As an Immigration specialist, I receive many enquiries from applicants around the world who are looking to enter the UK to study, invest, or just visit during the holidays. The UK has always been an attractive destination for tourists, business people, investors, students and workers.
There are different kinds of UK visas available to visitors. Which visa is relevant to you will depend on the reason for your visit to the UK.
In this blog I will discuss the most common UK visas and things for you to look out for.
Visitor UK visas
As explained, the UK has traditionally been a very popular destination for tourists and visitors. The UK is ranked 7th in the world in terms of visitor numbers per annum. This is astonishing given the size of the island but is testament to the popularity of the country and our welcoming nature.
Visitors to our shores spend approximately £18 billion a year in the U.K. This represents a huge input into our economy, especially at a time of austerity and recession.
Believe it or not, the UK actually saw a slump in tourist visitors during the London Olympics last summer. One of the reasons cited for this was the long and complex application process to apply for a visa.
It is true that the application form is long and complex. I have seen many people’s applications for a UK visa being rejected simply because they misunderstood a question in the form.
Also it can take up to three months for the Home Office to make a decision on your application. This means that visitors must apply three months in advance of their planned travel date! This can put a lot of people off as it is not always possible for everybody to plan their trips abroad three months in advance. These obstacles have resulted in a reduction in the number of people making applications for a visitor UK visa.
Both the tourism and legal industries have been urging the government to eliminate some of the more difficult parts of the application process in order to simplify and streamline it. Will the government listen? With all of the negative press recently surrounding UK immigration, I’m not going to hold my breath for a quick resolution.
Student UK visas
The UK has always been a popular choice for international students who wish to study here. A degree from a UK University is still recognised around the world as being of the highest quality and carries with it a certain amount of prestige. International students bring an estimated £8bn to our struggling economy and with the higher tuition fees introduced by the government, this figure is expected to double in the coming decade. This is good news for the UK economy as a whole.
In order to obtain a university degree in the UK, a student is usually required to study for three years. However, in other countries an equivalent degree may take four or five years. This fact alone attracts more students to the UK as they can save a substantial amount of money and time on completing their education. As an Immigration Specialist I have seen an increase in the number of applications made by students who want to come and study in the UK.
Again, applying for a UK visa to study can be very complex for students. This is why I always advise potential students to seek professional legal advice before submitting an application for a UK visa to their local embassy, High Commission or consulate.
Investor UK visas
With the painfully slow recovery of the UK economy, the government has recognized that the UK is in urgent need of investors and entrepreneurs from abroad who can contribute to the economy by paying taxes and creating work opportunities for some of the 2.5 million unemployed people in the UK.
In May 2012, I wrote an article about the importance of attracting these types of investors to the UK. In my article, I discussed the English Language test which is a requirement for entrepreneurs seeking to emigrate to the UK. The English language requirement was in my humble opinion, far too difficult and seemed to demand that applicants display an understanding of the English language beyond the level required to successfully run a business in the UK. Back in May last year, I suggested that the government reduce the English Language requirement to a more realistic level.
It seems that the government has been listening to the calls of investors and professionals like me. In December 2012, the level of English required was reduced accordingly. This change has been welcomed by many investors who now feel that they are in a better position to successfully apply for a UK visa to invest in the UK.
Despite this improvement, the application forms to obtain an Investor Visa are still complex and technical. Investors are advised to seek professional legal advice before applying for a UK visa. Most applications must now be completed online and a fee is usually payable online.
The irony of this payment method is that whilst paying online, you may be asked to pay the application fee either by Mastercard, Switch Amex or Visa. One of my clients, not fully understanding what was meant by this, asked me the question:
“Why are they asking me if I have a VISA… If I already had a VISA, I would not be applying in the first place!”