UK visa eligibility requirements

One of the first steps you take when planning to move to a new country is to understand the different visa options available and which one is best for you. Similarly, to move to the UK, you must understand the available options and UK visa eligibility requirements.

The United Kingdom offers an array of visa categories tailored to varying purposes, from tourism to work and study. In this article, we will discuss the different visa options available based on the most recent updates made by the country. Some of the previous visa routes are no longer available while new ones have been added. The options discussed here are based on recent updates.

UK Visa Types and Categories

There are different categories and types of UK visas available for different groups of people, depending on your reason or proposed plan for going to the UK. The visa types are grouped into the following categories:

  • Study visas
  • Work visas
  • Business visa
  • Visitor visa
  • Family visa
  • Asylum visa
  • Settlement visa

Study Visas

To travel to the UK on a student visa, you need to have an unconditional offer of admission from an independent school in the country. You must also show that you have the financial capacity to take care of your schooling and the cost of living while in the UK. If you are 17 years old or less, you will need the consent of your parent or guardian. Depending on your age, there are two types of student visas you can apply for.

  • Child Student visa: Children between ages 4 and 17 can apply for this visa. It has replaced the Tier 4 (Child) student visa. Note that you cannot go with a dependent using this visa If your parent wants to come with you, they have to apply for a Parent of a Child Student visa.
  • Student visa: This visa which replaced the Tier 4 (General) student visa is for students who are 16 years or older. This visa allows you to bring a partner or children as dependents.

Work Visas

One of the main UK visa eligibility requirements for a work visa is that you must have a job offer in the country. Other criteria vary depending on the type of job you received.

  • Skilled Worker Visa: This was formerly the Tier 2 (General) visa. It is one of the most popular work visas for those who have offers for skilled jobs in the UK.
  • Intra-Company Transfer Visa: Employees of multinational companies who receive a transfer to a UK branch will need this visa type.
  • Health and Care Worker Visa: Healthcare professionals with job offers may qualify for this. This visa typically lasts up to five years with an option for extension.
  • Minister of Religion Visa: Religious people and ministers who have an invitation to the UK for religious activities might use this visa. It allows you to stay in the country for about three years and a month.
  • Temporary Work Visa: With a temporary work visa, you get to work in the UK for a short period, usually one year. However, there is an option for extension. There are also several kinds of temporary work visas depending on the type of job offer and sponsorship you have. Some of them are; charity worker visa, creative worker visa, seasonal worker visa, government-authorised exchange visa, etc.
  • Graduate Visa: If you have completed a degree in the UK, you should consider the graduate option. It allows you to stay for up to 2 years or 3 years for PhD and other doctoral programs.
  • Youth Mobility Scheme: This policy allows young people from certain countries to come to the UK for work or study purposes. It has a two-year validity period.

Business Visa

Previously, the entrepreneur visa (Tier 1) was the acceptable business visa. Now, if you intend to start a business in the UK, you need to apply for an Innovator Founder visa. This visa allows you to stay in the UK for up to 3 years and you can apply for settlement after that. To be able to apply for this visa, you must have a business idea that is new, innovative, viable and scalable. You must also get a recognised endorsing body to asses your business idea while you make sure to meet other criteria.

Visitor Visas

The visitor visa allows you to stay in the UK for up to 6 months for a variety of reasons. Whether you are coming for tourism, business, volunteer, study or other permitted activities, you can do so via a visitor visa provided you meet other UK visa eligibility requirements for the category. There are different types depending on your purpose of visit.

  • Standard Visitor Visa: This visa is for individuals who want to visit the UK for tourism, business meetings, medical care, or to see family and friends.
  • Business Visitor Visa: Designed for individuals who need to come to the UK for business-related activities such as conferences, meetings, or training.
  • Transit Visitor Visa: If you are travelling through the UK, you may need a transit visa. Note that a transit visa requires you to leave the country within 48 hours.
  • Permitted Paid Engagement Visa: Professionals and academics who need to participate in paid lectures or fieldwork in the UK will need this visa. But keep in mind that this is a one-month visa without the option of extension or switch.
  • Marriage Visitor Visa: Have you ever dreamed of celebrating your wedding in the UK? This is the visa you will need. It allows you to stay up to six months. So, you have enough time to finalise your wedding plans.

Family Visas

You can get this visa on different grounds. The validity period of your visa depends on the grounds of your application.

  • As a partner or spouse: Only couples who are both 18 years old and above qualify for this visa. To apply, you must have a partner who has British or Irish citizenship, or who has settled in the UK. With this, you can stay in the country for 2 years and 9 months or 6 months if you are a proposed civil partner. There is also an option for extension.
  • As a parent: Your child must be under 18 years old as of the date of your application or when you were first granted leave. Also, your child must be a citizen of the country or have settled there. If you have a shared partner, you must have physical access to the child.
  • As a child: You can apply as a child if you were born outside the UK and live with your parents. You must also not have any romantic partner. However, if you were born in the UK, there are other options you can explore including the Private Life in the UK and free EU Settlement Scheme options.
  • As an adult coming to be cared for by a relative: This means that you need long-term care from a parent, grandchild, brother, sister, or child who is living permanently in the UK. You must be able to prove that you need long-term care. How long you can stay depends on the status of the family member you are coming to stay with
  • On the basis of your private life: This option is available only to those already living in the UK. Applicants must prove that they have spent a reasonable number of years in the UK.

