Join now
Log in Join

Need expat info for United Kingdom?

Join InterNations to meet other expats where you live and read more articles like UK Visas and Work Permits with relevant information for expats.

Jan-Peter van Tijk

Living in the UK, from the Netherlands

"I wish I'd found InterNations sooner: It would have made my first few month as an expat in London much less overwhelming."

Therese Yeboah

Living in the UK, from Ghana

"For me, the InterNations events are the best part. I attend almost every get-together and always get to know lots of friendly fellow expats."

InterNations - a community of trust

Visa & Administration

UK Visas and Work Permits

This overview of UK visa regulations is by no means comprehensive and does not address the many individual cases. However, it does offer a clear introduction to UK visa requirements, refers you to the responsible authorities for detailed information, and helps you kick off your expat life in the UK.

Your right to live and work in the UK is always tied to your specific visa category. Whether you need a visa to enter the country, live and work there, or whether a valid passport suffices is subject to the visa regulations of the UK Border Agency. The UK visa rules, in turn, mostly depend on your nationality and your current place of residence as well as the intended purpose and duration of your stay in the UK.

While nationals of certain countries, especially those in the EU, never need a visa for the UK, citizens of several other states are not that lucky. They need a UK visa even if they only pass through, e.g. during a stopover at a British airport. This type of UK visa is called a DATV or Direct Airside Transit Visa. Moreover, visa regulations distinguish between several types of visa for visitors and long-term visa categories.

Nationality as a Visa Requirement

As mentioned above, which type of UK visa you need depends considerably on your nationality, your current country of residence, and your reason for coming to the UK. As a national of an EU member state, a country in the European Economic Area, or Switzerland, you have the right to reside in the UK without a visa. However, citizens of some specific countries are always in need of a visa when visiting the UK. You can check the list of the UK Border Agency to find out if this applies to you. However, if your home country is not on this list, it does not mean that you can always simply enter the country without a UK visa. Often, it simply means that you may enter as a tourist, for social visits, or studies for up to six months.

You might also need a DATV (transit visa) when you just want to catch a connecting flight in the UK. To find out which UK visa regulations apply to you exactly, please get in touch with a visa application center of the Border Agency. In other cases, for instance if you intend to take up gainful employment in the UK as part of your expat assignment or if you would like to join your expat partner, you will require a valid visa nonetheless.

Entry Clearance for Visitors 

Most visitors to the UK will require a general visitor’s visa to enter the country for a short-term visit. However, there are additional categories applicable to different reasons for travelling to the country. Keep in mind that you might have to fulfill additional requirements for those. Please contact the UK Border Agency for detailed information.

General Visitors

To see what you need to include in your application for your UK visa, please ask a person in charge at the nearest visa application centre overseas. If you are planning to apply for a visitor visa because you would like to get married in the UK, please have a look at our corresponding article on marriages and civil partnerships.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine