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How to apply for Visit Visas

Your rights, prohibitions and obligations once in the country

This guide illustrates how you can apply to enter the United Kingdom as a visitor and describes your rights, prohibitions and obligations once in the country.

If you plan to travel to the United Kingdom for a short length of time, you will need to apply before departure for a Visit Visa at a British visa application centre in the country where you live.

Probably the most popular visit visas are general, family and business visas. However, there is a whole array of visit visas you might fit into. This guide will allow you to choose the one that best fits your circumstances.
The majority of visit visa applications are decided upon within 4 weeks from the date of application, thus do submit your application in due time to allow for a timely response.

Once granted a visit visa, you will be allowed to stay for up to 6 months (in most cases). However, you might be granted a shorter time. The exact length of your permission to enter will be stamped in your passport.

If you frequently visit the United Kingdom, you can apply for a multiple-entry visitor visa that is valid for 2, 5 or 10 years.

You are entitled to request an extension of your visa if you want to stay longer in the UK, but, if approved, this will in any case be only for up to the maximum total time provided for a visit visa.

Requirements to successfully apply for a visit visa

To come to the UK as a visitor, you must be able to show that:
- you want to visit the UK for no more than 6 months; and
-  you can support and pay for accommodation for yourself and any dependants in the UK, without help from public funds; or
- ensure that you and your dependants will be supported and accommodated by relatives or friends, and will not take employment; and
- you intend to leave the UK at the end of your visit; and
- you can meet the cost of the return or onward journey

Supporting documents

Applying for a visit visa may seem relatively straightforward, but the statistics on the number of visa refusals show otherwise. Please pay extra attention to the documents you attach to support your application.

To support your application, you will need to produce the following documents:
1. a letter from you addressed to the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) detailing why you wish to visit the UK, for how long and the reasons for the visit, including why you will not remain longer than the visit visa duration if granted a visa to the UK;
2. evidence of occupation:
a. if you are employed, a letter from your employer granting leave of absence from your job for a specified period - the letter should also say how long you have been employed by that employer, in what job(s), and when you are expected back at work;
b. if you are self-employed, evidence of your business activities and financial standing;
c. if you are a student, a letter from your school or college stating the course you are on, its start and finish dates, and the dates of the holiday period when you intend to visit the United Kingdom;
3. evidence of your total monthly income from all sources of employment or occupation after tax;
4. evidence of any income from other sources e.g. friends, family, savings, property etc…;
5. bank statements going back over a period of several months;
6. evidence of any family or social ties and responsibilities to return to (a table showing all relatives in your home country, including the names, their relationship to you and their address)
7. evidence of your travel plans, such as: a planned itinerary, details of any hotel/flight bookings, if attending a wedding or event, an invitation card or ticket.
If your trip is being funded by a sponsor, you will need to provide:
8. an invitation letter from your Sponsor stating that he/she will undertake the cost of your flight, maintenance and accommodation during your stay in the UK
9. your Sponsor’s most recent 3-6 month bank statements
10. your Sponsor’s most recent 3-6 month wage slips/Accountant’s report
11. a copy of your sponsor’s employment contract
12. Evidence of your sponsor’s accommodation where you intend to stay: his most recent mortgage statement and photographs of the property

Business visitors

A business visitor is someone who works abroad, but who intends to visit the UK for short periods of time in order to do business on their own or their employer’s behalf.

If you plan to travel to the UK for business reasons, the maximum permitted stay you can apply is up to 6 months; up to 12 months if you are an academic visitor.

To stay longer, you will need to apply for a work visa.

Multiple entry visas are available for business visitors for 6 months, and 1, 2, 5 and 10 years.

Examples of business visitors

Examples of business visitors are: board-level directors; advisers, consultants, trainers or trouble shooters; academic visitors; doctors or dentists coming for observation; visiting professors; film crews on location shoots; representatives of overseas media gathering information for their publication; secondees from overseas companies; religious workers undertaking preaching or pastoral work; interpreters and translators; lorry drivers and coach drivers; tour group couriers; persons undertaking specific, one-off training in techniques and work practices used in the UK.

