General visitors

General visitors

This section describes the immigration category of general visitor, and explains who can come to the UK as a general visitor.

If you are an adult and you want to come to the UK as a tourist or to visit friends, you should apply to come here as a general visitor. If you want to visit members of your family in the UK, you can apply as a family visitor.

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.

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:

  • 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;
  • 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.

You should provide documents to show that you meet the above requirements.

What documents do you need as a general visitor?

This page contains information about the documents that you may want to provide to support your application to come to the UK as a general visitor.

If you apply for a visa, you should provide these documents with your visa application. If you travel to the UK without a visa, you should bring them with you so that you can show them to our officers at the border.

You should provide as many relevant documents as you can to show that you qualify for entry to the UK. If you do not provide them, we may refuse your application.

You must decide which documents will best support your application. We advise you to consider providing documents that contain:

  • information about you
  • information about your finances and employment
  • your accommodation and travel details
  • information about your visit to the UK

Do you need a visa as a general visitor?

This page explains whether you will need to obtain a visa before you come to the UK as a general visitor.

You will need a visa if you:

  • are a visa national (see ‘More information’ below); or
  • are stateless (you do not have a nationality); or
  • hold a non-national travel document (a travel document which does not give you the nationality of the country that issued it); or
  • hold a passport issued by an authority that is not recognised in the UK.

Even if you do not need a visa, you may decide that you should apply for one anyway – see ‘More information’ below.

Can you extend your stay as a general visitor?

This page explains whether and how you can extend your stay in the UK as a general visitor.

If you come to the UK as a general visitor, you are allowed to remain here for a maximum of 6 months (or 12 months if you are accompanying an academic visitor). When you enter the UK, we will stamp the duration of your permission to stay in your passport.

If we give you permission to enter for 3 months, and you later want to extend your stay to the maximum of 6 (or 12) months in total, you must apply for an extension – see below.

If we give you permission to enter the UK for 3 months as a child visitor, and your 18th birthday is during this period, you can apply to extend your stay as a general visitor. The maximum total time that you can stay in the UK will be 6 months (or 12 months if you are accompanying an academic visitor).

If we allow you to extend your stay, you must continue to meet the requirements for general visitors.

When your permission to stay as a visitor expires, we expect you to return home. You cannot ‘switch’ into a different immigration category.

You must apply using application form FLR(O). You can complete and submit this application form online, or you can print out the form, complete it by hand and submit it by post, by courier or in person.

You should read the FLR(O) guidance notes before you complete the application form. You will need to pay a fee when you apply, and we will not refund your fee if we refuse your application or if you withdraw it.

Follow the link on the right side of this page to make your application online, and to download the application form (if you are not applying online) and the guidance notes.

The application form gives details of the documents you must send with the form. You should send the original documents, not copies. In exceptional circumstances, we may accept a photocopy that is certified as an accurate copy by the body or authority that issued the original, or by a notary. You must include a letter explaining why you are providing a certified copy rather than the original document.

You must be in the UK to apply, and you must apply at least 4 weeks before your permission to stay in the UK ends.

If you apply by post, you must send your application to the address given on the form. If your application is straightforward, you can apply in person using our same-day service at one of our public enquiry offices for a premium fee.

Refusals and appeals

This page explains what you can do if we refuse to allow you to enter the UK as a general visitor.

We will make a decision by carefully checking your application, immigration history and supporting documents, to see whether you meet the Immigration Rules. If we cannot make an immediate decision, we may need to interview you.

If we refuse your application for a visa or to enter the UK, our immigration officer or entry clearance officer will send or give you a notice of refusal. This document will list the reasons for the refusal, and will tell you whether you have the right to appeal. The notice will also give you advice on where to send your appeal.