Do you have a business meeting or conference to attend in the UK? Or maybe you’re meeting investors with a view to starting a business here? Whatever your reasons, if you’re planning on coming to the UK for business purposes, you might need a visa to do so.
If you’re required to get a visa, you should apply before you travel to the UK. The UK government allow applications from 3 months in advance of your visit, and the processing time for your visa application might be several weeks¹.
Depending on your nationality and the specific purpose of your visit, you might have to provide different documents, or follow a slightly different process to that outlined here. It’s always smart to check with your local embassy or consulate, if you’re not sure what you need.
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To get you started, here’s a guide to getting a business visa for the UK.
The UK visa type used for business travel is called a Standard Visitor Visa, which has replaced the Business Visitor Visa. You can get a Standard Visitor Visa, which lasts for 6 months, or a long term Standard Visitor visa which allows you to enter the UK for up to 6 months at a time, for up to 10 years, depending on the circumstances¹.
You’ll be able to apply for this visa if you’re coming to the UK¹:
- For a business meeting or conference
- As an academic doing research
- To do a clinical attachment or observer post as a doctor or dentist
- To perform, when you’re an artist or musician
- To take some professional exams
- Seeking funding to launch, join or buy a UK business
Visa fees, and supporting documents required vary depending on the reason for your visit, and the length of visa you need.
A standard visitor visa, which is issued for business purposes, is usually valid for 6 months.
However, there are some circumstances in which you can apply for a longer visa, or for a multiple entry business visa if you’re going to come to the UK regularly over a number of years. The long term Standard Visitor visa allows holders to stay in the UK for 6 months at a time over a period of 2, 5 or 10 years¹.
If you apply for a visa for less than a 6 month stay, and decide you want to remain in the UK for longer, you may be able to extend your visa up to the 6 month maximum. If you’ve applied for a 3 month visa, for example, than you apply for an extension of that visa with another 3 months. However, you do have to apply for the extension while you’re still in the UK, and before your first visa expires².
There's plenty of guidance available on how to apply for your UK visa for business purposes. Check out the UK government website for more information, or ask your local embassy or consulate if you need specific help. Here’s an outline of the requirements.
All visa applicants need to provide a passport or other valid travel document to support their application³.
The other documents you need to provide will depend on the purpose of your visit. You might need any of the following³:
|Information needed||Supported documents suggested|
|Financial details to show you can afford your stay in the UK|| |
|Proof of employment or education|| |
|Evidence of your plans while in the UK|| |
|If you’re a looking to become an entrepreneur in the UK|| Letter of support from 1 or more|
Any documents which are not originally in English or Welsh should be translated, and include the translator’s contact information so that the visa officers assessing the application can get in touch if they need to³.
To apply for your visa, you’ll need to complete some details online, and then visit a visa application centre near you, to give biometric data and provide any evidence needed to support your application⁴.
When you start your application, you’ll be able to see the visa centres in your home country. You should check your eligibility for the visa before you start to fill out the online application, and have any dates and paperwork needed handy. You’ll need a valid passport or other travel document, with space for a visa to be entered in it.
Depending on your reason for coming to the UK, you might also need further paperwork - details of your planned meetings if you’re in the UK for business purposes, for example, or information about the conference or event you’re attending.
You’ll also need to provide the following information:
- Dates for your travel, expected costs, and where you plan to stay
- Details of your home address and how long you’ve lived there, as well as information about your parents
- Financial and employment information, including your annual salary
Other details may be required, including your travel history, family information and employer’s name.
Once you’ve completed the required information online, you’ll need to pay your visa fee online. In some cases, this is paid at the visa application centre when you arrive for your appointment, instead.
If you need to convert currency to pay your visa application fee, or if you need to transfer money in order to pay for your expenses when you’re in the UK, you might choose TransferWise, to make a low cost international payment, using the mid-market exchange rate.
Once you’ve had your appointment at your local visa application centre, you can expect a decision about whether or not you’ll be issued a visa, within 3 weeks. You’ll be asked to give your email address when you apply, and will receive a message to confirm the outcome of your visa once the decision is made⁴.
The fees for your visa depend on the length of visa you’re applying for. You may also be able to pay more to get a quicker decision, depending on your circumstances and the policy of your local visa application centre. Here are the fees you need to know about¹⁺⁴:
|Standard Visitor visa, valid for 6 months||£93|
|Long term Standard Visitor visa, issued for 2 years||£350|
|Long term Standard Visitor visa, issued for 5 years||£636|
|Long term Standard Visitor visa, issued for 10 years||£798|
|Additional fee to have a decision within 5 days||£212|
|Additional fee to have a decision within 1 working day||£956|
If you have a visa which entitles you to stay in the UK for more than 6 months you’ll also need a biometric residence permit. You may need to pay an extra fee to get this document issued.
If you need a visa to travel to the UK, it makes sense to apply as soon as you can, so your paperwork is in order and you can get on with planning for your trip. Because the requirements for a business visa can vary according to the reasons for your visit, you may need to provide a set of documents to support your application, as well as your travel document and application fee. Take some time to read the requirements on the UK government website, so you know exactly what you need to provide - and don’t forget to look at TransferWise if you want to pay for your visa fee with a low cost international payment, or if you need to make international business payments.
Sources used for this article:
*All sources checked on February 22, 2019
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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