Requirements to successfully apply for a business visitor visa

As well as the normal requirements for visit visas (Requirements to successfully apply for a visit visa), to come to the UK under this category, you must show that:
- you are based abroad and have no intention of transferring your base to the UK, even temporarily;
- you do not intend to charge members of the public for services provided or goods received;
- you receive your salary from abroad, although you are allowed to receive reasonable expenses to cover your cost of travel and subsistence.

You must also show that you plan to do one or more of the following activities, which include:
- attending single meetings, interviews, briefings, seminars or conferences;
- arranging deals or negotiating or signing trade agreements or contracts;
- undertaking fact finding missions or conducting site visits;
- shooting films on locations;
- delivering goods and passengers from abroad;
- interpreting or translating for visiting business persons;
- installing, dismantling, servicing, repairing or advising and in general implementing parts of a contract between an overseas and UK company.

These activities are permissible only provided:

- they were arranged before coming to the UK;
- they are one-off engagements or jobs and not established commercial events;
- they do not qualify as consultancy work for which entry under the points-based system would be required;
- the visitor is employed by an overseas company or institution and not employed by the UK company;
- the visitor’s base is overseas and they are not filling a normal post or a genuine vacancy in the UK.

Academic Visitors

Academic visitors are allowed to stay in the UK for up to 12 months.
An academic visitor is either:
- A person on leave from an overseas academic institution who wishes to carry out their own private research or exchange information on research techniques;
- Academics (including doctors) taking part in arranged exchanges;
- Eminent senior doctors and dentists, coming to take part in research, teaching or clinical practice.

They should be able to produce evidence that they have been working as an academic in an institution of higher education overseas, or in the field of their academic expertise immediately prior to seeking entry or entry clearance in this category.

Your application as academic visitor is likely to be turned down if you are a:
- recent graduate: you are unlikely to have sufficient expertise
- postgraduate researcher: if you are studying to achieve a UK academic qualification you should apply for a student visa; if you receive a grant to undertake research, you should seek entry under Tier 2.
- lecturer: if you plan to undertake a series of lectures, of commercial nature, you should seek entry under Tier 2; if it is a one-off engagement, apply for a mainstream business visitor visa
- sponsored researchers: you should seek entry under Tier 5 – Government Authorised Exchange

Those who are on sabbatical leave from private research companies are not eligible for leave under the academic visitor provisions.


If you are coming to the UK as a business visitor, your dependants can also come for up to 6 months, provided they apply for entry clearance.Your dependants are a wife, husband, civil partner, same sex partner, unmarried partner and child under the age of 18 years old.

Number of visits

Generally, there is no restriction on the number of visits you may make nor is there any requirement that a specified time must elapse between each visits.

However, Entry Clearance Officers may consider the stated purpose of the visit in the light of the length of time that has elapsed since previous visits. A visitor should not, for example, normally spend more than 6 out of any 12 months in the UK.

Occasionally, a business visitor may be required to stay for a period of weeks or even months (for example, where machinery is being installed or faults being diagnosed and corrected). However, the ECO should be satisfied that a person’s presence in the UK on business for more than 6 out of any 12 months does not mean that they are basing themselves in the UK and taking up a specific post which constitutes employment and would therefore require the individual to seek entry under the points-based system.

Extension of leave as a business visitor

The maximum time that you can spend in the UK at any one time as a business visitor is six months - unless you are an academic visitor. 

If you want to stay longer, you must seek leave to enter for work under the points-based system.

Visa Refusal: right of appeal for business visitors

Business visitor visas do not attract a full right of appeal. If your application is refused, the entry clearance officer or the immigration officer will tell you and you will be given a detailed written refusal notice. This will tell you if and how you can appeal.

By Federica Gaida

*Please note that the above article does not relate to nationals of the European Union.
Disclaimer: The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. Information is offered for general information purposes only, based on the current law when the information was first published.

You should always seek advice from an appropriately qualified solicitor on any specific legal enquiry. For legal advice regarding your case, please contact Greenfields Solicitors for a Consultation with a Solicitor:
Tel. +44 (0)20 8884 1166
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Your overseas shopping limits

Know how much you can buy without paying import duty or VAT

If you are planning an overseas holiday in the New Year or spending your money buying goods online from non-EU websites, you need to know how much you can buy without paying import duty or VAT.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Head of Customs Policy, Mike Coussins, said: “With the New Year sales in full swing, HMRC are keen to remind the general public how much they can bring back from abroad or buy from an overseas website without having to pay import duty or VAT.

