Information and guidance around the Standard Visitor Visa route
How to apply for a Standard Visitor Visa- for you or your friends/family
Overview (inc. attending your graduation)
You or your friends/family can apply for a Standard Visitor visa if you/they want to visit the UK:
- for tourism, for example on a holiday or to see your family and friends or attend graduation
- for certain business activities, for example attending a meeting
- to take part in research or an exchange programme as an academic
- for medical reasons, for example to receive private medical treatment
- for short term study reasons (less than 6 months) for example:
• study a short course at an accredited institution (meaning one or more consecutive or concurrent programmes of study that will be completed within the validity period of the visitor permission)
• complete a period of research
• complete research tuition (for example, to learn about research)
• complete one or more elective courses linked to their overseas study, where they are studying medicine, veterinary medicine and science, or dentistry as their principal course of study equivalent to at least degree level study in the UK
• complete a study-abroad programme in the UK as part of an overseas course, where your programme is less than 6 months in length
• sit an entrance exam
• re-sit an examination or retake a module
• take an oral (viva) examination for part of a PhD qualification at a UK institution
Attending your graduation
If you have left the UK after the end of your course but you still have enough time remaining on the Student (or Tier 4) visa you had to study that course, you should now be able to use that visa to come back to attend your graduation ceremony. Just make sure that the visa covers you for the length of the whole visit and that you are carrying information about the graduation ceremony in your hand luggage. Generic graduation emails from the University should suffice in this case.
How long can you/they stay?
You can usually stay in the UK for up to 6 months on a Standard Visit visa.
Can I extend this visa or switch into another visa in the UK (e.g the Graduate Route)?
No. You cannot extend a Visit visa or switch into another category whilst you are in the UK.
The Standard Visit route does not give eligibility for the Graduate Route (even if you have previosuly held a Tier 4 or Student visa). You can only apply for the Graduate route if your current visa is Tier 4 or Student and you are applying in the UK before it expires.
What you can and can't do
You can visit the UK to do certain activities, for example visiting friends and family or attending a conference.
- do paid or unpaid work for a UK company or as a self-employed person
- live in the UK for long periods of time through frequent visits
- claim public funds (benefits)
- do a course of study that lasts longer than 6 months
- marry or register a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership. You’ll need a Marriage Visitor visa instead
You must always show that:
- you’ll leave the UK at the end of your visit
- you’ll not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK your main home
- you’re able to support yourself and your dependants during your trip (or have funding from someone else to support you)
- you’re able to pay for your return or onward journey (or have funding from someone else to pay for the journey)
- you have proof of any business or other activities you want to do in the UK, as allowed by the Visitor Rules
You have proof that you meet any further eligibility requirements depending on your reason for being in the UK.
Most countries will need to apply for this visa before you come to the UK but some countries (including EU/EEA) can apply once they arrive at the airport. To find out whether you must apply before you arrive check the Gov.uk website. If you can apply on arrival you still have the option of applying for your visa before leaving home and this removes the worry that you might be refused at the airport and makes your travelling less stressful!
Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)
Some postgraduate courses (particularly around Engineering, Science and Technology) need you to access a UK government ATAS certificate before study. The application is free and is made online but it can take 4-8 weeks to receive. Therefore, you must apply in good time in order to receive the ATAS and allow you to be enrolled on your course (you cannot be enrolled without it!). You will be notified by the University if you are preparing to study an ATAS course. Further information can be found in the ATAS section below.
Further comprehensive information about the Standard Visitor visa route can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/standard-visitor-visa. Immigration rules do change frequently so you should always check you have the most up to date information before you make any visa application.
Healthcare in the UK for Standard Visitor visa holder
Standard visitor visa holders are not entitled to free health care during their time in the UK and will need to secure private medical insurance for the length of their stay.
Not having private medical insurance will not affect your immigration application, however if you become an NHS debtor by using the health service in the UK as a visitor, and not paying for the treatment, this will have an effect on any future visa applications made and could lead to future applications being refused. You should also expect that you may be refused all non emergency medical care without evidence of insurance or payment capability.
There are some companies that offer specific insurance plans for international students and families so it may be worth having a look at those. Two of these are Insure2Study Overseas or Endsleigh Insurance though you can use any provider you wish.
We recommend that all eligible EU/EEA/Swiss students get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if they can. Having that document may impact on your smoothly accessing UK healthcare, future eligibility under some UK immigration routes (e.g. Citizenship) and aiding eligibility for a refund of any Immigration Health Surcharge fees subsequently paid under the Student Route.
