Moving Abroad: Preparing for your UK Visa Application

Last updated on May 27th, 2024 at 03:42 pm

Preparing for your UK Visa Application

Whether you’re planning a trip to visit friends or relatives, preparing to move abroad to work, or you’d like to live permanently in the United Kingdom, understanding the UK visa application process is important.

There are many steps to applying for a UK visa, and it can definitely seem intimidating when you first look at the long list of things to do.

To help make the process easier, our team here at Remitly put together this list of what you need to do to apply for a visa to travel to or live in the UK.

Who needs a UK visa?

A visa is a document that allows you to enter the United Kingdom and remain there legally for a set period. The rules regarding who needs a UK visa are complex.

Where you’re from, your reason for traveling to the country, how long you intend to stay, and other factors will determine if you need to fill out immigration applications for you and your family.

Since there is so much variability, the best way to determine if you need a UK visa is to use the tool provided by the UK government. This tool asks you a series of questions and then tells you whether you need to apply for a UK visa and, if so, which of the UK visas applies to your situation.

Different types of UK visas

Before diving into the process, it’s important to do your research to determine the right visa for your situation. There are multiple tiers (1, 2, 4, and 5) for visas, but these fall into four different types.

When preparing your visa application, you also may want to consult with an immigration attorney. An attorney can help you fill out your visa applications correctly, ensure that you include all the supporting documents, and explain your rights under UK immigration laws.

Here’s an overview of the different visas in the UK.

Visit or Transit Visa

The transit visa is to:

  • Visit family or friends
  • Travel to the UK for tourism
  • Get married or form a civil partnership in the UK
  • Travel to the UK temporarily for business or academic research
  • Pass through the UK by air or boat in transit to another destination
  • Get private medical treatment

Work Visa

The work visa is to:

  • Apply for a work visa as a sponsored (Tier 2) employee, meaning that you have a permanent job offer from a company in the UK
  • Apply as a temporary worker (Tier 5), a person who will work for a UK business for a limited time
  • Apply as a domestic worker in a private household. You’ll usually already need to have a job offer from a British citizen or legal resident to be eligible

Student Visa

Student visas are for:

Typically, to get study visas, you will already need to have been accepted at a British college, university, or other post-secondary institution or be taking part in a study abroad program.

Preparing for your UK Visa Application

Other Visas for the United Kingdom

There are several other specialty visas the UK offers, including:

  • Start-up visa and Innovator founder visa: These business visas allow people who want to open businesses or who have already started successful companies to live and work in the UK
  • Family visa: Enables you to live with a family member who is already in the UK for over six months
  • EU settlement scheme: Allows people with relatives in the countries of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein to settle in the UK
  • Ancestry visa: Available to residents of Commonwealth countries who have a grandparent who was a British citizen and can prove their British nationality through birth certificates, etc.
  • Right to abode visa: For residents of Commonwealth nations who meet certain criteria that allow them to live in the UK
  • Family reunion visa: Enables select people to join a spouse, parent, or other close family members who are legal foreign nationals in the UK
  • Indefinite leave to remain visa: Reserved for people seeking indefinite leave to remain in the UK for humanitarian protection

Eligibility requirements for the family reunion visas, other family visas, and business visas outlined above vary. Click the links to learn more about them.

How do you apply for UK visas?

Applicants will need to apply for a UK visa in person at a visa application center. The UK government has a listing to help you find the closest location to you.

The first step to applying is to contact the center and schedule an appointment. In most cases, you’ll need to call to set one up.

You’ll complete the application form and answer interview questions during your appointment. They will also ask you to give biometric information through fingerprints and a photograph.

Documents needed for the UK application process

There are some basic pieces of documentation that you may need while applying for a UK visa:

  • A current passport or other valid travel identification
  • An appointment at a visa application center
  • Payment of your visa application fee (fee varies by where you’re from and how long you’ll be in the UK)
  • A translation of any documents in a language other than English or Welsh
  • An empty page in your passport for the visa
  • The dates of your intended visit to the UK
  • Where you are staying in the UK
  • Proof of your ability to pay for your stay and pay for yourself without relying on government assistance
  • Travel history to the UK
  • Your Tuberculosis (TB) test results (if you’re from a country where you have to take the test and you’re coming to the UK for over six months)

Below is a breakdown of the things you may need for different visas, but it’s a good idea to consult with an immigration lawyer if you have questions at any point.

Visitor Visa

Visitor visas, or short-stay visas, are issued for seeing friends or family, passing through the UK in transit as an airport visitor, doing business, taking part in events, or even receiving private medical treatment.

Documentation needed:

  • Passport or other valid travel identification
  • Translation of any documentation that is in a language other than English or Welsh
  • An appointment at a visa application center
  • Payment of your visa application fee
  • The dates you’re planning to travel to the UK
  • How much you think your trip will cost
  • Your current home address and how long you’ve lived there
  • Your parents’ names and dates of birth
  • Contact details for at least one parent or guardian in your home country (if you’re under 18 years old)
  • How much you earn in a year
  • Evidence that you can support yourself during your trip, for example, bank statements or payslips for the last 6 months
  • Details of where you intend to stay and your travel plans

For travel and transit visas, a TB test may also be necessary. Keep in mind that citizens of some nations may not need a visit visa. For example, a citizen of the USA won’t need a visit visa if they will be in the UK for six months or less.

Preparing for your UK Visa Application

Work Visa

For work visas, you may need to look into making and attending an appointment at a local visa application center.

Depending on which country you’re applying from, you may also be required to pay a fee for the visa application appointment. It’s best to consult an immigration lawyer to confirm these details before beginning the process.

Documentation that may be needed for work visas includes:

  • Your certificate of sponsorship reference number
  • Proof of your knowledge of the English language
  • A bank or building society statement or letter that shows you have enough personal savings to live without using public funds (unless your certificate of sponsorship shows your sponsor can support you)
  • A current passport or travel document to prove you can travel
  • Expired passports or travel documents if you need them to show your travel history
  • Your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country on this list
  • Possibly a criminal record certificate if you’re working with vulnerable people

Study Visa

A Tier 4 Student Visa to study abroad is very similar to a work visa in the documentation needed as well as the requirements.

International students will typically need to present:

  • A current passport or other valid travel documentation
  • An appointment at a visa application center
  • Payment of your visa application fee
  • Proof that you can support yourself and pay for your course
  • Proof of parental or other legal guardian consent if you’re under 18
  • Proof of your relationship with your parent or guardian
  • Your tuberculosis test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test

Stay up to date and start preparing your visa application form today

Start the UK visa application process as early as possible to ensure you have enough time to complete the steps.

In addition, stay up to date on any changes to visa types, eligibility criteria, and fees by checking the UK Visas and Immigration website regularly before you submit your new application.

Sending money from the UK

If you plan to move to the United Kingdom, you can use Remitly to send money back to loved ones when needed.