A Guide to the UK Tourism, Leisure & Family Visit Visa

By Alexandra Pease – Immigration Barrister

The Tourism, Leisure and Family Visit Visa is for individuals who wish to come to the UK for a short-term stay for the purpose of visiting friends and/or family or for a short holiday. The Tourism, Leisure and Family Visit Visa is a sub-category of the Standard Visitor route, which is a route for persons who wish to visit the UK for a temporary period of up to 6 months.

Tourism, Leisure and Family Visit Visa Immigration Rules

In summary, Appendix V of the Immigration Rules provides for 4 types of Visitor:

  • Standard Visitor: for those seeking to undertake the activities set out in Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities, for example tourism and visiting family, usually for up to 6 months. A Standard Visitor may apply for a visit visa of six months, two, five or 10 years validity, however each stay in the UK must not exceed the permitted length of stay endorsed on the visit visa (usually six months).
  • Transit Visitor: for those who want to transit the UK on route to another country outside the Common Travel Area and who will enter the UK for up to 48 hours by crossing the UK border unless Appendix Visitor: Transit Without Visa Scheme applies.

This article will focus on those coming to the UK to visit for the purposes of tourism, leisure or to visit family. 

General Requirements for a Tourism, Leisure and Family Visit Visa

The requirements for a successful Tourism, Leisure and Family Visit Visa application are generally as follows:

  • You are a visa national (a non-visa national can normally seek entry as a Visitor on arrival at the UK border);
  • You are genuinely seeking entry to the UK for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor routes;
  • You will not undertake any prohibited activities;
  • You have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to your visit (including travel, maintenance and accommodation costs) without working or accessing public funds;
  • You will leave the UK at the end of your visit;
  • You will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK your main home;
  • Your application does not fall for refusal under the general grounds for refusal.

Guidance is provided to caseworkers in the Visit guidance, Version 11.0, published for Home Office staff on 06 October 2021. 

Visa or Non Visa National

You will first need to consider whether you are required to apply for entry clearance in advance of travel.  Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Visa national list contains a list of countries who must apply for entry clearance in advance unless the exceptions in VN 2.1, VN 2.2. (subject to VN 2.3) or VN 3.1 apply. Those that are Non Visa Nationals may consider applying in advance, if for example there is an adverse immigration history and you have been refused entry on a previous occasion.  An application made in advance can provide security and certainty. The Tourism, Leisure and Family Visit Visa requirements have to be met by Non Visa Nationals as well, but this is assessed at the border, by an Immigration Officer.

To discuss your UK Visit Visa application or how we can assist you to meet the requirements for entry to the UK a visitor on arrival, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

Making a Valid UK Visit Visa Application

The Validity requirements for entry clearance or permission to stay as a Visitor are set out in paragraphs V 2.1 to V 2.6 of Appendix V.

An Applicant must apply using the relevant online application form, pay the relevant fee, and provide biometrics.  Any application for entry clearance must be made from outside the UK.  

General Grounds of Refusal and Immigration Status Required

You will need to consider if any of the provisions in Part 9 of the Immigration Rules apply.  Part 9 generally covers criminality, non conducive grounds, false representation and deception, previous breaches and other discretionary grounds.  Some grounds are mandatory and others discretionary.  It is important to ensure that you answer all questions on the form accurately and make full disclosure.  Any false information given can lead to a refusal and a ban meaning further applications to enter the UK will be refused.  We examined this in an earlier article.

If an Applicant is applying for permission to stay they must not be in breach of immigration laws or on immigration bail.  If Paragraph 39E applies that period of overstaying may be disregarded (V 3.1 and V 3.2).

Genuine Visitor

You will need to demonstrate that you are a genuine visitor.

The caseworking guidance refers to an assessment of the Applicant’s personal circumstances including the following:

  • their previous immigration history, including visits to the UK and other countries 
  • the duration of previous visits and whether this was significantly longer than they originally stated on their visa application or on arrival – if this is the case, you should not automatically presume that the visitor is not genuine, but this may be a reason to question the applicant’s overall intentions 
  • their financial circumstances as well as their family, social and economic background 
  • their personal and economic ties to their country of residence 
  • the cumulative period of time the applicant has visited the UK and their pattern of travel over the last 12-month period, and whether this amounts to ‘de-facto’ residence in the UK
  • whether, on the balance of probabilities, the information and the reasons for the visit or for extending their stay provided by the applicant are credible and correspond to their personal, family, social and economic background

The guidance continues by setting out reasons for doubting someone is a genuine visitor, these include:

  • the applicant has few or no family and economic ties to their country of residence, and has several family members in the UK – for example a person with most of their family in the UK and no job or study in their own country may be considered to have few ties to their home country 
  • the applicant, their sponsor (if they are visiting a friend or relative) or other immediate family member has, or has attempted to, deceive the Home Office in a previous application for entry clearance, permission to enter or stay 
  • there are discrepancies between the statements made by the applicant and the statements made by the sponsor, particularly on points where the sponsor could reasonably be expected to know the facts but does not 
  • it has not been possible to verify information provided by the applicant despite attempts to do so 
  • the information that has been provided or the reasons for the visit stated by the applicant are not credible 
  • a search of the applicant’s baggage and vehicle at the border reveals items which demonstrate they intend to work or live in the UK

In order to demonstrate this requirement you will need to consider providing full details of ties to the UK, financial and personal as well as ties to your home country.   Visit visas can be complex and require wide ranging evidence. Evidence can take many forms including statements and letters to support and explain documentary evidence from various sources. 

