Some countries require visitors to get a tourist visa before they can enter the country. Will you need a UK tourist visa?
The United Kingdom (UK) consists of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. While on a UK tourist visa, you can travel around these four countries.
Do Americans need a UK Tourist Visa?
The great thing for Americans is that you do not need to apply for a UK tourist visa when visiting. This means those with a US passport can stay in the UK for up to six months without a visa.
However, all travel to the UK will require you to provide a valid passport that will not expire during your stay.
Are you an American interesting in visit or moving to the UK? Make sure to check out my article: UK Visa From USA: What visa do I need?
Do Canadians need a UK Tourist Visa?
Just like Americans, Canadians do not need to apply for a visa to visit the UK. As long as your reason for travelling to the UK is for tourism, and you leave before six months, you will not need a visa.
If you’re interested in working in the UK, most young Canadian are eligible for the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa. You can find out more information on my Working Holiday UK visa article. Or, you might be looking to study in the UK, in which case you’ll need a UK Student Visa.
Do Australians need a UK Tourist Visa?
No, Australians do not need a visa to visit the UK for tourist purposes. However, you must leave the UK before six months.
Thinking of using hostels during your vacation to London? Check out my article “Are London hostels safe?” before visiting!
What about other countries?
Other countries who do not need a UK tourist visa include Brazil, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and South Korea. The same requirements apply, you:
- Must be travelling on a valid passport that won’t expire before your trip
- Cannot work during your visit
- Cannot overstay your visit and must leave within six months
Of course there may be special considerations for those who have a criminal record. It’s important to check the UK Government website on Visa Details before visiting.
While Brexit is still very much in the news, those with a passport from a country within the EU will not need to apply for a visa to visit the UK. However, it’s still unclear how this will change in the future.
Some countries require you to apply for a Standard Visitor Visa, such as those from China, Russia, India and Egypt. This is under the condition that you are not travelling with or visiting either your partner or a family member in the UK. If you are planning to visit a family member, you may not be required to apply for a visa depending on their visa status.
What is a Standard Visitor Visa UK?
Most commonly, this visa is for those who want to visit the UK on vacation. Essentially, this visa allows you to visit the UK for a short amount of time. The earliest you can apply for this type of visa is three months before you intend to travel. Once you submit your application, you should receive a decision within three weeks. Currently a Standard Visitor visa costs £93.
While on this tourist visa, you cannot:
- Receive public funds
- Work, or do any unpaid work
- Marry or register a civil partnership
- Live in the UK repeated while on this visitors visa through repeated trips
- Stay in the UK past six months (unless special circumstances approved beforehand which usually requires you to pay an additional fee)
There are a few other special cases that this visa may also be used for, such as if you’re receiving private medical treatment in the UK, or donating organs to someone in the UK.
To apply for this visa, you’ll need to do so online through the UK Government website. During the application, you’ll book an appointment at a visa application centre in your country. At that appointment, you’ll get your photo and fingerprints taken as part of the application (also known as your biometric information). The entire application process time frame can depend on what country you’re from and why you are applying for the visa. Your local visa application centre will have a better idea of what time to expect.
If you plan to stay in the UK on a tourist visa
If you do plan on staying in the UK for an extended period of time (up to six months) it may be helpful to bring important documents to show the customs agents to make your visit to the border quick and easy.
Documents that can be helpful could be things like:
- Proof of your hotel, hostel or AirBnB confirmation. This shows that you have a place to live while visiting, and will also show your end date of when your accommodation finishes
- Evidence of your return flight back to your home country. This proves that you have plans to leave the UK and are less likely to overstay
- Some suggestion bringing a bank statement to show that you have funds to support yourself while in the UK. Of course, a visitor visa doesn’t allow you to work, so you need to bring money to support your vacation
- If may be helpful to provide a letter from your employer that you still have a job to go back to. This shows that you have a reason to return to your home country. This letter could also confirm the date when you are returning back to work and/or your salary
If you are only visiting for a few weeks, it’s less important to prove that you plan to leave the country. Overstaying your visit becomes more of an issue when you plan to stay in the UK for an extended period of time.
In short, you want to be able to prove to the border agents that you plan on leaving the UK and have your life back in your home country to return to.
It’s important to always check the UK Website for details about what visa you’ll need, the fees you may need to pay and what documents you’ll need to provide. With Brexit looming overhead, many visas, applications and procedures will be changing. Right now, it’s unclear how they will change. It’s important that you know what is required of you in order to visit the UK.