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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/special-visitor-child-visitors-vat03/special-visitor-child-visitors-vat03
1. VAT3.1 What are the requirements?
Immigration Rules for child visitors: Paragraphs 46A-F.
2. VAT3.2 Why were these Rules introduced?
These Rules were introduced to provide a record of children who travel to the UK as visitors, identify the adults involved in their travel and their visit and to clearly record who is responsible for the child’s welfare.
For children coming to the UK for short term stays sponsored through charities see also the section on children sponsored by charities.
3. VAT3.3 What are the key requirements for children visiting the UK?
All applicants who are under the age of 18 must show that:
- they have adequate travel, reception and care arrangements for their stay in the UK;
- they have a parent or guardian in their home country or country of habitual residence who is responsible for their care; and
- their parent / guardian agrees to them travelling.
4. VAT3.4 Parent / Guardian consent
The UK Border Agency has a duty of care for child welfare under Section 55 of the Borders Citizenship and Immigration Act. It is therefore imperative that the ECO is fully satisfied with the reception and care arrangements in the UK for the child. Border Force staff will also need to be fully satisfied that the child’s welfare needs are still met once the child arrives in the UK.
In the first instance, the ECO needs to establish and record that the parent / guardian is in the home country and that the parent / guardian agrees to the child travelling to the UK.
The ECO should therefore expect to see:
- A letter of consent from a parent or legal guardian consenting to the arrangements for their travel to, reception and care while in the UK. If a foster care arrangement exists, this is to include details of the intended foster carer - name, date of birth, address where child will be living, relationship of foster carer to child and authority from the parent or legal guardian for the foster carer to care for the child during their stay in the UK.
- Where applicable, a letter from the school to include details of the foster care arrangement and that they have or will notify the local authority (and the reply from the LA if they have one).
The ECO should refuse the application if they have doubts about whether consent has been given, or where there is nothing from the parent or guardian and no reasonable explanation as to why this is so.
Where the parents are divorced, the consent must come from the parent who holds legal custody or sole responsibility.
Where the application is made by someone other than a parent or guardian or a social worker holding parental rights who is caring for the child, enquiries should be made as to the identity of the adult.
5. VAT3.5 What are suitable travel, reception and care arrangements
This will vary from application to application and depends on whether the child is accompanied or unaccompanied. In all cases a clear record of who is responsible for the child’s welfare in their home country and whilst in the UK is imperative.
For host families the ECO needs to establish the identity and address of the hosts and must ensure that the care arrangements are satisfactory. In routine cases this could mean seeing a letter from the host family.
Proviso details must be updated to show that satisfactory care arrangements are met and to include the name, address and telephone number of the intended family / carer, as well as the parents’ contact details. Failure to ensure this information is readily available may result in a lengthy delay for the child at the port of arrival.
Child protection and duty of care is very much in the fore-front of Immigration Officers’ minds and where a child does not present any kind of paperwork concerning the care arrangements, officers will pursue enquiries as they see fit to satisfy themselves that the children are not at risk.
6. VAT3.6 Private foster care arrangements - study / exchange programmes
Children (under 16 years old or under 18 years old if disabled) are privately fostered when they are cared for on a full-time basis by adults, who are not their parents or a close relative, for more than 28 days. Full-time includes holiday periods. It is the responsibility of the parent, carer and anyone else involved in making the private foster care arrangement (including the approved education provider) to notify their local council of the private foster care arrangement. The local authority is responsible for safeguarding and protecting children. Therefore, where children coming on an exchange visit and will be staying with a host family in these circumstances, evidence will be required that the parent, carer or other person involved in making the foster care arrangement is satisfied with the care arrangements and that they intend to notify the local authority of the care arrangements soon after the child’s arrival. They must make sure that private foster carers are suitable and that they get any support and guidance they may need to help care for the child. **A close relative, parent or legal guardian cannot be a private foster carer. **
Note: Where a group of students from an overseas school is travelling to the UK together and staying together, for instance in a youth hostel or hotel, this is not a private foster care arrangement and the requirements do not apply.