Length of a Visit Visa

It is possible to apply for a long-term Visit Visa of up to 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years. You may enter and leave the UK on multiple occasions during the validity, unless your Visit Visa is endorsed with a single entry.   You must ensure that each visit is not more than 6 months from the date of entry.   If you do not have an ongoing reason to visit the UK you may consider applying for a 6 month visit visa.  

Even if you apply for a long-term multiple entry Visit Visa you may only be granted one of short duration.  The guidance reads:

You can issue a shorter duration visa if the applicant meets the Visitor rules relevant to their visit but you have concerns about issuing a long term visit visa. Entry Clearance officers must obtain the authority of the Entry Clearance Manager before issuing a visit visa of shorter duration than that applied for. 

You must provide clear reasons for the decision to grant a visa for a shorter period than that applied for in a covering letter when the passport is returned.

It is important to note that no refund, whether full or partial, wll be given.  

Using a Multiple Entry Visit Visa

There is no specified maximum period for which an individual can spend in the UK during a 12 month period (as long as it is for no longer than 6 months from each entry), but you will need to be careful not to make the UK your home through successive visits.  This will form a consideration when you plan your trips to the UK.  The guidance reads:

“There is no specified maximum period, which an individual can spend in the UK in any period, such as ‘6 months in 12 months’ (as long as each visit does not exceed the maximum period for that visit, normally 6 months). However, if it is clear from an applicant’s travel history that they are seeking to remain in the UK for extended periods or making the UK their home you should refuse their application”.

The fact that an Applicant is granted a multiple entry long-term visit visa does not mean that they are guaranteed entry each time they arrive in the UK.  Their circumstances may be examined at the border and you would be advised to carry evidence pertaining to any current circumstances.  Whether an individual is making the UK their home through successive visits will be one matter that will be considered.

The guidance makes reference to a number of factors that will be considered: 

  • the purpose of the visit and intended length of stay stated 
  • the number of visits made over the past 12 months, including the length of stay on each occasion, the time elapsed since the last visit, and if this amounts to the individual spending more time in the UK than in their home country 
  • the purpose of return trips to the applicant’s home country or trips out of the Common Travel Area (CTA) and if these are used only to seek re-entry to the UK
  • the links they have with their home country or ordinary country of residence – consider especially any long-term commitments and where the applicant is registered for tax purposes 
  • evidence the UK is their main place of residence, for example: o if they have registered with a general practitioner (GP) o if they send their children to UK schools 
  • the history of previous applications, for example if the visitor has previously been refused under the Family Rules and subsequently wants to enter as a visitor you must assess if they are using the visitor route to avoid the rules in place for family migrants joining British or settled persons in the UK

At the border, as the guidance confirms, an Applicant may be asked for supporting evidence.  This depends on the questions asked and the answers given. 

Maintenance and Accommodation – What Are the Levels and Who Can Provide This?

As part of the Genuine visitor requirement (paragraph V 4.2) you will need to show you have sufficient funds (paragraph V 4.2(e)).  There is no set level of funds required for an Applicant to show they will be maintained and accommodated for their planned visit to the UK.  

In assessing whether there are sufficient funds, the caseworker will consider the criteria in Paragraph V 4.3. A third party may provide support, this includes family members, family, and other individuals with whom the Applicant has a genuine personal or professional relationship.  You will want to consider the following factors as set out in the guidance and provide evidence of these:

  • The Third party’s previous history of sponsorship; 
  • The relationship between Applicant and Sponsor;
  • Where and how they met;
  • How often and by what means they communicate.  

If maintenance and accommodation is to be provided by a third party, that third party must not be in the UK in breach of immigration rules at the proposed date of entry or the application.  The individual will need to show they have the means to provide that support as well as anyone else usually dependent upon them in addition to the Applicant.  There are many ways to evidence these requirements and you will want to ensure any concerns are addressed. 

You will need to demonstrate that the funds are held in a permitted financial institution under FIN 2.1 in Appendix Finance.  

When addressing your finances you will need to evidence your sources of income and savings.    You will need to consider evidencing how long you can be absent from your employment or business, who will provide cover.  You should consider how to address payments in and out of your account, particularly any recent payments prior to the date of application. 

You may consider providing a schedule of costs to demonstrate that the funds held or the funds you rely on are sufficient for your purposes, your costs may for example be less if you are staying with family and not expected to contribute to daily living expenses such as food.   There are many ways and forms to present this evidence. 

Part Two 

In Part Two we will address further frequently asked questions in relation to the Tourism, Leisure and Family Visit Visa route.

Contact Our Immigration Lawyers in London

For expert advice and assistance with a visit visa application, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below. 

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