Applying outside of the UK
Unless you are from North Korea, you will need to submit your application online: - https://www.gov.uk/standard-visitor-visa/apply
Once your application has been submitted online, you will usually need to attend an appointment at a UK Visa Application Centre to submit your original documents and enrol your biometric information (fingerprints and photographs). It will then take approximately 2 to 8 weeks for your visa application to be processed. Current visa processing times for can be found on the Gov.UK website .
You should always carry the documents that you submitted with your visa application in your hand luggage when you travel to the UK. The Border Force Officer may ask to see these documents when you arrive in the UK.
Please see our Suggested Documents section below to help you with your preparations.
Applying on arrival to the UK
A very limited number of nationalities can apply for a Standard Visit visa at the UK border on arrival to the UK.
Even if you are a nationality that can apply on arrival in the UK, we would always recommend that you apply for your visa before coming to the UK. However, if you have checked the Gov.uk website, and you are sure you can apply on entry and you decide to do so, the process is outlined below.
Applying for a Standard Visitor visa on arrival to the UK:
On arrival to the UK, you will need to present your passport and all the required documents to the UK Border Force Officer at the port of entry (airport). They may also expect to see proof of your finances, so we recommend that you carry a recent original bank statement or other proof of funding in your hand luggage. There are no set regulations around the amount of funds that you need to show but we would recommend that you use Student Route financial requirements as a guide. These are that you have £1023 for each month in the UK and this is to cover accommodation and living costs. If you will have accommodation provided in the UK, make sure you travel with evidence of that.
You should explain clearly to the Border Force Officer that you wish to enter as a Standard Visitor and your reasons e.g. in order to attend your Graduation or for study reasons.
Please see our Suggested Documents section below to help you with your preparations.
Please note that if you are asking for Entry Clearance at Port of Entry we would advise you not to use the E-Gate facility. Follow an admissions queue that enables you to speak to a member of the Border Force. This is because if you use the E-Gate you will not be stamped in as Visitor so will not have evidence of the date of entry to the UK. You may require evidence of this for future immigration applications so avoid the E-Gates and get a stamp!
The following list are suggested documents to include in all applications both outside the UK and at the Border (unless stated)
- Application form (for overseas applications)– Available to complete online: https://www.gov.uk/apply-uk-visa
- Application Fee (for overseas applications): currently £100 for a 6 month visa. All current visa fees can be found on the Gov.UK website
- Passport(s): – Your passport should be valid for the length of your proposed study visit.
- Proof you or your friend/relative have somewhere to stay
- If you/friends/relatives are staying with friends (or you) this could include a tenancy agreement or letter from your landlord, or friend who is offering accommodation, confirming there is sufficient room and that s/he agrees to visitors staying there,
- if you/family/friends are staying in a hotel or hostel, include booking details
- if there are not yet firm accommodation plans, you/your family/friends will need to provide more evidence of funds to show they can afford to pay for any accommodation necessary
- Proof of finances: This can be in the form of bank statements or pay slips and should ideally cover 6 months transactions. There are no set regulations around the amount of funds that you need to show but we would recommend that you use Tier 4 financial requirements as a guide. These are that you have £1023 for each month in the UK and this is to cover accommodation and living costs (if you have already indicated accommodation will be covered then you may need to demonstrate less fund- though again, there are no set amounts given by the UKVI
If you are applying for a Visit visa for study, research or exchange purposes you will also need:
- University Standard Visit visa letter: For new students on a course of study this letter will be available to you from the Admissions Department. For students continuing a course, this letter can be requested via MyUniHub. For exchange students
email the Go Global Team. For Visiting Researchers and Academics you will be notified of who will produce the letter for you as part of the visit assessment process.
If you do not fall into any of these categories and do not know how you get this letter please email the International @Campuslife team with as much information about your situation as possible and they will try to help you.
- ATAS certificate: this is for students/reasearchers who are undertaking activity in an ATAS area. Please see comprehensive information below for further detail.
If you are applying for a Visit visa to attend your graduation, you could also include (though it is not wholly necessary):
- Graduation timetable and online booking email: if you are eligible to attend Graduation, this email will automatically be sent to you via the Graduation team and should arrive around 6-8 weeks before your Graduation ceremony. You do not need a specific University letter about Graduation, as it is not listed in the UKVI requirements, but you may want to include this email or a printout of the University web page confirming the Graduation ceremony date
If your family member(s)/ friend(s) are visiting you while you are studying (or for your Graduation), as well as the documents listed for all applicants above, they will also need:-
- Original invitation letter (from you) – The University does not give a letter of invitation for your friends or family. As you are inviting your friend or family, you need to provide a letter confirming the relationship between you and your friend/family and the purpose of their visit. Here is an example of an Invitation letter: Sample invitation letter
- Original Student Statement from MyUniHub (you can download this yourself from your GradIntelligence account and then send this to them)
- Copy of your passport (data page)
- Copy of any previous and current UK visa including your biometric residence permit
- Important: Evidence of reasons for returning to their home country g. a letter from an employer confirming the length of their holiday, details of business or dependants left at home.
