The following are the UK visitor visa requirements in 2020:
- You must be a ‘genuine’ and ‘credible’ visitor
- You must meet the ‘adequate maintenance’ requirement
- You must meet the ‘third party sponsor’ requirements
- You must meet the ‘frequent’ and ‘successive visits’ requirements
- You must meet the ‘suitability’ requirements
We will now discuss each of these.
You must be a ‘genuine’ and ‘credible’ visitor’
This is the most important requirement and should be your main goal when you prepare your UK visitor visa application.
This can sometimes be difficult because the Home Office caseworkers who decide visa applications are trained to be highly suspicious of UK visitor visa applicants.
When deciding if they believe your application is genuine and credible, the Home Office caseworker will look at your application as a whole – they make a decision based on all of the information and documentation that you provide.
Do you want a better idea about the documents you should submit in your application?
We discuss this in detail in our “What are the documents required for a UK Visitor Visa? (2020 Document Checklist)” article.
There are a number of things that the Home Office caseworker will take in to consideration.
By specifically addressing the following, you will be able to create the best application possible:
#1 Your previous immigration history
If you have previously been granted a UK visa…
If you have previously been granted a UK visa (and complied with the terms of that visa) your chances of a successful application will be higher because of it.
This demonstrates that you will be more likely to comply with the terms of the UK visitor visa that you are applying for this time round too.
If however, you have previously overstayed on a UK visa, or breached any other terms of the visa, this will reduce the chances of a successful application.
In such a case, we would highly recommend that you address your good immigration history in your covering letter (we discuss how to best write a covering letter in our sample letter for a UK tourist visa application article).
If you have visited countries other than the UK…
It would also increase your chances of a successful application if you can show you have visited other countries and abided by the terms of their visas.
This is particularly true if you have visited any Schengen countries, Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland.
If you have no immigration history…
If you have not travelled to the UK or any other countries, then it may affect your application negatively depending upon your circumstances.
In such a case, your nationality, country of residence, age and employment status will be particularly relevant.
#2 Your nationality and country of residence
It is important to note that Home Office caseworkers will be biased against you if you come from a country which has a high rate of non-compliance.
This was shown when it was reported that the Home Office are using discriminatory algorithms to decide immigration applications.
The Home Office have also been criticised for having a secret list of countries which they deem as ‘high-risk’.
Accordingly, if you are applying from a country that is known for its lack of compliance, you will have a tougher time applying and should put more effort regarding the information in the supporting letter and documents that you submit.
Incredibly unfair, I know.
However, the reality is that if you come from what is deemed a ‘high-risk country’ and do not submit a well-put together application, it is likely that your application will be refused.
#3 Your ties to your home country
Your ties to your home country are certainly relevant in determining the likelihood of you being a ‘genuine’ visitor.
This is because it is considered more likely that you will return to your home country if you have strong ties to it.
The Home Office will be more likely to grant your visa if they think you will return to your home country and will not overstay.
The Home Office will consider three ties in particular:
- Personal ties;
- Economic and financial ties; and
- Family ties.
Let’s discuss each of these in more detail.
i) Personal Ties
If you do not have strong personal ties to your home country, this suggests (in the eyes of the Home Office) that that you would be likely to overstay on your visit visa.
Following from this, the Home Office will be more likely to refuse your UK visitor visa application.
Obviously, you are less likely to have personal ties in your home country if you are younger, and more likely to have made personal ties if you are older.
This is because as a young person, you are considered more mobile and adaptable and accordingly have a greater threat of overstaying.
However, if you can show that you have strong personal ties to your home country, such as being on the verge of completing a degree, or having a decent job with a good salary, then this should be pointed to within your application.
ii) Economic and Financial Ties
If you lack economic and financial ties to your home country, you are more likely to intentionally disappear, according to the suspicious people at the Home Office.
If you can show that you have a high income and a good standard of living in your home country, this will greatly increase your chances of a successful application.
The same applies if you own a successful business in your own country.
Businesses and a good income give you a good incentive to stay in your own country, and it will be less likely for you to want to stay in the UK illegally for work purposes.
Owners of property or land should also highlight this in their applications, as this is a sign of financial prosperity.
iii) Family Ties
Family ties both in the UK and your own country will be considered in detail by the Home Office.
Family Ties in the UK
Family ties in the UK can both positively or negatively affect your application.
Visiting family is one of the most common reasons why someone would want to visit the UK and apply for a visit visa.
It is therefore seen as a genuine reason.
However, on the other hand, if your family in the UK do not have an impeccable immigration history it can negatively affect the Home Office caseworkers perception of your intentions.
The Home Office have access to a surprising amount of information, so you should never be tempted to lie about not having a family member in the UK.
If you do and get caught out, the Home Office will question your credibility and may refuse your application.
Family Ties in your Home Country
Having family members in your country of origin will typically be good for your application and increase the chances of success.
This applies particularly to those who have a spouse in their country, as well as family members who are financially or emotionally dependent upon you.