Asylum Visa

The asylum visa is available for people who leave their country and are unable to go back because they fear persecution. It is important to apply early; as soon as you arrive in the UK or as soon as you think it would be unsafe to return to your country. Delaying your application increases the chances of refusal. Also, if you give false information just to be able to claim asylum, you can get up to 2 years in prison or have to leave the UK.

Settlement Visa

A settlement visa, also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) allows you to settle in the UK. It gives you the right to live, work and study in the country for as long as you like. You can also apply for benefits if you’re eligible. It equally gives you the opportunity to apply for British citizenship. There are different UK visa eligibility requirements for obtaining an ILR, but the basic criteria require you to fulfil any of the conditions below.

  • Work in the UK
  • Have a family in the UK
  • Lived in the UK for up to 10 years
  • Are a commonwealth citizen

How do I Choose the Right UK Visa for Me?

Beyond knowing the different types of visas available, many people wonder “How do I find the best UK visa for my situation?” The simple way is through comparison. You should compare UK visa options to know which one best suits your travel needs. Check further eligibility criteria for the different options and do not hesitate to seek expert advice if you need further clarity.

Required Documents for UK Visa Processing

The specific documents required for a UK visa application can vary depending on the type of visa you are applying for. However, here is a general list of documents that are commonly needed for most types of UK visa applications:

  • Completed Visa Application Form: Fill out the appropriate visa application form online, which is usually available on the official UK government website.
  • Valid Passport: Your passport should be valid for the entire duration of your planned stay in the UK.
  • Passport-Sized Photographs: Typically, recent passport-sized colour photographs are required.
  • Biometric Information: Some visa categories may require you to provide biometric information, such as fingerprints.
  • Visa Fee Payment: Proof of payment of the visa application fee, which varies depending on the type and duration of the visa.
  • Proof of Financial Means: Bank statements, payslips, or other financial documents to demonstrate that you have the financial means to support yourself during your stay.
  • Employment or Study Details: If applicable, provide letters from your employer or educational institution confirming your status and leave approval.
  • Proof of Ties to Home Country: Documents demonstrating your ties to your home country, such as property ownership, family connections, or a stable job, to show that you have reasons to return.
  • Health Insurance: Proof of health insurance coverage for the duration of your stay.
  • Marriage or Civil Partnership Documents: If applicable, provide marriage or civil partnership certificates.
  • Criminal Record/ Medical Examination: Some visa categories may require an examination of your criminal record and medical history.

UK Visa Application Process

The application process for a UK visa can vary based on the type of visa you are applying for. However, here is a broad overview of the typical steps involved in the UK visa application process:

1. Determine the Type of Visa

Identify the type of visa that suits your purpose of travel, whether it’s a tourist visa, work visa, study visa, etc. Each type of visa has specific requirements.

2. Check Eligibility

Ensure that you meet the UK visa eligibility requirements for the chosen category. Different visas have different requirements regarding financial means, employment, education, etc.

3. Complete the Online Application Form

Fill out the online application form available on the official UK government website. Provide accurate and complete information.

4. Pay the Visa Fee

Pay the required visa application fee, which varies depending on the type and duration of the visa. Payment is usually made online.

5. Gather Supporting Documents

Collect all the required supporting documents based on the specific requirements for your visa category. This may include passports, photographs, financial documents, employment or education details, travel itineraries, and more.

6. Book an Appointment

Schedule an appointment at a visa application centre (VAC) or at the visa section of the British embassy or consulate in your country. Submit your completed application form and all supporting documents to the designated visa application centre or embassy/consulate. Some applications may also allow online submission.

7. Attend Biometric Appointment

Attend a biometric appointment to provide fingerprints and other biometric information. This is a common requirement for many UK visa categories.

8. Track Application Progress

Monitor the status of your application. Many visa application centres provide online tracking services, allowing you to check the progress of your application.

9. Wait for a Decision

After submitting your application, you will need to wait for a decision. Processing times can vary, so it’s essential to apply well in advance of your intended travel date.

10. Receive Passport and Visa

Once a decision is made, you will receive your passport back with the visa stamped if your application is approved. If it’s rejected, you will be provided with reasons for the refusal.


As explore the UK visa eligibility requirements, considering factors such as purpose, duration, and eligibility become pivotal in selecting the optimal visa category. Whether you are seeking educational pursuits, professional endeavours, or simply aiming to explore the rich tapestry of British culture, a thoughtful evaluation of your circumstances will guide you towards the visa that best aligns with your aspirations.