This page describes the different types of document, such as visas, that we issue to confirm permission to come to the UK. It also explains who needs to apply for them before travelling to the UK. We use the term ‘entry clearance’ to describe these documents and the permission they give.
There are 4 types of entry clearance that can give someone permission to travel to or enter the UK:
A visa is for people we call ‘visa nationals‘. They are nationals of the countries or territories listed in Appendix 1 of the Immigration Rules – see ‘More information’ below.
An entry certificate is for people we call ‘non-visa nationals‘. They are nationals of any other country outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland
An EEA family permit is for the family members of EEA nationals.
An exempt vignette is for people such as diplomats, who are exempt from the requirements of the Immigration Act 1971.
On this website, we use the term ‘visa’ when we write about visas and entry certificates.
Whether or not you need to obtain a visa before you travel to the UK depends on your nationality and the reason you want to travel here.
You will not need a visa if you hold a passport issued by the UK or any other country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
Our Do you need a visa? tool will tell you if you need a visa to come here.
If you are a visa national, you will need a visa before you come to the UK.
If you are a non-visa national, you might need a visa if you want to come to the UK for up to 6 months. You will need a visa if you want to come here for more than 6 months. For more information, see the Non-visa nationals page.
Some visa nationals do not need a visa if they want to ‘transit‘ the UK for a short time on their way to another country – see the In transit through the UK pages.
You must be outside the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man when you apply for your visa, or other form of entry clearance.
We have a network of visa application centres around the world that process applications for entry clearance.
The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are not part of the UK and have their own immigration laws and policies, but our visa offices also issue visas for these islands.
You can apply for a visitor visa at our visa application centers in any country. You must apply for any other type of entry clearance in the country or territory where you live. The Applying for a visa contains more information about the application process.
If your application is successful, you should read the Information for visa holders page.