7. VAT3.7 Private foster care legislation
Private foster care legislation for the four UK administrations is as follows:
*England and Wales: Part IX of the Children Act 1989 and The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005.
*Scotland: Private fostering is dealt with in the Foster Children (Scotland) Act 1984 and the Foster Children (Private Fostering) Regulations 1985.
These regulations require parents including a guardian or relative, to notify the local authority of arrangements to be made for the fostering of their children privately under the 1984 Act (regulation 3). They also make provision for the local authority to investigate the suitability of such private fostering arrangements in the interests of the child (regulations 4 to 6) and for the visiting of such foster children by the local authority (regulation 7). Under the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001, the Care Commission became responsible for the regulation of local authorities’ functions with regard to private foster care arrangements.
- Northern Ireland: The Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 - Articles 106/107 - and the resulting Regulations, The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996 replicate that which applies in England, in that Health and Social Care Trusts are required to be notified of private foster care arrangements that will last more than 28 days in relation to under 16s (or under 18s if disabled.)
Useful links on UK legislation relating to child welfare
- Independent Safeguarding Authority website
- Every Child Matters, on Department for Education website
- The Children (Private Arrangements for Fostering) Regulations 2005 Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 1533
- Children Act 1989 Chapter 41 - on OPSI website
- Children Act 2004 Chapter 31 - on OPSI website
VAT3.8 Child visitors undertaking short programmes during their visit?
A child visitor may come to the UK to do a course of study for up to six months as long as this is provided by an organisation which meets the requirements below. They may also participate in an exchange visit - see VAT3.9.
*A course of study and an exchange visit are different. Exchange visits are mainly about broadening horizons and developing a cultural understanding, as opposed to a more formal English language course or an activity-based programme.
Where a child visitor is undertaking an activity-based programme, which includes English language tuition, it has been agreed that the organisation is not required to obtain accreditation, providing that the language study is incidental to the activity-based programme.
Activity-based programmes allow for children to attend courses that focus on certain skills or interests. Football and rugby schools are good examples. These courses generally take place in the summer months and allow for children to take advantage of school holidays to pursue interests in an English-speaking environment. Activity-based programmes can include English language tuition, but any language study should be incidental to the main activity-based programme. This means that the main purpose of the child’s visit is to attend an activity-based course rather than a formal English language course. The English language element to activity-based courses can be classroom-based, but any classroom based language tuition should not form the larger part of the overall programme. A programme that focuses more on academic achievement through tests or an exam-focussed syllabus is not activity-based. For example, 3 hours formal and daily classroom based tuition followed by afternoon sight-seeing tours is not an activity-based programme. These courses are in line with what is offered as formal courses of study at most English language schools for adults and children in the UK.
Examples of programmes that are covered:
- 8 week ‘on-the pitch’ football summer school, where football coaching / practice takes up the majority of the time, with some visits to places of interest and football matches and a few hours a week of informal English language training.
- 2 week folk dancing programme, in which practical dancing skills and attending folk dancing exhibitions and shows are the focus, with an hour or two a week learning about the history of folk dancing.
- 4 week mountaineering programme, camping on Snowdon. Time to be spent climbing and at social events. An hour or two a week of informal English language training.
Examples of programmes that are not covered:
- 12 week English language course where mornings are spent in the classroom and afternoons on cultural visits.
- 6 week archaeology course, where time is spent predominantly in the classroom, with visits to archaeological sites.
- 2 week study programme on British history and culture, incorporating visits to places of interest, where the programme is predominantly in the classroom.
The organisation providing an activity-based programme will need to demonstrate that it has all measures in place to safeguard children and that they are appropriately regulated for the programme they deliver (where regulation applies). The organisation might do this by means for example of providing the child visitor with a letter that confirms the length and content of the course, the relevant regulations and confirmation from the regulatory body that the regulations have been met.
