What is a visa? (11/04/02)

If you are not a British Citizen or a citizen of one the European Economic Area (EEA) countries, you may need an entry clearance before you travel to the UK.

People from certain countries, known as visa nationals, need an entry clearance to enter the UK for any reason; those from other countries need one only for some reasons: for example, to live as the wife or husband of a British Citizen.

Entry clearance is the formal term to describe the application process for visa nationals who wish to travel to the United Kingdom and for non visa nationals who intend a longer stay or to settle in the UK. The entry clearance certificate, more commonly called a visa, is placed in your passport or travel document.

The visa tells the immigration officer at a UK port of arrival: the purpose of your travel; how long you can stay in the UK; and the latest date that you can enter the UK. Normally, you may enter and leave the UK as many times as you like during the validity of your visa.

To find out if you need an entry clearance, go to Do I need a UK visa? To get full information, go to UKvisas.