Whether you’re planning a trip to visit friends or relatives, preparing to move abroad to work, or you’d like to permanently live in the United Kingdom, it’s best to understand the U.K. visa application process.

There are many steps when applying for a U.K. visa, and it can definitely seem intimidating when you first look at the long list of things to do. But it’s important to do your research and take time to prepare your documents.

Gathering all of the necessary documentation ahead of time and being prepared will help everything go much more smoothly. There are also changes that are often made to the U.K. visa process; you can stay up to date by visiting the U.K. Visas and Immigration website.

Different types of U.K. 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 of visas. When preparing your visa application, you also may want to consult with an immigration attorney.

Here’s an overview of the different types of visas in the U.K.

Visit or Transit Visa

This visa is to:

  • Visit family or friends
  • Visit for tourism
  • Get married or form a civil partnership
  • Visit for business or academic research
  • Pass through the U.K. in transit to another country
  • Get private medical treatment

Work Visa

This visa is to:

Student Visa

This visa is for:

  • A short-term study visa (Tier 4)

Other Visas (Visa4UK Service)

This visa is:

  • To live with a family member in the U.K.
  • To set up or run a business in the U.K.
  • For a U.K. ancestry visa
  • To prove you’re allowed to live or work in the U.K. without any immigration restrictions (called “right of abode”)
  • For an official visit or diplomatic business
  • For a visa to prove you’re exempt from immigration control
  • To visit your child at an independent fee-paying day school

Something to note here: There is a different process if you are applying as a dependent.

Here’s a brief video that provides an overview of the U.K. Visa System:

Documents needed for U.K. application process

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

  • A current passport or other valid travel identification
  • An appointment at a visa application centre
  • Payment of your visa application fee (fee varies by country and time in country)
  • 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 U.K.
  • Where you are planning on staying in the U.K.
  • Proof of your ability to pay for your visit
  • Travel history to the U.K.
  • Your tuberculosis (TB) test results (if you’re from a country where you have to take the test and you’re coming to the U.K. for more than 6 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 in the process.

Visitor Visa

Visitor visas, or short-stay visas, are issued to visit friends or family, study abroad, pass through the U.K. in transit, do business, take part in events, or even receive 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 centre
  • Payment of your visa application fee (fee varies by country and time in country)
  • The dates you’re planning to travel to the U.K.
  • 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 

In some cases for a visitor visa, you may need to provide your tuberculosis (TB) test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test and you’re staying in the U.K. for more than 6 months.

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 are applying from, you also may 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 needed:

  • Your certificate of sponsorship reference number
  • Proof of your knowledge of English
  • An appointment at a visa application centre
  • Payment of your visa application fee (fee varies by country and time in country)
  • A bank or building society statement or letter that shows you have enough personal savings (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.

Documentation needed:

  • A current passport or other valid travel documentation
  • An appointment at a visa application centre
  • Payment of your visa application fee (fee varies by country and time in country)
  • 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

Other Visas

All other visas are processed through the Visa4UK service, which will guide applicants through the process and provide the details of necessary documentation.

Start preparing your U.K. visa application today

Depending on if you are planning to travel through the U.K. for a matter of hours, or you’re planning to make a big move to begin a new life in the U.K., you will certainly need some type of visa.

It’s an intimidating process, so give yourself plenty of time to research the process and be prepared.

If you plan to move to the United Kingdom and are  working on your own visa application, or you have family members or friends who are working toward theirs, you can use Remitly to send money back to loved ones when you need to.