Changes to visitor route visas

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24 / 4 / 2015 10.32am

Under new UK immigration rules, changes to the UK visitor routes take effect from 24 April 2015. UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has designed the changes to make the system easier and more streamlined for those visiting the UK from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA).

The main changes include consolidating the number of visitor routes from 15 to four, rebranding student visitor routes, and providing shortened, user-friendly immigration rules and guidance to make the requirements easier to understand.

Significantly for employers in the NHS, the business visitor route is now consolidated within the new standard visitor route. This will be used, for example, by:

  • doctors, nurses and midwives taking the professional and linguistic assessment board (PLAB) test or the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE)
  • individuals undertaking a clinical attachment or dental observer post 
  • academic visitors.

Key points for employers and individuals

  • Entry requirements - including the visa application process, intention tests and supporting documentation - remain the same, and these changes are about simplification of the system. 
  • Under the standard visitor entry route, the maximum length of stay that can be granted is six months.  There are exceptions to this and extensions can be applied for.  Please see Home Office guidance for further details.
  • UKVI will be changing the name of the visas to align with the new routes later this year. Until further notice, business visitors should continue to apply for a visit visa through the online process as they do now, selecting business visit if that is the main reason for their visit).
  • The additional permitted activities give some flexibility for standard visitors, but these activities must not amount to the individual taking employment, work experience or a course of study. 
Professional linguistic assessment board (PLAB) test and objective structured clinical examination (OSCE)

  • Overseas doctors, nurses and midwives applying for a visitor visa to complete these professional registration tests should provide confirmation of their test from the General Medical Council or the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
  • An individual may be granted an extension of stay as a visitor for in order to resit the PLAB test.
  • An individual who is successful in the PLAB test may be granted an extension of stay as a visitor to undertake a clinical attachment (provided they meet the wider requirements of the full immigration rules).  In these circumstances, the total period an individual can remain in the UK (including both the original grant and the extension of stay) must not exceed 18 months.
Further details about the new visitor rules can be found in our international recruitment section.

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