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Do your family need a visit visa to come and visit you?

23 July 2021 Clara Smeaton Blog

For those who have family living abroad, the Covid pandemic has been particularly hard, as different countries have at various times closed their borders, imposed travel bans, and ordered quarantines at high expense. Many people have been left wondering when they’ll be able to see their family members in person again.

Now that international travel is becoming more open, people are understandably keen to visit, or receive visits from, family members who live abroad.

Unfortunately, for many people, they still have to overcome the initial hurdle of successfully applying for a visit visa for the family members to be allowed to come to the UK.

So how can you try to ensure a successful application for a Standard Visit Visa?

Applying for a visit visa

If you are applying for a visa to enter the UK as a Standard Visitor, you must prove to the UK Home Office that you are a ‘Genuine Visitor’. This means that you have to show the following:

  1. That you will leave the UK at the end of your visit. That is, that you’re not going to stay on in the UK for over six months at a time. In making an application for a visit visa, it will be helpful to provide strong evidence of your reasons for returning home after your visit to the UK. For example, proof of having a job to return to in your country of origin, family ties, financial commitments, or other reasons you need to go back home.
  1. That you will not live in the UK through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK your main home. A visit visa cannot be used to replace a longer-length visa. Repeatedly entering the UK and staying for the full six months each time is technically allowed but if it starts to look as though you’re using visit visas as a way around applying for another visa to stay in the UK, eventually you will be refused a visit visa or denied entry at the border.
  1. That you have enough funds to cover your visit (including travel costs and paying for any activities you have planned). The best way to show that you have enough funds for your visit is by providing your bank statements and proof of income. Nowadays, it may be worth showing that you have enough funds to cover the costs of any Covid-related expenditures (expected or otherwise): tests, isolation if you test positive whilst in the UK, medical fees, etc. If you’re coming to visit someone, or another person is helping to pay for your visit, their finances can be taken into account too, but evidence will need to be provided of how much they are contributing and why.
  1. That you are not be intending to take part in any prohibited activities while in the UK. If you are only coming to the UK to visit family, you should try to provide some evidence of that: letters from family members in the UK confirming that you will be visiting them and/or staying with them; proof of your relationship with the people you’re coming to visit (birth certificates, passports, etc.); and confirmation of any planned activities that you have lined up.

What are the prohibited activities?

Although there are exceptions, and you can be granted permission to undertake particular activities, generally speaking, a person coming to the UK as a Standard Visitor cannot work, study for more than 6 months, get married, or receive public funds. You can only receive private medical care whilst you are here.  

Bringing children with you

Bear in mind that if you intend to travel with one or more children, they will each need to apply for their own visas, and name you as the adult they will be travelling with.

You will need to show that adequate arrangements have been made for the child’s travel, accommodation and care whilst in the UK.

Periods of leave and multi visit visas

If you do intend to come to the UK regularly, you can apply for a Standard Visitor Visa that lasts for two, five, or 10 years. However, unlike other visas, these long-term visitor visas do not grant you the right to stay in the UK for as long as the visa is valid. A two year visit visa doesn’t let you stay in the UK for two years.

The longer-term visas allow you to enter the UK multiple times throughout the validity of the visa, but the maximum time you can stay on each visit is six months.

While there is no mandatory ‘cooling off’ period between visits, you should bear in mind that if you repeatedly try to spend periods of six months in the UK, to the extent that you are spending the majority of, or almost the majority of, your time here, this risks falling under point 2 above: ‘living in the UK through frequent or successive visits, or making the UK your main home’ and on that basis you could be refused entry at the border, or denied future visit visas.  

Preparation is key

Unfortunately, obtaining a visit visa is not as straightforward as booking your flights. If you’re hoping to come to the UK as a visitor, it is worth making sure your visa is in place well in advance, to avoid any disruption to your plans.

Make sure you have strong evidence of the fact that you will return home at the end of your visit, and clear evidence of your financial circumstances.

A failed application for a visit visa does not mean a refund of the application fee. If you are refused a visa, you can immediately apply again (with further evidence) if you want to, but doing so can quickly see the cost of your holiday spiralling and there is no guarantee of success in a subsequent application.

Taking the time to prepare your application thoroughly can save a lot of money and disappointment as you try to plan your visit to the UK.

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