Providers that are offering a course of study as opposed to an activity-based programme need to be either
- the holder of a Tier 4 sponsor licence, or
- accreditation by a UKBA approved accreditation body:
Lists of institutions accredited by the UKBA approved bodies (Accreditation UK, BAC, ASIC and ABLS) can be found at:
Accreditation UK - a British Council scheme which offers an accreditation service for English language schools;
The British Accreditation Council (BAC) - which offers a more general accreditation service to cover a wide range of different educational establishments and their courses; and
The Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC) - which also offers a general accreditation service to cover a wide range of different educational establishments and their courses;
The Accreditation Body for Language Services (ABLS) - which provides an accreditation service to a diverse range of English language providers,
- an independent fee paying school registered with the Department for Children, Schools and Families. See the How do I sponsor a migrant? page. back to top
7.1 VAT3.9 Child visitors intending to participate in an exchange visit
Some organisations arrange visit exchange schemes whereby young people (normally between 16 and 18 years of age) can spend part of the academic year in the educational system of another country. Under paragraph 46A (viii) there is provision for a child visitor to come to the UK to attend a state maintained, a non-maintained special school, an independent non-fee paying or an independent fee paying school in these circumstances. Visits will mostly involve students of secondary school age, but may include some primary school pupils. There will not always be a head to head exchange.
Provided the requirements of paragraph 46A are met, and importantly, appropriate care arrangements have been made, leave will be granted for a maximum of 6 months.
Applicants will not be able to extend their stay beyond 6 months.
**Note: Exchange and educational visits are not regarded for the purposes of [paragraph 46A (viii)](#) of the Immigration Rules as being a course of study.**
7.2 VAT3.10 What will a child normally do on an exchange visit?
Exchange visit programmes are principally about enrichment, broadening horizons and deepening intercultural understanding. Shorter visits lasting a week or two might involve the young person attending some school lessons, but he or she would probably not be expected to do any homework. There would normally be an extensive programme of cultural visits organised for the visitors (day in Stratford upon Avon, trip to a football match etc). In a longer exchange (say, one lasting a month or more) the balance of activities is likely to change with the young person expected to attend more / most lessons and do homework. The school’s expectations of the visiting young person would be unlikely to be the same as for its own students or students from abroad following a course of study, for example, there may well be no sanctions for failure to do homework. He or she wouldn’t be expected to sit tests or exams or wear the school’s uniform.
7.3 VAT3.11 Guidance on schools in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for exchange visits
England and Wales
A maintained school is one that is funded by the local authority. In England and Wales it will be one of the following:
- foundation school;
- community school;
- voluntary controlled school;
- voluntary aided school;
- nursery school;
In England and Wales, in an independent school:
- the governing body is responsible for the day-to-day running of the school;
- the school is funded by fees paid by parents and, sometimes, charitable trust funds;
- the head teacher with the backing of the governing body employs the staff;
- the head teacher or the governing body may buy in and administer support services;
- the pupils do not have to follow the national curriculum;
the admissions policy is determined and administered by the head teacher and the governing body.
**Academies ** Academies are independently-managed, all-ability schools. They are set up in disadvantaged areas by sponsors from business, charities or voluntary groups in partnership with the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and local education authorities. In a city academy:
- the DCSF funds the school’s running costs;
- the governing body employs the staff;
the pupils do not have to follow the National Curriculum.
**City technology college ** City technology colleges (CTCs) are independent non-fee paying schools and are situated in urban areas. There are only a limited number of CTCs. In a CTC:
- the college is run in accordance with an agreement between the company that
- owns it and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF);
- the DCSF and commercial sponsors fund the college;
- the governing body employs the staff;
- the governing body buys in and administers the support services;
- the pupils follow a curriculum that is similar to the national curriculum, with
- particular emphasis on technological and practical skills;
the admissions policy is determined and administered by the governing body.
