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Last year I made multiple visits to the UK from USA to visit my girlfriend there. My stats never exceeded 3 weeks each and cumulatively for 2017 it was approximately 4 months.

I am enrolled in Registered Traveler program with UK border allowing me to just scan my passport to enter without ever having to see an agent.

This year... my stays will be longer. Perhaps up to 2 months each time. Does the 6 month rule (without needing a visa) apply to consecutive months or 6 months total for the calendar year of multiple stays involved?

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    If you're proposing to spend six months of 2019 in the UK with your girlfriend, be aware that this looks an awful lot like living in the UK, which you're not allowed to do visa-free. You might not be thinking of it in those terms, but the UK authorities likely will. – David Richerby Jan 6 at 20:54
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    The UKVI information site on needing a visa gov.uk/check-uk-visa/y/usa/tourism indicates as a US citizen you don't need a visa for tourism. The site says: "You can stay in the UK for up to 6 months without a visa," which suggests that each entry is limited to 6 months. However, as David Richerby correctly points out above, your repeated lengthy stays will raise flags of alarm with UKVI. While the entry officer has the authority to admit you for six months each time, I think that's not likely to occur, and you run the risk of being refused entry outright. – David Jan 6 at 21:00
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The only hard limit is that each time you enter you will be granted "leave to enter" for 6 months by default. This leave to enter automatically lapses when you leave the Common Travel Area (i.e. UK and Ireland), and at your next entry you get a new leave to enter.

However, just because it is the only hard limit doesn't mean it's the only limit.

Each time you enter you also need to convince the Immigration Officer that you're not attempting to (among other things) "live in the UK through frequent or successive visits". There are no hard rules for what this means, but if you're spending more time within the UK than without it, this behavior will raise so many eyebrows that you will find it progressively harder to convince the IO that you're a genuine visitor -- and sooner or later you will fail and be refused entry.

  • I think this answer is accurate, but since OP is a registered traveler, they won’t be convincing an IO (ideally), they will be using the e-gates. Presumably there are some hueristics which will redirect you to an officer if you’re overstaying your welcome as a registered traveler? – MJeffryes Jan 6 at 21:38
  • @MJeffryes: Hmm, good point. Unfortunately I don't know anything about how that works. – Henning Makholm Jan 6 at 21:40
  • The smart gates will reject anyone with a stop indicator on their passport; they'll be directed to speak to an IO at that time. When the stop indicator gets applied to the passport, well, that's anyone's guess. The best advice anyone can give is to not try to live in the UK when admitted as a visitor. – Michael Hampton Jan 7 at 2:01
  • I will be returning later this month for one week. Would it be worthwhile for me to ask the same question to a UK border agent? – Tom Jan 7 at 21:21
  • @Tom What information regarding your personal circumstances will you provide to the UK Border officer to explain how you are able to spend such a large part of the year out of your home country and how you will support yourself whilst in the UK? – Traveller Jan 15 at 16:24

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