave to remain UK (ILR) is a residency status that allows you to stay, work, and live in the UK permanently. If you live in the UK for a minimum of five years and meet the criteria, you can be eligible for ILR.

ILR is a route that leads to British citizenship.

Frequently Asked Questions on UK Visas and Immigration

What are the most common type of UK visas and residence permit? 

Popular UK visa categories include study visas, work visas, or short-term visit visas. 

What are UK visa requirements and how to get UK visa?

UK Visa requirements and how to get UK visa depend on the visa you’re going to make an application for. Each visa’s requirements are different.

How can I see my UK visa application status?

You can call or email the relevant body where you’ve made your application to. However, note that you’ll be charged a certain fee for this.

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