Fri | Jun 22, 2018

What exactly is a visitor's visa?

Published:Tuesday | February 5, 2013 | 12:00 AM
John S. Bassie

Dear Mr Bassie,

I was recently successful in obtaining a visitor's visa to the United Kingdom, and I would like to ensure that I fully understand this document, which is now in my passport. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

- L.W.

Dear L.W.,

Congratulations, on your successful application! The British visa that you have been granted contains quite a bit of information. The visa has a 'valid from' date that forbids the holder from entering the United Kingdom prior to this date. In addition, there is also a 'valid until' date. This date indicates a date by which the holder must leave the United Kingdom by unless that person has successfully applied for permission to extend his or her stay.

It should be noted that there are some immigration categories in which a person cannot apply to extend the stay. The authorities suggest that if a person intends to apply for permission to extend a stay, that is, if the visitor is permitted to do so, then this application be made at least four weeks prior to the visa's 'valid until' date. A person can arrive in the United Kingdom at any time up until the 'valid until' date, but this is also the last day that he or she is permitted to stay in the United Kingdom.


'Length of stay' refers to the maximum length of the visitor's stay in the United Kingdom. If the holder has a multiple-entry visit visa, it will be the maximum length of the stay in the United Kingdom on any one occasion.

Also, the term 'entry terms', means that if the visa says '1', the holder may use it to enter the United Kingdom only once. If it says '2', then it may be used to enter the United Kingdom twice while the visa is valid. If the visa says 'MULT' (multiple), the holder can enter the United Kingdom a number of times while the visa is valid.

The 'visa category' refers to the holder's immigration category while staying in the United Kingdom. The person must meet the requirements of this category while he or she is in the United Kingdom. In the section marked 'conditions', if there are any specific conditions attached to the holder's visa, they will be listed in this section. For example, if the visa does not permit the holder to work, it will say so in this section. If the holder's visa states 'no recourse to public funds', then he or she cannot claim most benefits, tax credits, and housing assistance that are paid by the United Kingdom government. In addition, if a person is in the United Kingdom as a visitor, he or she cannot use the National Health Service, except in an emergency.


It is important to note that a person's visa allows him or her to enter the United Kingdom for a specific purpose. The person must keep to the conditions of his or her visa. If a person takes employment and he or she is not allowed to work in the United Kingdom, then that person could be fined, deported from the country, and banned from returning there for up to 10 years. The person who is the employer will be liable to a fine of up to £10,000, and it should be noted that if that person is working for a family business, then it will also be liable. If a person is working illegally, he or she will not be protected by United Kingdom employment law and may face dangerous working conditions.

Please remember that when collecting or receiving a visa, the recipient should immediately check that it contains his or her correct personal details; it correctly states the reason he or she is going to the United Kingdom; and that it is valid for the date when the holder would like to travel. Also, if you think that there is anything wrong with the visa, then the recipient should immediately contact the visa-application centre which issued it.

John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a Justice of the Peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (UK). Email: