Can you come to the UK as a general visitor?
This page explains whether you can come to the UK as a general visitor.
The 'general visitor' category is for nationals of countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. If you are an EEA or Swiss national, or a family member of an EEA or Swiss national, the European nationals section explains how you can come to the UK.
To come to the UK as a general visitor, you must be able to show that:
- you are 18 or over;
- you intend to visit the UK for no more than 6 months (or 12 months if you will be accompanying an academic visitor);
- you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit;
- you have enough money to support and accommodate yourself without working or help from public funds, or you and any dependants will be supported and accommodated by relatives or friends;
- you can meet the cost of the return or onward journey; and
- you are not in transit to a country outside the 'Common Travel Area' (Ireland, the UK, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands).
You must also be able to show that, during your visit, you do not intend to:
- live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits;
- take paid or unpaid employment, produce goods or provide services, including the selling of goods or services directly to members of the public;
- do a course of study, as long as this study is not the main reason for your visit (see 'permitted study' below);
- marry or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership;
- carry out the activities of a business visitor, a sports visitor or an entertainer visitor; or
- receive private medical treatment.
For information about your rights and responsibilities while you are in the UK, see the Visitors' rights and responsibilities section.
You should provide documents to show that you meet the above requirements. The Documents page contains more information.
You may need to obtain a visa before you can come to the UK as a general visitor. The Do you need a visa? page contains more information.
If you are coming to the UK as a general visitor, family visitor or business visitor, you can complete up to 30 days of 'incidental study.' This means that if you are in the UK mainly to do business, visit your family or for a holiday you can study for up to 30 days, however study must not be the main purpose of your visit.
The 30 days study can be taken as a single period, or a number of smaller periods - for example 30 separate days - over the six months allowed to visitors.
You can do a recreational course (but not an English language course) that is only for leisure purposes and not to gain a qualification, anywhere (for instance horse-riding, painting or sailing). All other courses must be at an institution which:
- holds a sponsor licence for Tier 4 of the points-based system;
- holds valid accreditation from Accreditation UK, the Accreditation Body for Language Services (ABLS), the British Accreditation Council (BAC) or the Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC);
- holds a valid and satisfactory full institutional inspection, review or audit by the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, the Education and Training Inspectorate, Estyn, Education Scotland, the Independent Schools Inspectorate, Office for Standards in Education, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, the Schools Inspection Service or the Education and Training Inspectorate Northern Ireland, or
- is an overseas higher education institution offering only part of its programmes in the United Kingdom, holding its own national accreditation and offering programmes that are an equivalent level to a United Kingdom degree.
If you have a long term visa as a general, family or business visitor (5 or 10 years for example) you can come to the UK specifically to study for up to 30 days, providing that your main reason for holding the visa is still to visit the UK on business, for a holiday or to see your family. If you have a long term visa and are studying overseas, including on a distance learning course, you can come to the UK for up to 30 days study as part of this, provided your main reason for holding the visa is not to study.
If the purpose of your visits to the UK changes to being mainly for study, then you will need to apply as a student visitor.