**Special schools not maintained by the local authority ** Some schools for pupils with special educational needs are not maintained by the local authority and the information about independent schools applies. In some circumstances, a local authority may pay the fees so that a pupil with special educational needs may attend one of these schools if this school best meets their needs.
There are the 3 categories of school which exist in Scotland under the HMG Education (Scotland) Act 1980:
- State funded schools - funded by the Local Authority*;
- Grant-aided schools - funded directly from the Scottish Government (mainly special schools )*;
- Equates to maintained schools in England and Wales
The main type of schools are:
Controlled schools are managed and funded by the 5 Education & Library Boards (ELBs) through school Boards of Governors. These schools are 100 per cent funded. Under the Review of Public Administration (RPA), a new Education Skills Authority will take over responsibility from the ELBs. Within the controlled sector there is a small but growing number of controlled integrated schools.
Voluntary (maintained) schools are managed by Boards of Governors.
Voluntary schools vary in the rates of capital grant to which they are entitled, according to the management structures they have adopted. The majority are entitled to capital grants at 100 per cent. The Boards of Governors consist of members nominated by trustees, along with representatives of parents, teachers and ELBs. These schools are funded through the ELBs for their running costs and directly by the Department of Education in relation to capital building works. Under RPA, a new Education Skills Authority will take over responsibility from the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools.
**Voluntary (Non-Maintained) **These are mainly voluntary grammar schools, managed by Boards of Governors.
Voluntary schools vary in the rates of capital grant to which they are entitled, according to the management structures they have adopted. The majority are entitled to capital grants at 100 per cent. The Boards of Governors are constituted in accordance with each school’s scheme of management (that is, usually representatives of foundation governors, parents and teachers and, in most cases, the Department of Education or ELBs). Voluntary Grammar Schools are funded directly by the Department but responsibility for funding will transfer from the Department under RPA.
**Grant-Maintained Integrated Schools**
In recent years a number of grant‑maintained integrated schools have been established at primary level and post‑primary levels. These are currently funded directly by the Department of Education. As with the voluntary grammar schools, responsibility for funding will transfer from the Department under RPA.
**Independent Schools **There is a small number of independent schools in Northern Ireland. These schools are not funded by the Department.
7.4 VAT3.12 How do I check a school’s status for an exchange visit?
If an ECO is concerned that the school to which the exchange is being made is not a bona fide institution - that is, that it is not offering education to a standard required by relevant education legislation - a check can be made on the following websites (no password or additional authority is needed to access them):
- EduBase Public Portal (England & Wales)
- Scottish Schools Online (Scotland)
- Independent Schools Register Search (Scotland)
- Department of Education (Northern Ireland)
7.5 VAT3.13 Child visitors intending to undertake sports, entertainer or business visitor activities whilst in the UK
Child visitors can enter the UK to undertake sports, entertainer or business visitor activities provided that they meet the requirements of paragraph 46A of the Immigration Rules.
7.6 VAT3.14 What details do I need to record on Proviso and the Central Reference System (CRS)?
The ECO needs to record the following details (where applicable) on Proviso and CRS:
- the name, home address and landline telephone number of the parent / guardian in the child’s home country;
- the name, relationship to the child, employment details, home address and landline telephone number of the adult(s) travelling with the child, and their UK address and telephone number;
- the name and address, relationship to child and landline telephone number of the host family in the UK;
- the name, relationship to child, address and landline telephone number of the adult meeting the child on arrival in the UK, if they are not the host family;
- details of any school or organisation involved in child visitor study or exchange programmes.
Where these details are missing or unclear or other factors raise concerns about the child’s welfare, further enquiries should be undertaken to confirm the identity and residence of the host and that the child is expected.
If despite these further enquiries the ECO remains concerned about the child’s welfare in the UK, the application should be refused.
