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As an international medical graduate (IMG) working in the UK, one of the toughest things that we have to deal with is homesickness, distance, and our separation from friends and family back home. There are only two ways you can alleviate that- 1) Racking up your annual leaves to visit home. 2) Apply for the UK visitor visa for your family and parents. Let's talk about the second option in detail.
What type of UK visa can parents apply for?
It is commonly misunderstood that parents of an independent child (i.e. you) can apply for 'UK Family Visa'. No, they can not. UK family visa as a parent can only be applied for if the child is <18 years of age and has either British citizenship or has ILR or some other specific circumstance.
For parents of an independent child who doesn't hold a permanent visa in the UK (most of us), the only way they can come to the UK is via the 'Standard Visitor Visa'. It is the same visa you may have applied for if you took the PLAB 2 exam.
Previously there was a separate family visitor visa which is now all absorbed in the standard visitor visa.
How to apply for a UK visitor visa for parents
The process of UK visa application is all very streamlined via the GovUK website. This is the link where you have to click 'apply now' to start a standard visitor visa application. The whole process has the following steps:
- Online application fill-up
Once you click apply now in the above link it will ask you a series of questions and finally you will be able to submit that.
- Registering with your local visa application centre (VAC)
GovUK will determine which service deals with UK visa application in your country and will forward you their service/website once you have submitted the online application.
- Submitting supporting documents and biometrics
VAC in your country will give you the option to either upload or submit the evidences and supporting documents as well as let you book an appointment to provide biometrics (fingerprints and photo).
UK visitor visa requirements for parents
Online application form fill-up
The following information is needed to successfully complete the online application form. Remember these questions have to be answered from your parents point of view, not yours, even if you are filling the application form.
- Parent's name (according to passport) and address (an address that you can provide evidence for)
- How long have you lived at this address? - In my mother's case, it was in the years since she got married
- Passport details
- Nationality, country and date of birth
- What is your employment status? - If you say one of your parents is employed, remember you will have to show no objection certificate for travel from their employer as well as sufficient bank statement and employment certificate to prove employment.
- Do you have another income or any savings? - It is very likely your parents will have some sort of savings.
- How much money are you personally planning to spend on your visit to the UK? - For a 6 months visit it's safe to assume that the total cost will be £4000 - £5000. Even if you are sponsoring the whole amount as they have some savings, they personally can plan to spend one-fourth or one-fifth.
- What is the total amount of money you spend each month? - For my mother, it is around 15000 BDT taking into account different bills, food, and medications.
- Will anyone be paying towards the cost of your visit? - Yes. Someone I know (for example, family or friend) - then you add your name and address and the put the rest amount three-fourth or four-fifth of the total amount.
- Your planned travel information - This is very important. The visa will very likely start from the date as you put as planning to arrive in the UK. So make it as close to the real travel date as possible.
- What is the main reason for your visit to the UK? - Tourism and then Visiting Family.
- Give details about your first parent - So you have to know the details of your grandparents. Names and dates of birth.
- Do you have any family in the UK? - Yes. Give your details here again. And if you have a Tier 2 visa like me - you have a temporary visa.
- Will you be travelling to the UK as part of an organised group? - In my mother's case, it was no as she will travel independently.
- Staying with family - Tick box your name and provide your contact details. The date you will arrive at this address can easily correspond to the date of arrival in the UK.
- International travel history
- Breach of immigration law, war crimes, terrorist and extremist views, employment history, a question about good character etc will all hopefully be no.
That's it. These are all the information you need to have prior to starting this online application.
What's the duration I should apply for?
If it is the first application, I would go for a 6 month visa. Later on, you can apply for a longer duration (2, 5, or 10 years) to minimize the hassle of the visa application. Remember- your parents cannot make the UK their main home by frequent and successive visits. If they are caught, they may get banned from visiting the UK entirely.
UKVI has no strict rule that states you can only stay '6 months in a year', but for any visit the maximum your parents can stay is six months at a stretch. So the safe frequency will be a few months in a year and clearly spending more time outside the UK than inside.