“You don’t want to be faced with unexpected extra charges, when you thought you had found a bargain.”

Travellers arriving in the UK by commercial sea or air transport from a non-EU country can bring in up to £390 worth of goods for personal use without paying customs duty or VAT (excluding tobacco and alcohol, which have separate allowances, and fuel). People arriving by other means, including by private plane or boat for pleasure purposes, can bring in goods up to the value of £270.

Should you buy goods over the internet or by mail order from outside the EU, you will have to pay VAT if the value of the package is over £18. If over £135, customs duty may also be due, although this will depend on what the goods are and where they have been sent from. Where, however, the actual amount of duty due is less than £9, this will not be charged.

If someone sends you a gift in the post from outside the EU, import VAT will only be due if the package is valued at over £40. To qualify as a gift, the item must be sent from one private individual to another, with no money changing hands.

Please note that excise duty is always due on all alcohol and tobacco products purchased online or by mail order.

If you are thinking of going across the Channel to replenish beers, wines, spirits or tobacco products, there are no limits on the amounts of duty and tax paid goods you can bring back personally from another EU country, as long as they are for your own use and not sold on. You may, however, be asked questions at the UK frontier if you have more than 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of wine, 10 litres of spirits and/or 20 litres of fortified wines, 3,200 cigarettes, 200 cigars, 400 cigarillos or 3kg of tobacco. This is to confirm that these are genuinely for your own use.

The duty-free limits for imports of alcohol and tobacco products from outside the EU are:

Alcohol allowances

You can bring in either, but not both, of the following:
- 1 litre of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22 per cent volume.
- 2 litres of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), sparkling wine or any other alcoholic drink that's less than 22 per cent volume.

Or you can combine these allowances. For example, if you bring in one litre of fortified wine (half your full allowance) you can also bring in half a litre of spirits (half your full allowance). This would make up your full allowance. You can't go over your total alcohol allowance.

In addition you may also bring back both of the following:
- 16 litres of beer
- 4 litres of still wine

Tobacco allowances

You can bring in one from the following list:
- 200 cigarettes
- 100 cigarillos
- 50 cigars
- 250g of tobacco

Or you can combine these allowances. For example, if you bring in 100 cigarettes (half your full allowance) you can also bring in 25 cigars (half your full allowance). This would make up your full tobacco allowance. You can’t go over your total tobacco allowance.

You cannot combine alcohol and tobacco allowances.

When travelling to the UK from outside the EU, if you bring in any single item worth more than the £390 goods allowance, you must pay duty and/or tax on the full item value, not just the value above the allowance. You also cannot group individual allowances together to bring in an item worth more than the limit.

Detailed information on the non-EU limits for alcohol and tobacco products can be found on HMRC’s website at

Further information on postal imports and travellers allowances can be found at:

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How to become Italian citizen through marriage

According to the Law, a foreigner who has married an Italian citizen can become an Italian citizen. This is valid whether your spouse is an Italian citizen by birth or obtained the citizenship for instance, after being a legal resident for ten years.

This is a right of all spouses of Italian citizens, and it can only be denied to those who have been sentenced for serious crimes either in Italy or abroad. It can also be denied to those who are considered a threat to the national security and public order.

One doesn’t automatically acquire Italian citizenship after marrying an Italian citizen. There are conditions to be met and a procedure to be followed in applying for citizenship.

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Applying for Discretionary Leave and Indefinite Leave to Remain

How to successfully apply on compassionate grounds

It is difficult to give an accurate figure of how many overstayers there are in the UK, but it would be sensible to suggest a figure in excess of 1 million. An “overstayer” can be defined as a person who remains illegally in a country after the period of authorised leave (visa) has expired.

An “illegal entrant” in the UK can be defined as a person who unlawfully enters or seeks to enter the UK in breach of the immigration laws or seeks to enter the UK by means which include deception by another person.

The reasons for people choosing to remain in the UK even after their leave has expired are many: there are those who have overstayed their visas and do not want to or cannot return to their home country to apply for entry clearance at the British Embassy in order to return to the UK; others wish to be in the UK for a better standard of living, or because they have established a private or family life in the UK and have ties in the UK which make it undesirable for them to return home. 

