The United Kingdom has always been one of the top destinations for Indians who are interested in emigrating. This country offers them a good quality of life, great career prospects and excellent educational opportunities. When it comes to migrating to the UK, things aren’t as easy for Indian citizens as they are for Americans or some Europeans.It is imperative for nationals from the Indian subcontinent to apply for and obtain the relevant visa before they depart for the UK as they may be denied entry if they do not have the right permit. In fact, you cannot even spend a couple of hours in the UK if you don’t have the required paperwork.
The types of visas granted can be divided into different categories. Below is a brief guide that tells you all that you need to know about types of visas to the UK for an Indian.
Only those passengers who need to stop over in the UK while on their way to another country are eligible to enter on a Transit Visa. To get this visa, you will have to prove to the British authorities that you have the funds as well as the intention of traveling to another nation within 48 hours of entering the UK.
This means that in addition to your passport, application form and other required documents you will also have to submit a copy of your onward ticket (from the UK to any other country, except India). If Indian residents require a visa to enter that country too, the embassy will ask to see that that before they agree to grant you the transit visa for the UK.
Passengers from India who stop over in the UK to change flights but don’t go through Border Control can apply for a Direct Airside Transit Visa (DATV), which is valid for up to 24 hours from the time of entry. It isn’t possible to clear immigration (cross the border) on this type of permit.
If you need to spend more than 48 hours in the UK, you can’t gain entry on a Transit Visa; you will need to apply for a regular visit visa in that case.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for these visas to be processed. If you have all your required paperwork and itinerary in place, you should be able to get it within 4 to 5 working days, as that is the average turnaround time. Do bear in mind that e-visas or e-residence aren’t acceptable for transiting through UK’s immigration control. To know more information on Transit Visas for the UK, check the government’s website.
Standard Visitor Visa
In the past, Indians had several visa categories that they could apply under if they planned to visit the UK for under six months. These were relevant to General Visitors, Family or Child Visitors, Businesspeople, Sportspeople, Entertainers, Entrepreneurs & Private Medical Patients. However, the Standard Visitor Visa has now replaced all these categories.
Apply for this visa if you are planning to go to the UK for a short period of time, i.e., no more than six months. You are eligible to travel under this Short Term Single or Multiple Entry category for:
– Leisure or a holiday
– Visiting your family or friends
– Business activities like attending a meeting, conference or training session
– Participating in specific sporting or creative events
– Undergoing some kind of private medical treatment
You could also travel on this visa if you are:
– An academic and are conducting research or are accompanying students in the UK on a program
– A doctor or a dentist, taking up a clinical attachment or observer post
– Trying to get funding for starting, taking over, joining or running a business
– Taking the Professional & Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test or the Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE)
Look at the UK Government’s Immgiration Rules for a more detailed list of business-related activities that fall under the Standard Visitor Visa.
The earliest that you can apply for the Standard Visitor visa is 3 months before your intended travel date. It takes between 2 to 3 weeks for the paperwork to get processed.
It is possible to get a visa for a longer duration of time if you meet certain criteria. In fact, you can obtain a visa for 2 years, 5 years or 10 years if you prove that you have to visit the UK regularly or for a longer period. However, do bear in mind that you can stay for a maximum of 6 months during each visit.
If you are over the age of 16 and are seeking admission in a university or planning to undergo a full-time, long-term course in the UK, you can apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa. For this, you should:
– Have been offered a place in a college or an institute that is a licensed Tier 4 sponsor
– Speak, read, write and comprehend English fluently
– Be in a position to pay for your course and support yourself during your stay
– Meet a few other eligibility criteria
Once you gain admission in a licensed institute, your education provider will give you a reference number, known as Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). This number is valid only for a period of 6 months and is an essential part of your visa application requirements. You must therefore apply for the visa no more than 6 months after receiving the CAS. Check if you are eligible to get a CAS here www.gov.uk/tier-4-general-visa/eligibility.
