Entry Clearance

Here is our comprehensive guide to Entry Clearance which should answer any questions you have about it including: 

What is Entry Clearance? Who needs to get it? How do you get it? How much does it cost? How long does it take? 


What is Entry Clearance?

Entry Clearance is a pre-approval issued by the UK Border Agency, via the network of British Consulates and High Commissions, prior to you travelling to the UK. It confirms to the Immigration Officers at the UK border that you have been approved to come in. The process of getting approved can vary slightly between countries but essentially it involves lodging an application with supporting (biometric) documentation. It may also require presenting yourself for an interview. And of course paying the fees!

Having Entry Clearance doesn't mean you are automatically granted entry or are exempt from answering any questions when you come into the UK. Your status is always open to scrutiny and is at the discretion of the individual Immigration Officer you encounter when actually entering into the UK. So always be nice to them! Even if you have had a Tier 2 Work Permit for years and your Entry Clearance stamp is now worn and faded, you may still get asked questions when crossing the border.

Who needs to get Entry Clearance?

Basically anyone who isn't a UK citizen and is planning to stay in the UK more than 6 months. If you are planning a stay shorter than 6 months and you aren't a citizen of any of the countries listed below (the "visa national" countries) then you should be able to enter the UK without a visa. Provided you aren't planning to get married, study or work.

  • Afghanistan
  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Belarus
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia Herzegovina
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burma
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Cape Verde
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • People's Republic of China (unless they hold a passport issued by Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or Macao Special Administrative Region)
  • Colombia
  • Comoros
  • Congo
  • Cuba
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Djibouti
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Fiji
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea Bissau
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Ivory Coast
  • Jamaica
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Korea (North)
  • Kosovo
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Macedonia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Moldova
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Nepal
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Palestinian Territories
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Qatar
  • Republic of South Sudan
  • Republic of Sudan 
  • Russia
  • Rwanda
  • Sao Tome e Principe
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Surinam
  • Swaziland
  • Syria
  • Taiwan (unless they hold a Taiwan passport which includes the number of the identification card issued by the competent authority in Taiwan)
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Togo
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vatican City
  • Venezuela (unless they hold a Venezuelan passport which contains biometric information held in an electronic chip)
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • The territories formerly comprising the socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

How do you get Entry Clearance?

You need to make an application at a British Consulate or High Commission. If you are just trying for a tourist visitor visa, then you can do this at any British Consulate or High Commision. However for all other applications you must make the application in your country of residence. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to go back to your country of birth, you can make the application from any country where you are currently an approved resident. This means if you have a work permit, student visa, residency permit or similar proof of residency for the country you are in, you should be able to apply for Entry Clearance there. Note: A tourist or business visa does not qualify as proof of residency.

How much does it cost to get Entry Clearance? 

The cost varies by country and is always charged in the local currency. There is a full list of visa fees for all visa categories on the UKBA website, but it doesn't include the entry clearance fees. You need to check these with the local consulate where you will make your application.

What about spouses and dependents?

Generally dependants and spouses pay the same fee as the main applicant.

How long does it take to get Entry Clearance?

This varies greatly depending on which British mission is processing the application and the volume of enquiries they are currently dealing with. Some of the smaller ones actually send the applications to the UK to get processed which greatly increases the processing times. You should be able to check with your local consulate to find out current processing times. Generally applications are dealt with in a matter of days.