Applying for a visa to come to the UK

Choose a visa

You may need a visa to come to the UK to study, work, visit or join family.

There are different visas depending on:

  • where you come from
  • why you want to come to the UK
  • how long you want to stay for
  • your personal circumstances and skills

Before you apply, you must check if you need a visa and what type you need. Depending on your nationality, you might not need a visa.

Your application must be approved before you travel.

If you want to visit the UK

Check which visa you need to visit the UK:

If you have a visitor visa you cannot take a job in the UK. You can do up to 30 days of study, as long as it’s not the main reason for your visit.

If you’re travelling through the UK

You might need a visa if you’re travelling through the UK on your way to another country, for example if you have a layover between flights.

Apply for a visa to travel through the UK

If you want to study in the UK

Your course length, type and place of study affect which visa to apply for.

A short-term study visa lets you to study for up to 6 months (11 months if you’re over 16 and studying an English language course).

A general student visa is for a longer course. You must be sponsored by a licensed college or university and have a confirmed place. You can do some work on this visa.

A child student visa is for 4 to 17 year olds who want to study at an independent school. If you’re 16 or over, you can do some work on this visa.

If you want to work or invest in the UK

You can work in the UK on a short or long-term basis with a work visa. There are many types of work visa.

The visa you need depends upon:

  • your skills and qualifications
  • if you have a job offer and sponsorship
  • if you want to bring your family with you
  • what you’ll be doing - for example sporting, charitable or religious work

You can also invest money in the UK with an Investor visa. You can set up a business with an Entrepreneur visa or a Graduate Entrepreneur visa.

If you want to join family in the UK

If you’re a spouse, partner or family member of someone who has British citizenship or settlement in the UK, you can apply for a family visa to join them. They may need to show that they can support you financially.

You may be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) after a set amount of time living in the UK.

Family reunion visas for refugees

If you were separated from your partner or child when you were forced to leave your country, you can apply for them to join you in the UK.

To apply you must have been given asylum or 5 years’ humanitarian protection, and not have British citizenship.

Other ways to get permission to live in the UK

Commonwealth citizens

You can apply for an Ancestry visa to work in the UK if you have a British grandparent and meet other eligibility criteria.

You may have right of abode to live in the UK.

If you’re a Commonwealth citizen and cannot prove your right to be in the UK, read about the Windrush scheme.

Returning residents

If you had indefinite leave to remain (ILR) and left the UK for more than 2 years you’ll need to apply for a returning resident visa to come back.

Other visas

There may be another visa that’s right for you based on your circumstances. Check what other visas you’re eligible for.