#4 Your stated intentions
Your stated intentions are absolutely relevant when determining whether you are a ‘genuine’ and ‘credible’ visitor.
The stated reason for your visit will also be scrutinised by the Home Office.
This must be explained in your application, preferably within your supporting letter (we have provided a template that you can use here).
You should also be ready to state the same reason to Immigration Officers when you arrive at the airport, if asked.
If you state a different reason then previously mentioned on your application then your credibility as a genuine visitor may be doubted, thus negatively affecting your changes of being allowed entry into the UK.
i) Your stated intentions must be to partake in permitted activities only
Activities that are permitted on a standard UK visit visa are:
- Visiting friends or family members; and
Activities that are not permitted on a standard UK visit visa are:
- Partaking in prohibited employment;
- Opening or managing a business;
- Selling products or services; and
- Getting married.
ii) Your stated intentions must be clear and in accordance with all of the circumstances
The information in your documents must correspond with your stated reasons for visiting the UK.
If your documents do not correspond with the other information in your application, then the Home Office may suspect you of lying.
Similarly, if you submit any documents which are at odds with your stated reasons in your application, then this will be detrimental for your application.
Abhi, an Indian national, would like to visit the UK. In his visa application, he has stated his principal reason for visiting the UK as ‘shopping in the UK’.
Abhi should accordingly provide evidence which indicates his wealth in the shape of savings in the bank or income.
If he does not do this, or if he shows evidence which indicated little savings and income, then the Home Office may have reason to question Abhi’s intentions.
It goes without saying that any documents should be verifiable and genuine. The Home Office caseworker should be able to contact the person/company which issued the documents to check if they are genuine.
The information you provide must not be contradictory.
If you include something in your visit visa application saying one thing, and another part of your application (your supporting letter or interview) contradicts that then your credibility will be questioned and your visa application may be refused.
Also, if you and your sponsor provide contradictory statements, this could have a similar result.
The adequate maintenance & accommodation requirement
You will need to prove that you can support yourself with money and housing sufficiently during the whole of your stay in the UK.
Unlike that of a UK spouse visa, there is no fixed income or savings requirement for visitors to the UK.
Whilst there is a substantial amount of Immigration Rules regarding the spouse visa UK financial requirement in 2020, the same cannot be said with this in relation to the finances required for a UK visitor visa.
A decision will be made considering all the circumstances and a decision will be made based on this.
The minimum requirement
At the very least, you must be able to evidence that you can cover the costs of:
- Your incoming and outgoing journey to the UK
- Any costs attributed to children who are visiting the UK with you
- Any activities planned in the UK (for example, private medical treatment)
The Home Office will examine:
The caseworker that receives your application will need to examine the following:
#1 The overall likely cost of your stay
This will depend on:
- The length of your trip – a short trip wont cost you as much as a longer trip.
- Your intentions for visiting – a shopping trip or holiday will cost more than visiting friends or family.
- Where you are staying – if you are staying at a hotel, then this will obviously cost more than staying with friends or family.
#2 Sources of income that you will continue to receive whilst you are visiting the UK
If you have a substantial sum of cash savings then this will not be as important.
#3 Your income or savings
These must be enough to meet the likely costs of your stay in the UK.
Your ongoing financial commitments will be considered as a part of the process.
You must show that you have been in possession of your savings and income for a substantial period of time. If your documents show that you have not been in receipt of your savings or income for too long then the Home Office caseworker may have doubts about the source of these savings and whether those cash savings are actually yours to use.
If there have been recent additions of a substantial amount of money then the Home Office caseworker may conduct further checks on where this money might have come from.
If you cannot prove that you are the recipient of the income or savings then it will not be counted towards your finances.
#4 You and your sponsor’s ongoing financial commitments
If you have large financial commitments, but cannot evidence enough savings or income, then this is usually a reason to question whether you can adequately maintain or accommodate yourself during your visit in the UK.
Ongoing financial commitments can include rent or mortgage payments back home or costs linked with dependants.
Third Party Sponsor Requirements
If you do not have the income or savings to support your stay, then you can provide details of a third party sponsor.
There are several rules which are applicable to having a sponsor:
#1 The sponsor must be declared by the applicant
You must provide details of your sponsor in the UK visitor visa application form – if you want to have one.
You can provide further information in relation to your sponsor in supporting letters and documents which should be attached to the application.
If you do not mention your sponsor in the application, then your sponsors financial help cannot be taken in to consideration during the decision making process.
#2 If the sponsor is in the UK, they must not be in breach of any immigration laws
Your sponsor will be considered in breach of immigration laws if they do not have valid leave to remain in the UK or have been working illegally in the UK.
#3 The relationship between the applicant and sponsor must be genuine
When considering whether or not your relationship with your sponsor is genuine, Home Office caseworkers will assess a number of matters such as:
- whether your sponsor has previously sponsored someone for a UK visa and whether there were any issues with those previous applications (e.g. the applicant in that application overstayed);
- The information and documents submitted that you provide relating to your relationship with your sponsor.
