People come to the UK for many different reasons including to visit family or friends, as a tourist, to work or to study, or with the intention of settling here temporarily or permanently. Under UK Immigration Rules you may need to be granted entry clearance from the UK Border Agency prior to travelling.
If you are a foreign national who is subject to immigration control, there are 4 types of entry clearance documents that will allow you to gain legal access to the UK:
VISA – visas are for people referred to as visa nationals. You can find a long list of visa national countries under Appendix A of the Immigration Rules. There are many different categories of visa available including partner and family visas, tourist or visitor visas, worker and student visas, with many applications falling under the five-tier points-based system (Tier 1 visas through to Tier 5).
ENTRY CERTIFICATE – these certificates are for people referred to as non-visa nationals. These are nationals of a specific list of countries including the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
EEA FAMILY PERMIT – for family members of EEA (European Economic Area) nationals or Swiss nationals.
EXEMPT VIGNETTE – for people such as diplomats, who are exempt from the requirements of the Immigration Act 1971.
You will not need a visa if you hold a passport issued by the UK or any other country in the EEA or Switzerland. If you are a visa national you will need a visa before you come to the UK. If you are a non-visa national you might need a visa if you want to come to the UK for up to 6 months and will need a visa if you want to come here for more than 6 months.
If you are a non-European foreign national and simply want to transit through the UK on your way to another country you may not need a visa. If you arrive on a flight and depart on another flight without passing through immigration control, also known as transit airside, you do not need a visa. You can also transit landside without a visa if you arrive on a flight, pass through immigration control but only remain in the UK for 24 hours (under the transit without visa concession). If you remain for 48 hours you will need a visitor in-transit visa unless you are a non-visa national or hold a travel document issued by the UK government.
In any circumstances where you do need entry clearance you must make an application to the department of the UK Border Agency established at a British Embassy or High Commission in your country of residence prior to travelling.
Here at IAS we can assist with all applications for entry clearance to the UK, including any issues arising from a refusal to gain entry.