Such individuals can apply for Discretionary Leave to remain in the UK.

A discretionary leave application is just that: a person asks the Secretary of State to exercise her discretion in their favour so that they may remain in the UK.

Discretionary Leave is granted outside of the Immigration Rules and often includes claims made on a human rights basis, but it can also be granted in cases where a human rights claim fails.

Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998

One of the most common grounds argued by a person is his or her rights under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 which provides that authorities must have respect for an individual’s private and family life.

A public authority cannot intervene in an individual’s private or family life except in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country. Therefore, people who are in the UK who have overstayed their visas and have formed a relationship with a British citizen or somebody who has a permanent legal status and even perhaps had children with them, are considered to have ultimately established what can be argued a family life in the UK. Such persons can successfully make an application for legal residence in the UK.

Making an application for Discretionary Leave

If you feel your case has human rights grounds and want to look into the possibility of making a Discretionary Leave application, you should obtain thorough legal advice from an accredited Immigration Solicitor.

It should be noted that if an application for discretionary leave is made after a visa has expired or at a time when the applicant had no legal status to remain in the UK, then they will not be given a right of appeal in the event that the Home Office refuse their case; therefore it is best to apply for discretionary leave whilst you still have a valid visa.

The Home Office have recently shown great efficiency in deciding Discretionary Leave applications. It currently takes between 2-6 months to receive a decision.

How to successfully apply for Discretionary Leave

A good discretionary leave application will seek to argue a person’s circumstances and backgrounds such as their:
• age;
• length of residence in the UK;
• strength of connections within the UK;
• personal history including character, conduct and employment record;
• domestic circumstances;
• previous criminal record and nature of any offence for which a person has been convicted;
• compassionate circumstances; and
• any representations received on the person’s behalf.

An application for Discretionary Leave will be strengthened by one thing alone: evidence.

Evidence includes letters of support from friends and family (this is particularly important where a claim under article 8 of the Human Rights Act is being made) as well as the support of your local M.P.

Where the person is married, they should include their marriage certificate, children’s birth certificates, children’s school records over the years, and photographs of themselves with friends and family over the years.

It is important to show that the person has integrated him or herself in British society. For example, they may have benefited from further education and obtained educational qualifications or they may have been working and have made tax contributions.

It is also vital to set out a detailed case explaining the background of the case and in particular any compelling, exceptional or compassionate circumstances that may warrant a person being granted leave to remain in the UK: for example serious medical problems where the person’s life will be at peril if returned home because only the UK can offer suitable medical treatment.

The length of the person’s residence in the UK is very important. The longer the person has been in the UK, it infers the more ties they have to the country. Under the Immigration rules, there is a legal right for persons who have been here for 14 years or more to make an application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Case Examples

Case 1

Gladys is a Ghanaian national. She came to the UK on a visitor’s visa in 2004 but did not return to Ghana when her visa expired. She instead remained in the UK and formed a relationship with a British citizen and they have been engaged for the past two years.

Gladys helps to look after her partner’s mother Mary, who is disabled and requires day-to-day help; all three live together in a house owned by Mary. Gladys recently found out that she is four months pregnant. She makes an application to the Home Office for discretionary leave to remain in the UK on the basis of having established a private and family life in the UK and as she is due to give birth to a British child.

The Home Office consider Gladys’ case and decide that they do not want to grant her discretionary leave, but rather decide to grant her indefinite leave to remain as she has established a strong family and private life in the UK and her legal status needs to reflect this.

Case 2

An Iranian lady by the name of Yasmin enters the UK on a two-year spouse probationary visa as she recently married a British citizen. Unfortunately, the marriage breaks down only after a few months and after the birth of their first child. The child obtains British nationality by virtue of her father being a British citizen.

The Iranian mother seeks to make an application to remain in the UK permanently on the basis of her child being British and as she has nothing to return to in Iran and wishes to form a life in the UK. An application is submitted to the Home Office requesting that Yasmin be permitted to vary her leave from a spouse visa to Discretionary Leave on the basis that the father of her British baby daughter wishes to be part of his daughter’s life despite him no longer being with her mother, and this constitutes an article 8 claim.
The Home Office grant Yasmin Discretionary Leave to Remain in the UK for three years, which is subject to renewal at the end of the three years.

