General visa information
This page describes the different types of document, such as visas, that we issue to confirm permission to come to the UK. It also explains who needs to apply for them before travelling to the UK. We use the term 'entry clearance' to describe these documents and the permission they give.
There are 4 types of entry clearance that can give someone permission to travel to or enter the UK:
A visa is for people we call 'visa nationals'. They are nationals of the countries or territories listed in Appendix 1 of the Immigration Rules - see 'More information' below.
An entry certificate is for people we call 'non-visa nationals'. They are nationals of any other country outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland
An EEA family permit is for the family members of EEA nationals.
An exempt vignette is for people such as diplomats, who are exempt from the requirements of the Immigration Act 1971.
On this website, we use the term 'visa' when we write about visas and entry certificates.
Do you need a visa?
Whether or not you need to obtain a visa before you travel to the UK depends on your nationality and the reason you want to travel here.
You will not need a visa if you hold a passport issued by the UK or any other country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
Our Do you need a visa? tool will tell you if you need a visa to come here.
If you are a visa national, you will need a visa before you come to the UK.
If you are a non-visa national, you might need a visa if you want to come to the UK for up to 6 months. You will need a visa if you want to come here for more than 6 months. For more information, see the Non-visa nationals page.
Some visa nationals do not need a visa if they want to 'transit' the UK for a short time on their way to another country - see the In transit through the UK pages.
How and where to apply
You must be outside the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man when you apply for your visa, or other form of entry clearance.
We have a network of visa application centres around the world that process applications for entry clearance.
The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not part of the UK and have their own immigration laws and policies, but our visa offices also issue visas for these islands.
You can apply for a visitor visa at our visa application centres in any country. You must apply for any other type of entry clearance in the country or territory where you live. The Applying for a visa contains more information about the application process.
If your application is successful, you should read the Information for visa holders page.
Are you a visa national?
Nationals or citizens of the following countries and territorial entities are known as 'visa nationals':
- Bosnia Herzegovina
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- People's Republic of China (unless they hold a passport issued by Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or Macao Special Administrative Region)
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Dominican Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- Korea (North)
- Palestinian Territories
- Republic of South Sudan
- Republic of Sudan
- Sao Tome e Principe
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- Taiwan (unless they hold a Taiwan passport which includes the number of the identification card issued by the competent authority in Taiwan)
- United Arab Emirates
- Vatican City
- Venezuela (unless they hold a Venezuelan passport which contains biometric information held in an electronic chip)
- The territories formerly comprising the socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
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The European Economic Area (EEA) consists of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Although Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not members of the European Union (EU), their citizens have the same rights as EU citizens to enter, live in and work in the UK.
A non-visa national is a national or citizen of any country that is NOT listed in Appendix 1 of the immigration rules (nationals of countries listed in Appendix 1 are visa nationals). A non-visa national does not need a visa to come to the United Kingdom for less than six months, unless it is a requirement of the immigration category under which they are entering. A non-visa national coming to the United Kingdom for more than six months will need a visa.
Passing through the United Kingdom on your way to another country without staying in the United Kingdom.
A person who is a national or citizen of certain countries and will always require a visa to come to the United Kingdom. These countries or territories are listed in Appendix 1 of the immigration rules. Some visa nationals may pass through the United Kingdom on the way to another country without a visa, but in some circumstances they will require a direct airside visa or visitor in transit visa.