Required documents for visitor visa application
The list of documents that I attached for my mother's visit visa to the UK :
- Cover letter
- Her bank statement showing her savings
- Her nationality certificate proving her address
- An invitation letter from me
- My passport copy
- My BRP
- My last 6 months bank statement (which serves as a proof of my address)
- If you are renting, then also add a copy of your tenancy agreement.
- An employment letter from my trust.
Cover letter for UK visitor visa for parents
It does not have to be elaborate. Keep it simple, keep it short. If your parents have any income or major transaction, make sure you explain it here in brief.
Invitation letter from you
This also does not have to be lengthy. You should explain the nature of their visit, which is a short family visit and mention your visa status and accommodation arrangement currently.
Employment letter from your trust
If you drop a line to your HR representative that you will require an employment letter because you are sponsoring a visit visa for your parents, they will happy to do so.
Make sure you ask them to mention the following:
- The date of your job commencement
- The contract duration
- Your job title
- Your salary
The letter has to be addressed to whom it may concern and printed in a headed paper containing trust's official seal and HR rep's contact information.
Visa fees for parents' visitor visa
A standard visitor visa costs £95.
The fee for a long-term Standard Visitor visa depends on its length:
- 2 years - £361
- 5 years - £655
- 10 years - £822
There are also other costs associated with the services that you can buy from your local visa application centre.
How long does it take to get a UK visitor visa for parents?
The time frame may vary from country to country, but generally, a standard visitor visa application only takes 2 weeks to give you a verdict. You should not apply more than three months before the intended travel date.
You may get a verdict on the application early if your VAC has the option of premium visa application.
Can I bring my parents permanently in the UK?
As long as you have a temporary visa (tier 2), you can't think of that. Why? You are not even permanent.
After working for 5 years you can apply for a settled visa (indefinite leave to remain) and 1-2 years after that, you can apply for UK citizenship. So, after 5-6 years of service in the UK, you can think about bringing your parents permanently.
But this elderly dependent visa application has a high threshold and evidential bar to be reached. The list below is not exhaustive, but you have to prove the following:
- Any parent or grandparent who is wholly dependent financially and emotionally on the permanent UK resident
- There is constant contact with the parent and grandparent
- The applicant has no close relatives in their home country that can be relied upon for support (very difficult to prove as close relatives may be sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandchildren, uncles, aunts and possibly nephews, nieces or in-laws)
- The UK relative has appropriate accommodation for the applicant as well as any dependents the applicant may bring to the UK
Evidence under this category needs to be provided by the applicant to prove that their circumstances are true and, most importantly, there is either financial dependency on the sponsor or most exceptional circumstances exist.
More often than not this type of applications are done via immigration agencies in the UK to the court. So the bottom line is, there is a way to bring you elderly parents to bring permanently in the UK, but it may not be applicable or achievable by many.
Frequently Asked Questions
How quickly I can apply for this visit visa for my parents and family?
I would wait to have a minimum of 6 months' salary into your UK account before sponsoring your parents to visit the UK.
How long parents can stay on visitor visa in the UK?
As mentioned already, for any visit, the maximum a visitor can stay is for 6 months. But utmost care should be taken so that the UK does not appear to be their home by frequent and successive visits.
How much bank statement is required for UK visit visa?
The key here is to prove you have regular income in your bank account which is quite easy as you are getting paid from the NHS every month. There no hard and fast amount that has to be in your account to sponsor.
What is the maximum stay a UK visitor visa allows?
A maximum of 6 months at a stretch.
Can I extend the visitor visa for my parents while they are in the UK?
The only case that applies to your parents would be if they paid for any private medical treatment and they have to stay for that. Read more here.
Is a return ticket required for my parents to come to the UK with a visitor visa?
Yes. For any visit, having a return ticket solidifies your intention to visit only, not for breaching immigration law.
Can I sponsor visit visa for my other family members (siblings, cousins etc)?
Yes. It will be the exact same process.
Can my parents avail NHS services while on visitor visa?
As they are not residents, the NHS will not be free for them, so it's a good idea to bring overseas travel health insurance with them when they come to visit.