This list is for guidance only, for a full list of required documents please make sure you are also visiting the GOV.UK website
ATAS is the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) run Academic Technology Approval Scheme. It requires postgraduate students, who are studying certain courses in the fields of science, engineering or technology, to gain a certificate of approval to study before they can be granted a visa to study, or continue studying, in the UK.
This is a requirement for all types of visa holders: Student; Work Permits, Tiers 1 or 2; Short Term Study or Dependants. If your chosen course requires ATAS, you will not be able to be granted a visa or enrol on your course unless you have applied for and received the ATAS Certificate.
If you are applying under a relevant immigration route student, your CAS statement from the University should say whether you require an ATAS certificate or not. In addition, you should also receive an email highlighting that you have applied for an ATAS course. If you do not receive an email then you will not need ATAS.
If you are a Doctoral or Masters by Research student and you have received a Common Aggregation Hierarchy (CAH) code (the code will be a mix of letters and digits), you can check this code on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Find out if I need an ATAS Certificate web page.
- How can I get my ATAS certificate?
You will need to make your ATAS application online via the FCO website, the application is free and the website has comprehensive guidance on making the application which you should follow carefully.
You will need to have your offer letter and/or CAS statement/ATAS email to hand and these should have the CAH code of the course you have been accepted on. You will also need the following information to fill in the form:
- your full name and contact details
- passport details
- name and nationality of your spouse/partner (if applicable)
- full details of any previous and current employment (if applicable)
- the programme of study you are applying to follow in the UK (including CAH code)
- for a PhD or Masters by research: your full research proposal and not just the title
- for a taught Masters: details of the optional modules you anticipate taking
- full details of published papers (if applicable)
- previous ATAS applications (if applicable)
- names and contact details of two referees. You must have known both of your referees for at least three years. At least one of these must be an academic from your country of origin
- details of how you will be funding your studies
You will not be asked to submit or attach any documentation to support your ATAS application.
- How long will it take to get my ATAS certificate?
Please note that we are aware that (as of autumn 2021) there are some delays with ATAS and the FCO team appreciate your patience as they work through their caseload. The FCO ATAS team have stated on the gov.uk website that they will not respond to any queries made until at least 6 weeks has passed since an ATAS application was submitted.
The standard processing time for ATAS applications is 20 working days. You will be sent an initial email acknowledging your application and a further email, within 20 working days, with the result of your application, including an ATAS certificate, if approved.
We are being notified of current delays from students, so please be aware of this and apply for your ATAS early in your visa preparations.
If you have not heard anything for 6 weeks please check your inbox is not full (and therefore rejecting their message) and please also check your ‘Spam’ folder to make sure that their message has not been filtered out.
You can contact the ATAS Team if you are concerned you have missed their response but they will not respond if 6 weeks have not elapsed since your time of application.
- How can I make sure that my ATAS application is not subject to delays?
The main reasons why ATAS applications are delayed are:
- Applicants using initials instead of full names
- Not including a reference from their home country
- Incorrect or missing passport details
- Wrong or missing CAH codes
- Wrong or missing research statements
Make sure that you include all of this required information when you apply!
What happens if I change my start or end date?
If your course start date is more than 6 months after the ATAS has been issued, or if your course end date has changed by more than 3 months you will need to make a new ATAS application. You will need to make this application within 28 days of being notified of the change. Failure to make a new application could lead to problems with any immigration applications you make and could mean the University is unable to enrol you onto your course.
- What if I make a change to my course?
An 'ATAS certificate is issued for a specific course with a named Student sponsor (i.e. Swansea University) and remains valid as long as the Student sponsor and/or course details do not change, including the length of the course’. This means that you must apply for a new ATAS certificate if you:
- change your course;
- change your institution; or
- apply to extend your leave in order to complete your course.
- What do I do when I have my ATAS certificate?
Once you have obtained your ATAS certificate you should either forward a copy of your ATAS to the International Admissions team (for new courses) or take/email a printed copy to MyUniHub (continuing students). You will then be able to access a CAS or Visa Letter to complete your immigration application. Make sure you include a copy in your visa application and bring a printed copy to enrolment.
Possession of an ATAS certificate does not guarantee your visa application will be successful, but your application will automatically be refused if you need an ATAS certificate but do not provide one.
- What happens if my ATAS application is unsuccessful?
If your ATAS application is unsuccessful, please email the international @campuslife team for advice.