How To Apply for A UK Visit Visa (UK Tourist Visa)

Are you planning to apply for a UK Visitor Visa soon?  Or maybe planning to sponsor a UK Visit visa for your friend or relative.

Here’s a guide that can help you in securing your UK visa.

The United Kingdom is one of the most visited travel destinations in the world. Rich in British culture, traditions, history and the grandeur of the royal castles and palaces dotted around the country.

However, not all Non- European nationals are allowed to enter freely in the UK without securing the most sought-after UK Visit Visa.

I would like to share with you my personal experience on how to secure a UK Visit visa, sponsoring the UK visit visa and explaining everything in between.

Read More: Complete List of UK Passport Visa Free Countries to Visit

Who needs to apply for the UK visit visa?

Most of the Non- European countries would require you to apply for a UK Visitor visa when visiting or transiting the UK.  Depending on your nationality, you have to check if you are required to apply for a UK visa prior to travelling.  Check here if you need to apply for a UK visa. 

Which UK Visitor Visa is right for your trip?

The Visit Visa system in the UK comes in different categories depending on your purpose of travel. You have to make sure to pick the right type of UK visit visa applications and requirements.

Here are the different types of UK Visit Visa:

1. Standard Visitor Visa 

The Standard Visitor visa will be an applicable choice for you if you are travelling to the UK with the main purpose of tourism, private medical treatment or business. This new category of UK tourist visa replaced the majority of the old categories like Family Visitor, General Visitor, Child Visitor and many others short-term UK Visit visa types.

2. Short-term study visa

The Short-term study visa is applicable to use if you want to participate in various short courses here in the UK.  The visa’s term is from 6 to 11 months, depending on your course. You are still classified as a short-term temporary UK visitor and can’t study in state-funded schools, you can’t work, bring any dependents and you can’t extend your visa here in the UK.

3. Direct Airside Transit Visa and Visitor in Transit Visa 

 You need a transit visa if you are transiting into the UK even just to catch your next flight within the 24 hours and NOT LEAVING THE AIRPORT, you have to secure a Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV).

If you are LEAVING THE AIRPORT to catch another flight in another UK airport, or required by the airline to check-in your luggage personally (typically with budget airlines), or leaving the UK within 48 hours, you must secure a Visitor in Transit Visa.

Transit in the UK without a visa

You can also transit in the UK without a visa if your personal circumstances or nationality would exempt you from getting a DATV or Visitor in Transit Visa.

You might be authorised to ‘transit without visa’ if:

  • you arrive and depart by air.
  • have a confirmed onward flight that leaves on the day you arrive or before midnight on the day after you arrive.
  • have the correct documents for your destination (e.g. a visa for that country)

You must also:

  • be travelling to (or on part of a reasonable journey to) Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA and have a valid visa for that country
  • be travelling from (or on part of a reasonable journey from) Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA and have a valid visa for that country
  • be travelling from (or on part of a reasonable journey from) Australia, Canada, New Zealand or the USA and it’s less than 6 months since you last entered that country with a valid entry visa
  • have a residence permit issued by Australia or New Zealand
  • have a common format residence permit issued by an European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland
  • have a residence permit issued by Canada issued after 28 June 2002
  • have a uniform format category D visa for entry to a country in the EEA or Switzerland
  • have an Irish biometric visa (marked ‘BC’ or ‘BC BIVS’ in the ‘Remarks’ section) and an onward flight ticket to the Republic of Ireland
  • have a valid USA permanent residence card issued by the USA on or after 21 April 1998
  • have a valid USA I-551 Temporary Immigrant visa issued by the USA (a wet-ink stamp version will not be accepted)
  • have an expired USA I-551 Permanent Residence card issued by the USA on or after 21 April 1998, with a valid I-797 letter authorising extension
  • have a valid standalone US Immigration Form 155A/155B issued by the USA (attached to a sealed brown envelope)

The Border control officer will decide your fate if you are allowed to transit in the UK without a DATV or a Transit visa. The visas and residence permits mentioned above should be valid during your travel/arrival to the UK borders.

4. Permitted Paid Engagement visa 

The Permitted Paid Engagement visa is a type of  UK Visitor visa that enables you to work solely on your profession of expertise. The main purpose of the short-term visit is to work on specific terms and expertise stated in your application that is fully supported by an organisation/company that is based here in the UK.

Any other unrelated paid work is not allowed. You can stay in the UK for a maximum of 1 month and no dependants are allowed.

5. Marriage Visitor Visa 

The Marriage Visitor Visa is applicable for any UK travellers who intend (and the main purpose is) to get married here in the UK. However, if you are already in a civil partnership abroad and would like to convert it into marriage here in the UK, you can apply for a Standard Visit Visa.

UK Visitor Visa requirements 

The requirements for UK visitor visa varies depending on which category should you wish to apply for your upcoming visit to the UK.

