Getting a UK Visa or Residence Permit

UK VisaBefore moving to the United Kingdom expats are advised to research UK visas and immigration procedures, including British citizenship, before starting the UK visa application process or applying for a residence permit.

If you are visiting or moving to the United Kingdom, you need to find out if you will need a UK visa to enter the country and which type of UK visa you will need to apply for. This will depend on where you are traveling from and the purpose of your visit.

The UK is currently a member of the EU but has opted out of becoming a Schengen area country, meaning that it has its own border controls and visa policy. Immigration and border controls have been contentious issues in the UK for a number of years and there have been various changes to UK immigration policy in recent years. There are likely to be further changes following the Brexit vote in 2016 which means that the UK will cease to be an EU member state around 2019. This will have implications for citizens of EU states entering and moving to the UK.

This guide to UK visas and UK residence permits will cover the following topics:

Who needs a UK visa?

The UK is presently an EU member state. Although it is nor part of the Schengen area, nationals from EU/EFTA countries can enter the UK without needing a UK visa and they have the right to reside in the UK if they are employed, self-employed or registered as a job seeker. See our guide for EU/EFTA nationals moving to the UK for more information.

The right to enter without a UK visa and reside without a UK residence permit also extends to citizens of British Overseas Territories and citizens of Commonwealth countries born before 1 January 1983 who qualify for Right of abode (ROA) through a parent being born in the UK.

The UK also allows citizens of the following countries to enter without a UK visa and stay for a maximum of 6 months:

Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, East Timor, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Kiribati, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Micronesia, Namibia, Nauru, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu and Vatican City.

You can get an electronic visa waiver (EVW) for just £15 if you are from Kuwait, Oman, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates. This allows a visa-free stay of up to 6 months for tourism, business, study or medical treatment.

Citizens of all other countries will require a UK visa to enter the UK. You can check exact UK visa requirements on the UK Visas and Immigration website here.

UK visa application