If a family member or friend is going to visit you in the UK they may be able to enter as a Standard Visitor. This is also the category you would use if you wanted to return to the UK as a visitor after your studies and when your student permission is no longer valid. This page explains the requirements and whether a Standard Visitor needs to apply for a visa before arrival or can ask for permission at the border.
Does a visitor need a visa?
Nationals of some countries (visa nationals) need to apply for a Standard Visitor visa before travelling to the UK. You can find the visa national list here.
If your visitor is a visa national and needs to apply for a visa prior to travelling, they must they must apply on the Home Office website. Visitors should choose the category best describing the reason for coming to the UK. For example choose ‘Tourism’ if coming to visit a student or attend a graduation ceremony. The online application has an area towards the end for ‘additional information’ where an applicant could briefly explain the purpose of their visit. The application can be made from any country outside the UK.
If the visitor does not need a visa before travelling, they must be able to show they meet requirements to enter as a Standard Visitor on arrival at UK Border Control – see below.
How long can a visitor come for?
A Standard Visitor can usually stay in the UK for up to six months. If the visitor needed to apply for a visa, the six month validity period will be shown on the visa sticker. The visa will usually be multi-entry allowing the visitor to leave and return to the UK during its period of validity.
If the visitor does not need a visa, UK Border Control will stamp their passport on arrival to show the period of permission. A visitor should avoid staying longer in the UK than the period they told the Home Office they planned to stay for and must not stay longer than validity date of the visa or entry stamp. To do so could mean they have difficulty being allowed to come to the UK again.
Although there is no limit on the number of visits to the UK or time that must elapse between visits, Immigration Rules explain that an applicant must not be using frequent or closely spaced visits to live in the UK for an extended period.
If a visitor has a proven ongoing need to come to the UK regularly for short periods, and has a history of compliance with immigration law, they could apply for a long term visit visa for a period of two, five or 10 years.
Requirements and evidence
Visitors need to provide evidence that they meet the Standard Visitor requirements. If applying for a visa, send the evidence with your passport as instructed during the online application process. The Home Office has written guidance on the supporting documents needed. If the visitor does not need to apply for a visa they should have the evidence with them to show UK Border Control. The visitor should be prepared to be able to demonstrate the following if asked:
- reason for visit: for example, if coming to attend a graduation ceremony, details of the ceremony booking or a letter of invitation from you for guests. If coming to visit friends or for tourism, details of plans and accommodation
- length of visit: details of travel dates and evidence of bookings (if already made)
- funding for visit: sufficient for travel, living expenses and planned activities. For example three months’ bank statements with a sufficient balance and evidence of any payments already made such as flights or accommodation
- relationship with visitor: are they a family member or friend?
Supporting your visitor
You can help your visitor by sending them the following to include with their visa application or show on arrival:
- a letter of invitation from you including the reason for the visit. You could use or amend the sample letter for graduation visitors [pdf] depending on the reason for the visit.
- a supporting letter from your college, if for example your visitor will be staying in college accommodation. College staff may be willing to stamp your enrolment certificate
- if your visitor is coming for your graduation ceremony, proof of the date and, if available, confirmation that a place has been reserved for them
- copies of the personal details page of your passport and your current visa sticker or Biometric Residence Permit
- if you are still enrolled at the University, a print-out of your enrolment certificate from Student Self Service
- if you are providing accommodation or covering your visitor’s expenses, evidence of your ability to do so e.g. copies of recent bank statements
- evidence of relationship if your visitor is a family member, for example copy of marriage or birth certificate.
Standard Visitors are allowed to:
- visit family or friends and/or be a tourist
- study for up to 30 days, but only if this is incidental to the main purpose of their visit. If study is the main reason for the visit, the Short-Term Student route should be used instead (The short term student route is being merged into the visitor route from 1st December 2020)
- volunteer, but only if it is incidental to the main purpose of the visit, for not more than a total of 30 days and for a registered charity
- undertake certain business, training, sports, legal, religious or creative activities, but only if any additional requirements are met. Please see Home Office guidance.
Standard Visitors are not allowed to:
- work, either paid or unpaid
- engage in or set up in business, or receive payment from a UK source for activities in the UK, except where specifically set out as permitted in Home Office guidance
- make further visa applications to switch or extend status in the UK, for example a visitor cannot apply for Student permission from within the UK
- register a marriage or get married
- seek medical treatment except private medical treatment arranged before travel to the UK
Information about all other visitor categories can be found on the Home Office website.