Case 3

Femi is from Nigeria. He came to the UK when he was 15 years of age to study and has held a student visa throughout the past 10 years. However, on two separate occasions, Femi was late in applying for a student visa and there has been a gap of a few days in between his visa expiring and him being granted a new student visa. Femi cannot therefore apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK on the basis of 10 years continuous lawful residence because of the small number of breaks in his visa. Femi therefore applies for indefinite leave to remain in the UK under article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and argues that two of his sisters live in the UK and are British citizens and that he has been with his British girlfriend for the past three years and that they wish to marry. Femi is granted discretionary leave to remain in the UK under article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

By Raheela Hussain,
Principal Solicitor,
Greenfields Solicitors,

* Please note that the above article does not relate to nationals of the European Union.
Disclaimer: The above article is meant to be relied upon as an informative article and in no way constitutes legal advice. Information is offered for general information purposes only, based on the current law when the information was first published.

You should always seek advice from an appropriately qualified solicitor on any specific legal enquiry. For legal advice regarding your case, please contact Greenfields Solicitors for a Consultation with a Solicitor:
Tel. +44 (0)20 8884 1166
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Know your rights when buying Christmas presents

Christmas shopping top tips from the Consumer Direct

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is encouraging shoppers to remember their consumer rights when buying Christmas presents this year.

BIS conducted research as part of the ‘Know Your Consumer Rights’ campaign with Consumer Focus, the OFT and Consumer Direct. The research showed that many are still uncertain of their entitlements, and three-quarters of UK consumers don’t know that they have an extra right when buying online – shoppers have an extra 7-day cooling off period for most purchases.

It is important that consumers should know their rights in the run-up to the festive season. It is predicted £6.4 billion will be spent online alone over Christmas, up from £5.5 billion in December 2009. However, recent research from Which? has shown that returns and refunds policies are not widely known or considered when making a purchase.

Customers should be able to buy goods that

FIT THE DESCRIPTION GIVEN - Goods have to conform to the descriptions given to them

BE OF SATISFACTORY QUALITY - You have the right for the goods you buy to be safe, work properly and be free from defects

BE SUITABLE FOR A PURPOSE - Anything that is sold to you must be capable of doing what it’s meant for.

Consumer Minister Edward Davey said: “There has been a huge revolution in how people buy goods and we are now Europe’s biggest online shoppers, so it’s important we all know what our rights are, both on and offline. What I want are confident consumers who can stand up for their rights and get a good deal. This is especially important when times are tight and everyone wants to make sure they have value for money.”

The ‘Know Your Consumer Rights’ campaign is being supported by B&Q, Citizens Advice Bureaux and Trading Standards offices distributing nearly 400,000 leaflets, with ASDA giving out nearly 20,000 Christmas posters with their deliveries.

Michele Shambrook, Operations Manager for the OFT-managed advice service Consumer Direct, said: “As Christmas approaches, people are looking for value for money - a savvy shopper that has done their homework before hitting the shops will not only be able to pick up the best bargains but will also be able to resolve any problems with their purchase quickly.
“If things do go wrong, the Consumer Direct website can help you find out what your rights are and gives you advice on what steps you can take to secure a replacement, refund or get the item fixed.”


1. Online is fine - if you buy goods on the internet, you have the same rights as if you were shopping on the high street. In addition, you have the right to a seven day ‘cooling off’ period from the date you receive the goods, with the right to a full refund regardless of the reason for return. Remember though that this doesn’t apply in some situations, for example if the goods were personalised for you, were perishable, or are not in the same condition as when they were delivered.

2. Returning it to the retailer - when you buy goods, your contract is with the retailer not the manufacturer and you should always go back to the retailer in the first instance to request an exchange or refund. If you have a manufacturer’s warranty you can contact them as well as the retailer. And don’t delay – act as soon as you discover the fault.

3. No receipt required - you do not need a receipt to obtain a refund for faulty goods. However, you may be required to show proof of purchase with a credit card slip or bank or credit card statement.

4. Check at the checkout – although you do not have the legal right to take back goods bought on the high street just because you’ve changed your mind, many stores do offer a ‘no questions asked’ refund or exchange policy. Check the store policy when you buy.

To find out more visit

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