All UK Visitor Visa applicants must be able to provide a Valid Travel Document (passport or any other document that can be used for international travel)

These are the documents required for all the types of UK Visitor visa:

  1. Valid travel document ( at least with 6 months validity prior to your travel)
  2. Previous travel documents (old passport etc.) that shows your travel history, visas etc.
  3. Financial documents such as bank statements (3 months) or bank deposit book. If you are self-employed, income statements. If you are financially sponsored by a business, relative or a friend, they (your sponsor) should be able to provide sufficient funds on their bank statements, pay slips etc that they can sustain for you during your trip here in the UK without sourcing from the public funds.
  4. Confirmation of legal residence – residence card, employment visa etc. if you are not a national of the country that you are residing.
  5. Details of Employment or Studies – This should be presented on a company letterhead with details on your company’s role, salary and length of employment. If you are currently studying, a letter from your school on a school letterhead confirming your enrolment and leave of absence for the trip. If you are self- employed, proof of business registration to confirm your business ownership and the date of trading.

You can find other required documents and supporting documents here for your UK Visitor Visa application. You are not required to have a confirmed flight or hotel booking prior to lodging your UK Visit visa. 

You can print out a proposed travel flight itinerary here and a proposed hotel booking here. You can also buy your affordable and reliable travel insurance for your UK Tourist visa here.

UK Visitor Visa Application form

All UK Visitor Visa application should be filled in online using this service. You have to create your own profile using your email and set up a secure password. After filling up the necessary information, you have to print the application form to be submitted together with your requirements and other supporting documents for your UK Visitor Visa application.

UK Visa Processing time

 The visa processing time can vary depending on how busy the visa application centre is and the type of visa you are applying. Typically, the General Visit visa should be processed within 15 days. However, this is not set in stone.  So it’s better to apply at least 3 months in advance prior to your proposed departure date.

You can check here the estimated UK visa processing time depending on where you are in the world.

UK Visa Fee Payment

After filling out your online application using the link I mentioned above, you can now pay your UK visa fee online. The UK Visa fee varies depending on the type of visa you are applying for and where you are applying from. You can check how much is the UK visa fee for your application here.

Photo for UK Visitor Visa

Approved UK visa photos are required for your application. It is a standard visa application size photo 45mm (high) and 35mm (wide) on a white background with no other distraction. You can check the UK visa and passport photo guidelines and tips here.

Where to apply for the UK visa

After filling out and printing your UK visa application and paying the correct visa fees,  you can now book and attend to submit your visa application. All the UK Visitor Visa application should be submitted to the nearest Visa application centre. You can find the nearest Visa Application Centre here.

What to do for sponsoring a UK Visit Visa 

This is based on my personal experience of sponsoring a UK Visit Visa:

UK Visitor Visa Sponsor documents

You will need a letter of invitation addressed to the UK embassy or Consulate that will process the visa application.  You have to state the complete name (name on the passport) of your guest.  You also have to include your relation to them, their dates of travel, where they will be staying and the purpose of their visit to the UK.

If you are intending to financially support their trip, you also have to state in the letter that you are doing so and up to what extent.

A sample of UK Visa Sponsorship Letter

Here is the sample UK visa sponsorship letter that I have used when sponsoring a UK Visit visa.


British Embassy

To whom it may concern;


I am writing to confirm my invitation to NAME OF YOUR GUEST, a close friend of mine to come here in the UK as a Standard Visitor Visa to have a short holiday. The duration of her stay here in the UK will be from DATE to DATE.

I am a British Citizen and working for NAME OF YOUR COMPANY OR BUSINESS. I am willing to accommodate her/him in this address (PUT YOUR HOME ADDRESS IF THE GUEST WILL BE STAYING IN YOUR PLACE) during their stay here in the UK.

Please find the attached documents:

– Copy of my Passport
– Council Tax Bill and my driving license as a proof of address

Should you require any additional information please do not hesitate to contact me.



How to Apply for UK Visit Visa using EEA Family Permit

The UK Visit Visa and EEA Family permit are on different visa categories.  The UK Visit visa is under the temporary short stay permit while the EEA Family Permit is for a long-term stay.

You can see here on how to apply for the EEA Family permit too stay and live in the UK.

UK Visit Visa refusal appeal or reapply 

There are no rights to appeal once you got a visa refusal on your UK Visit Visa.  However, you can fulfil the required documents or reason of refusal before you can re-apply again for another UK visit visa.

I  hope that this UK Visitor Visa guide can help you on securing your UK visit visa.  Just a note of reminder, that you have to consult an OISC qualified professional if you need any help on your visa application.

See more of our Dual Citizenship & Visas page and  United Kingdom posts or look for more other world destinations here.

All the information here are sourced from the UK home office website and my personal experience.


Ryazan Tristram EverythingZany Author Bio

Ryazan Tristram

Travel Writer & Photographer

Ryazan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism and Hotel Management. She also has more than 10 years of work experience gained from working in the hotel and travel sectors in Asia and Europe. Her work has been featured and published on Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Discovery Channel, World Travel Guide, MSN, CNBC, GMA, Daily Mail UK, Lonely Planet and many more. She is currently living in the UK as a dual citizen (British – Filipina). Join her in travelling around the UK and beyond with a mission to promote sustainable tourism and share travel guides, travel tips, foodies, history and culture.

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