uk visa application process

A Guide to the UK Visa Application Process

Do you need immigration help or advice?







Do you need immigration help or advice?







If you want to apply for a UK visa, you may be wondering what the application process looks like. Well, look no further. In this quick guide, we explain the steps you will need to go through when applying for a UK visa/immigration permission.

Do I Need to Apply for a Visa?

First of all, it is important to understand whether you need to apply for a visa to enter the UK.

Irish citizens are exempt from all immigration restrictions in the UK and can freely enter and leave the UK. Also, nationals of EEA countries will generally not need to apply for a visa if they will only be staying in the UK for a short period of time.

typing uk visa application

If you are a non-EEA national, you will need to apply for a visa to enter the UK, regardless of the length of your stay in the UK. Also, all overseas nationals will need to apply for a visa to stay in the UK for a longer period of time to work, study or join a family member in the UK. This applies to both non-EEA nationals and EEA nationals.

Of course, it is imperative that you understand which visa you need to apply for before you start the application process, including the requirements you need to fulfil in order to be eligible. Simply put, if you do not meet the requirements for the visa, your application will not be successful.

What do I Need to Know About the Application Process for a UK Visa?

There is no getting around the fact that applying for a UK visa can be complex and time-consuming. This is especially true if you are applying for an immigration permission like the Spouse Visa, which requires applicants to provide substantial evidence to prove their relationship to the UK resident.

However, through understanding the application process and what it entails, you can save yourself a lot of time and stress and prepare yourself as well as possible.

Step 1 – Online Application Form

Generally speaking, all UK visa applications are now done online and submitted through the gov.uk website. The very first step in the application process is to complete the online application form for your visa.

You do not need to complete the application form in one sitting. Many choose to start the application form and then return where they left off at a later stage.

Step 2 – Pay Your Visa Application Fee

Once you have completed your online application form, you will be required to pay the application fee for your visa.

Also, if you are applying for a long-term visa such as a family visa, student visa or work visa, you will need to pay the annual immigration health surcharge. The amount you need to pay depends on the visa you are applying for.

Step 3 – Book your Appointment

As part of the application process, you will need to attend an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) centre.

You will receive an email from United Kingdom Visas and Immigration (UKVI) after you have paid your application fee and immigration health surcharge, containing a link to book an appointment.

Step 4 – Your Information and Documents

For all UK visa applications, you will need to provide certain information and documents to prove your eligibility for the visa. A document checklist should be shown on your online account when you complete the application form.

uk visa application papers

It is a good idea to gather all your relevant documents and information before you book your appointment at the UKVCAS centre (more below).

This is because it is common to run into problems when preparing your documents and information. This might be struggles with getting hold of certain information, or in trying to prepare your information in a way which adheres to Home Office standards.

The specific documents which you will need to provide depends on the visa you are applying for, as well as your individual circumstances.

Some of the information you may need to provide includes:

  • Your passport or other valid travel document
  • Financial information such as bank statements
  • Marriage/divorce/birth certificates (if applicable)
  • English language test certificate (if applicable)
  • Employment information if applying for a work visa

Before you attend your appointment, you will need to scan and upload your documents to your online account on the Sopra Steria website. Alternatively, usually, you can pay an extra fee to do this at the UKVCAS centre when you attend your appointment.

Step 5 – Attend your Appointment

The next step is to attend your appointment. You ought to bring the following information with you to your appointment:

  • Original valid passport
  • Printed copy of appointment confirmation letter
  • Originals or copies of supporting documents (preferably originals)
  • Original or copy of application form and signed declaration

Bear in mind that if the applicant is under 18, they must be accompanied by an adult at the appointment.

Your passport and documents will be checked by one of the members of staff at the appointment. Once your information has been checked over, all of your information and documents should be returned to you.

Staff will confirm at the end of the process that your application has been submitted and that UKVI will contact you once a decision has been reached on the application.

Providing Your Identity

Another step in the application process is proving your identity. When you complete your application form, you will be informed of what you need to do.

In the past this was always done through providing your biometric information (fingerprints and a photo) during your appointment at the UKVCAS centre.

uk visa application process

However, recently the Home Office introduced the ‘UK Immigration: ID Check’ app. Some UK visa applicants will be able to confirm their identity through this app. You will need to scan your identity document and sign into your UKVI account with this process of identification.

Receiving a Decision

Congratulations – you’re nearly there! The next step is to wait for a decision from UKVI.

The processing time for UK visas varies depending on the type of visa/immigration permission you have applied for.

Applications which are made from outside the UK are processed quicker than those made inside the UK. You can expect the following processing times for UK visa applications made outside the UK:

  • Short stay visas including visitor visas, business visitor visas and marriage visas: 3 weeks
  • Student visas: 3 weeks
  • Work/investment visas including the Skilled Worker Visa: 3 weeks
  • Family visas, including Spouse Visas: 12 weeks
  • Settlement applications, including Indefinite Leave to Remain: 12 weeks

You can get a quicker decision on your application with the priority and super priority services (these services are not available in all countries).

  • Priority service: If you verify your identity at a visa application centre in country you are applying from, you can pay an extra £500 to receive a decision within five working days
  • Super priority service: If you verify your identity at a visa application centre in country you are applying from, you can pay an extra £800 to receive a decision within one working day
big ben and red telephone box

Arrive in the UK

If your application is successful, you can book your flight and pack your bags. You will be able to arrive in the UK from the date your visa begins and can remain in the country until your visa expires.

We recommend bringing copies of your important documents with you when you travel to the UK. UK Border Force are likely to ask you questions when you arrive at border control including your reason for entering the UK. With key information to hand, you should be able to get through border control as quickly as possible.

And that’s it. Welcome to the UK!

Written by
Richard Ballout