Applying for a visa
This page explains how you can apply for a visa to come to the UK.
First, you should read our web pages for your chosen immigration category, in the Visas and immigration section. These pages explain the requirements for the category, and the documents you should provide with your application. They also contain the application form that you should use.
If you do not know which immigration category is suitable for you, use our Do you need a visa? questionnaire.
You should try to make your visa application well before your intended travel date.
You can use our country finder to find information about the visa application process in your country.
In most countries, you can apply for your visa online using our Visa4UK system. In some countries, you must complete the form by hand on a printed application form. For more information about using Visa4UK, see the Online applications section.
Our visa application forms are available only in English, and must be completed in English. If you do not understand English, you will need to find someone who can speak English to help you complete the form. You can provide your supporting documents in local language, but they must be accompanied by a summary in English. You might need to provide certified translations for some documents.
You must apply for and obtain your own visa. Somebody else cannot apply for your visa on your behalf, but they can complete your application form for you. However, you must sign the application form personally to show that the information given is true and accurate.
Visa application centre
You will also need to attend one of our visa application centres in person.
Most applicants must enrol their fingerprints and facial image (known as 'biometric information') at the visa application centre. This is a quick and clean process. In some countries, you must also show us that you have been screened for tuberculosis. See below for more information.
What happens next?
If your application is successful, you should read the Information for visa holders page.
If our visa officer cannot make an immediate decision on your application, we might ask you to attend an interview. We aim to do this within 15 working days from the date when the visa officer assesses your application.
We will refuse your visa if we find that you have given false or misleading information, or failed to give important relevant information. You could be banned from applying for a visa for 10 years.
If your application is refused, you might be able to:
- appeal against our decision; or
- request an administrative review, if you applied under the points-based system
Who is exempt from enrolling their biometric information?
The following people do not need to enrol their biometric information as part of their application:
- diplomats appointed to a mission in the UK or travelling through the UK to a country where they are accredited;
- foreign government ministers and officials in their delegation travelling to the UK on their government's official business;
- United Nations (UN) officials holding UN travel documents who are travelling on official UN business;
- children under 5 years old;
- people applying for a certificate of entitlement to right of abode in the UK;
- people applying for visas for other Commonwealth countries and British overseas territories;
- certain internationally recognised organisations on official business;
- exempt members of the Commonwealth Forces going on a posting or training in the United Kingdom;
- dependents of exempt members of the Commonwealth Forces who are going on a posting only. (If the main applicant is attending a course in the UK, the dependents will need to submit their biometric data).
Do you need to enrol your biometric information each time you apply for a visa?
Yes. Every time you apply for a visa, you must come to one of our visa application centres so that we can scan your fingerprints and photograph your face. If you are a regular traveller to the UK, we recommend that you consider applying for a longer-term visa.
Do your children need to enrol their biometric information?
Children aged 5 years and over must enrol their biometric information. If they are aged between 5 and 16 years, they must be accompanied by an adult. This adult cannot be a member of our staff. We cannot enrol biometric information from unaccompanied children under 16 years old.
Children under 5 years old must submit their visa application in the normal way, but they do not need to enrol their biometric information.
How long will the UK Border Agency keep your biometric information?
We will keep your biometric information for 10 years from the date when we last scanned your fingerprints and photographed your face. After 10 years, the information will be destroyed.
Who will have access to your biometric information?
Your biometric information will be stored on a database in the UK and held strictly in accordance with UK legislation, including the Data Protection Act 1998. Unauthorised people will not be able to access your biometric information, and it will not be used inappropriately.
Information provided by UK visa applicants may be disclosed to foreign governments, for the purpose of helping them and the UK Border Agency to perform their functions.
Do you need to be screened for tuberculosis (TB)?
If you are a resident of one of the following countries, and you want to come to the UK for longer than 6 months, you must obtain a certificate confirming that you are free from tuberculosis before you apply for a visa:
- Burkina Faso
- China (settlement applications only)
- Cote d'Ivoire
- Dominican Republic
- Hong Kong or Macau (settlement applications only)
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
- The Philippines
The only exceptions are children under 11 years old, diplomats and their families (but not other members of diplomats' households, such as domestic staff), returning residents, and holders of certificates of entitlement.
TB is common in these countries. It is an airborne infectious disease, which can be spread by close contact with other people. The UK wants to encourage greater awareness and treatment of TB in the countries in which we test, as well as protecting people in the UK. Testing before you travel also ensures that our procedures when you arrive in the UK will be much quicker.
Why do we only screen migrants for TB if they are coming to the UK for more than 6 months?
To catch infectious TB, people must generally be in prolonged contact with someone who has the disease.
People who are coming to the UK for more than 6 months present greater risks to public health than short-term visitors, and is is not practical to screen all short-term visitors for TB.
How will you be screened for TB?
You should contact the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which will arrange for you to have a chest X-ray at an accredited clinic or hospital. If the X-ray shows signs of infection, the clinic will carry out other tests to find out whether you have infectious TB. This testing may require you to return on 3 consecutive days.
(If you are pregnant, you will be offered a chest X-ray with abdominal shielding to protect your unborn child. If you decline, other tests may be carried out or delays may occur.)
You will need to pay a fee when you are screened.
You can use our country finder (see above) to find details of the clinics and fee in your country.
If the screening shows that you do not have TB, the IOM will give you a certificate. You must submit this certificate with your visa application form. The certificate is valid for a period of 6 months. If you do not submit the certificate, we will refuse your application.
If we grant you a visa, you must bring your certificate in your hand luggage when you come to the UK. If you do not, you may be delayed when you arrive here. We also advise that you bring your chest X-ray, in case you need to see a doctor in the UK.
If you do have TB, you will not be able to apply for a visa until you have been cured. The IOM will give you advice and tell you how to get treatment. A full course of treatment usually takes 6 months. After you have been cured you must pay to be screened again - if this shows that you are free of infectious TB, the IOM will give you a certificate and you can apply for your visa.
You can read the UK tuberculosis technical instructions on the Home Office website.
If you have TB and need to come to the UK urgently
If you have an urgent need to travel here for compassionate reasons, you will need to give us full details of the reasons. We will take these into consideration when we decide whether to give you a visa.
You are likely to have an urgent and compassionate reason for travel if you have a close family member in the UK who is seriously ill, or your travel to the UK cannot be delayed for exceptional reasons.
If we do allow you to come to the UK, we will expect you to begin treatment for TB when you arrive here.