If your course is a short term one, i.e., it lasts for under 6 months, you can arrive into the UK up to 1 week before it is supposed to begin. However, for a longer course, you could arrive up to 1 month before it commences. The duration of stay you are permitted will depend entirely on your prior education and the kind of courses you have enrolled for.
You may be able to bring along a dependent with you, subject to them getting the visa. However, you cannot seek public funds in the UK or work in certain jobs under a Student Visa.
Indians traveling to the UK on a professional assignment for a short period of time (under 6 months) can apply for a Temporary Worker Visa. This is mainly applicable to professionals in the field of sports, arts, entertainment, charity, religious organizations, domestic work, volunteering and skilled labor. Some people travel on an International Agreement Visa when their work is covered by international law (for example, a private servant in a diplomatic house).
Another visa type, called the Tier 2 Visa category, applies to different people traveling to the UK for employment purposes, including those who are getting transferred within the same organization. Once you have an offer and a sponsorship certificate from a recognized organization in the UK, you could apply for a visa under this category. The application can be made up to 3 months before the day you are supposed to start working. It usually takes 3 to 4 weeks for the paperwork to get processed. It is possible for you to enter this country and stay on for a maximum of 5 years and 14 days or for the duration mentioned on your sponsorship certificate (plus one month), whichever is shorter. The visa can be extended for another 5 years but your total stay shouldn’t exceed 6 years.
High Value Worker Visa is another option available to investors, entrepreneurs, graduate entrepreneurs and leaders in sciences or arts. Of course, several criteria need to be met before you can be eligible to apply under this category. For more information, click here.
If you are a businessperson traveling to the UK for a short period of time (under 6 months) to attend a conference, meeting, seminar, training or sabbatical, you can travel on a Standard Visitor Visa. However, if you have been invited to the country because of certain expertise, for which you are getting paid, you will need a separate visa, called the Permitted Paid Engagement Visa, which will allow you to stay in the country for up to 1 month. For more information, click here.
Indians working in the UK often have their relatives join them after a while. According to the law, you need to work in the country for at least a couple of months before your family will be given a visa to visit or settle down with you. Do bear in mind that applying for a Family Visa can be quite complicated and the process takes much longer.
Earlier, there were two types of Visas that fell under this category: the Family Visit Visa and the Family Permit. However, a majority of people visiting their families in the UK for a short period of time now travel on the Standard Visitor Visa instead of the Family Visit Visa.
The Family Permit is useful for those who want to stay with their relatives for a slightly longer duration. While it is valid for only 6 months, you can leave the UK and enter again as many times as you want to.
If you are planning to stay on as a dependant for more than 6 months, you need to apply for the appropriate paperwork before your Family Permit expires. Log on to www.gov.uk/family-permit to see which eligibility criteria you meet.
Marriage Visit Visa
Anyone who wishes to get married or register a civil partnership in the UK should apply for a Marriage Visit Visa. People also travel on this visa for giving a notice of a marriage or a civil partnership in the UK.
This visa can be applied for 3 months prior to the intended date of travel and takes 2 to 3 weeks to process. If you enter the country on a Marriage Visit visa, your stay cannot exceed 6 months.
It is not necessary for you to get a visa if you are traveling to the UK for official diplomatic or government work. In such instances, applying for an exempt vignette is a lot more feasible. However, this privilege won’t be extended to your partner and family members, even if they accompany you on the same trip. The other travelers will have to apply for and obtain the visa relevant to the purpose of their visit prior to departing for the UK.
Almost every country has a few minimum criteria that foreign nationals are required to meet before they are given an entry permit and this applies to Indians traveling to the UK too. Before putting in your visa application, make sure that you have:
– Valid travel documents like a passport
– Other supporting paperwork like attested degrees, bank statements, pay slips and tax returns
– No criminal records, history of deportation or any immigration related conviction
– Confirmed flight tickets or an airline reservation
– Travel insurance to cover your whole stay in the UK
– Adequate funds through which you can support yourself while on your trip
Of course, being in possession of all these documents and even meeting all the eligibility criteria is no guarantee that you will be granted the visa you want. It may therefore be a good idea to contact an expert who can guide you through the entire procedure for a small fee.