ECOs do not need to make detailed enquiries into the acceptability of adults who are to accompany a child so long as the application is being made by the parent or guardian, unless other factors suggest this to be necessary.
ECOs should pay particular attention to the applications and circumstances of a child who seeks to enter the UK unaccompanied.
Where any doubts remain, the application should be refused.
7.7 VAT3.15 When is the visa valid for travel?
The visa will only be valid if the child is travelling with the adult or adults recorded on the visa when it was issued. Any visas issued before 12 February 2006, when the Rule was introduced, will be valid until they expire.
The child can travel with either of the adults whose details are recorded on the visa, or with both; but if only one adult’s details are recorded on the visa, the child must travel with that adult.
If a child is likely to be travelling with various adults or alone while the visa is valid, the ECO should recommend that the child has an unaccompanied visa.
Where the child has a multiple entry visa and they do not intend to travel with the same adult, it may be better for them to be issued with an unaccompanied visa even though they may not be travelling alone. Having an unaccompanied visa does not prevent a child from travelling with an adult.
If the child has an accompanied visa, but is going to travel alone or with an adult not named on the visa, the child must get a new visa before they travel.
If the child is not travelling with one or both of the adults recorded on the visa, the airline may refuse to carry them to the UK and the Immigration authorities may refuse them entry into the UK.
Where the child intends to travel with two adults sequentially within the validity of the visa, for example, the child may arrive with one parent and then travel for a day trip to France with the other, each of the adult’s passport numbers should be entered on the vignette.
Care should be taken when considering long term visit visa applications from child visitors. They should only be granted a visa which is valid to 6 months past their 18th birthday. For instance, a 14 year old applying for a 5 or 10 year long term visit visa, the visa expiry date should be limited to the date that is 6 months after the applicant’s 18th birthday.
If the ECO decides that it is necessary to issue a visa for a shorter validity than has been applied for, the ECM should approve it and notes should be added to Proviso. In such cases, no refund (full or partial) is available. The ECO should ensure that clear explanatory information for the decision is provided in a covering letter when the passport is returned.
7.8 VAT3.16 Parents / guardians visiting children
Parents / guardians wishing to accompany, join or visit their child will need to meet the full requirements of the visitor rules.
7.9 VAT3.17 What is the visa endorsement for unaccompanied children?
C: VISIT CHILD UNACCOMPANIED LTE 6 MONTHS, CODE 3
A child with an ‘unaccompanied’ child visitor visa is able to travel with or without any other person. It does not prevent them from travelling with an adult.
7.10 VAT3.18 What is the visa endorsement where the child is accompanied by two adults / both parents?
C: VISIT CHILD ACCOMPANIED LTE 6 MONTHS, CODE 3 Only valid if accompanied by [enter accompanying parents’ / guardians’ passport numbers]
There is insufficient space on the vignette to allow for the names of two people as well as the passport numbers.
A child who seeks to enter the UK in the company of an adult other than the one(s) identified on the child’s visa, should normally be refused.
7.11 VAT3.19 What is the visa endorsement where the child is accompanied sequentially by two adults?
C:VISIT CHILD ACCOMPANIED LTE 6 MONTHS CODE 3 Only valid if accompanied by [passport number of first adult] or [passport number of second adult].
The child’s visa will only be valid if she / he is accompanied by the identified adult.
7.12 VAT3.20 What is the visa endorsement where the child is accompanied by one parent or one adult?
C: VISIT CHILD ACCOMPANIED LTE 6 MONTHS, CODE 3 Only valid if accompanied by [enter accompanying parent’s / guardian’s name and passport number]
A child who seeks to enter the UK in the company of an adult other than the one identified on the child’s visa, should normally be refused.
7.13 VAT3.21 Child visitor examples of refusal wordings
Wording for refusals: Section 1-5 (can be downloaded under ‘Related documents’ on the right of this page).
7.14 VAT3.22 Do child visitors have full rights of appeal?
No. They will have a limited right of appeal.