It should be noted that there is no requirement for the relationship between the applicant and sponsor to be personal – it can also be professional.
#4 The sponsor must be able to have enough funds to support you in your visit to the UK
The Home Office caseworker will not simply take the word of your sponsor that they can cover your visit to the UK.
They will need to provide convincing documents to show that they have the funds to support you.
Supporting documents should include bank statements, wage slips and evidence of any other assets or income.
#5 Your sponsor must intend to support you in your visit to the UK
You can meet this requirement by obtaining a letter of support from your sponsor. If the Home Office do not believe your sponsor intends to support you then your application will be refused. Needless to say, this can be integral to your application.
The sponsor’s own history of ‘sponsoring’ individuals will be a crucial factor. If they have a record of being irresponsible sponsors then this could affect your application.
In certain circumstances, your sponsor could be asked to provide a written undertaking confirming they will be responsible for you financially during your stay in the UK. If they fail to provide this when asked, your application will likely be rejected.
Frequent and Successive Visits Requirement
Paragraph v4.2(b) of the Immigration Rules Appendix V: visitor rules, states applicants cannot ‘live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK their main home’.
Since the visitor visa is by its very definition a visa which allows someone to visit the UK, it should not be used in order to live in the UK on a permanent basis.
If you have previously made frequent, successive and long trips to the UK (even if this was on a long-term UK visitor visa)then this may affect your application negatively.
In these circumstances, you should expect to be interviewed whenever you arrive at a UK airport or seaport.
You should come prepared with documentation proving you are settled out with the UK and your permanent residence is elsewhere.
A pertinent question is, when are trips deemed too frequent and lengthy?
The official guidance says:
“there is no specified maximum period which an individual can spend in the UK such as ‘6 months in 12 months’”
Accordingly, the Home Office guidance is not very clear on this matter – which is rather typical of the Home Office!
The guidance does, however, give us some issues to be considered, such as:
- The reason and how long you intend to stay in the UK,
- The number of times you have entered the UK over the last year,
- The length of your previous visits to the UK in the last year, and the time between each visit,
- If the time spent in your own country is not as much as the time spent in the UK over the last year,
- Why you returned to your own country, and if you did so for the purposes of re-entering the UK,
- What your links are to your own country and where you are registered for tax reasons,
- If there is any evidence available that suggests you are settled in the UK, such as being registered with a GP or sending your child/ren to an educational institution in the UK.
The ‘Suitability’ Requirements
The ‘suitability requirements’ provide circumstances in which your visitor visa must be or may be refused.
It is therefore important to know these.
These are listed in Part V3 of the Immigrations Rules Appendix V: visitor rules.
In short, the requirements are as follows:
- Your application will be rejected if you have been excluded from the UK or received a UK deportation order,
- Your application will be rejected if letting you enter the UK is deemed not in the public interest by the UK government,
- Your application may be rejected if you have a criminal record and you have been imprisoned as a result. For your application to be rejected, your imprisonment must have been:
- For 4 years or more, or
- Between a year and 4 years (if less than 10 years have passed since the end of the imprisonment), or
- For less than a year (if less than 5 years have passed since the end of the imprisonment).
- Your application may also be refused if you have had any other brushes with the law,
- Your application will be rejected if you have used deceptive information or documents – even if said deception was not integral to your application,
- Your application will be rejected if you failed to reveal pertinent information regarding your application,
- Your application may be refused if you have failed to abide by UK immigration laws in the past, such as:
- Overstaying on a UK visa,
- Breaching a condition on another visa (unless the Home Office was aware of this and they granted you a visa after this),
- Illegally entering the UK,
- Using deception with the Home Office,
- Your application will be rejected if you do not provide a valid passport or travel document,
- Your application will be rejected if you fail to attend an interview or comply with any instruction issued by the Home Office such as providing biometrics or a medical examination,
- Your application may be rejected if it is deemed undesirable to grant you a UK visitor visa for medical reasons,
- Your application will be rejected if you are in debt to the NHS of at least £500,
- Your application may be rejected if you have not paid any legal costs awarded to the Home Office.
If you have breached immigration laws in the past, you will typically have been banned from the UK for a period of time.
The period of time will depend on the particular circumstances and are covered in V 3.10 of the Immigration Rules Appendix V: visitor rules.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most difficult UK visitor visa requirement?
The most difficult UK visitor visa requirement is normally persuading the Home Office caseworker that you are a genuine visitor. Unfortunately, this is especially the case for those who have few ties to their home country.
What happens if I do not meet all of the visitor visa requirements?
If you do not satisfy all of the UK visitor visa requirements, your application is likely to be refused.
Will the Home Office fee be refunded if my Visitor visa UK is refused?
Unfortunately, if your UK visitor visa application is refused, the Home Office fee that you will have paid will not be refunded.
Do I need to know the visitor visa requirements before submitting the application?
It is absolutely worth familiarising yourself with all of the UK visitor visa requirements before you submit the application. By knowing these, you will increase the chances of a successful application as you will be able to directly address them in your application.