I'm a British citizen by birth. My girlfriend is a citizen of El Salvador. We are planning the future of our relationship and the possibility of getting married. However as we've only spend shorter periods of time together (2-3 weeks whilst visiting each other in our respective countries), I was looking at if it would be possible for her to come and stay with me for up to 6 months.

At the end of this time she would obviously leave and return to El Salvador, where if things go well we would intend to marry and begin the process of applying for the Family Visa.

She last visited the UK on the 21st December - 6th of January, and left on the 6th of January as planned. As a citizen of El Salvador she doesn't need a visa to visit the UK for up to 6 months (as advised by the home office website). However I don't know if applying for a tourism visa may improve our chances of her being allowed entry.

While she's here she would be staying with me at my house, I will be supporting her. I earn more than £26,500 and can easily support the two of us. My job allows me the benefit of working from home, and when I do have to go in to the office, she would be able to stay with my family. We would also book the return flight before she arrived in the UK so customs and immigration can see that she does intend to leave. Chances are I would also book the same flight and return to El Salvador with her for a while.

I'm planning to visit her in June, and if all goes well then the idea was for her to be on the same plane as me coming back to the UK. I wondered if this may make things easier because I could go through immigration with her and explain the situation to the Border Control officer. I intend to be completely honest with the officer in question, and explain that we are intending to spend the time together to see if our relationship works over an extended period of time. After which, if all goes well we will return to El Salvador to marry and begin the process of applying for her Family Visa.

Any advice would be great, we're just looking for a way to try to make our relationship work right now. I've spent a lot of time reading the gov.uk site on immigration, as well as the advice given on Citizens Advice website, but I was wondering if anyone here had any additional advice or help?

Thanks in advance.

  • How long in total has your girlfriend spent in the U.K. in the last 12 months, and what ties to El Salvador does she have? A 6 month visit, whilst allowed under the rules, isn’t something many people can do while retaining strong ties to home eg a job. The official advice for visa-free nationals wanting to enter the U.K. is to bring with them the same documents they’d use to apply for a visa assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/…
    – Traveller
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 14:27
  • Within the last 12 months, she's just spent the 16 days over Christmas here. She has her family and friends there, although if she was to come here she wouldn't have a job in El Salvador. The reason for my visit in June is to attend her Graduation from University (she's 25, i'm 26), although there is a chance that her graduation may be in December instead. If the graduation is in December, would that provide evidence that she is planning to return home?
    – Corey01
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 14:38
  • IMHO maybe no - not compared with what the ECO may see as an incentive to overstay in the UK with a long-term boyfriend / intended spouse. Does your girlfriend have a good travel history?
    – Traveller
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 14:51
  • Other than visiting the UK, no. She hasn't travelled much outside of Central America, and as there is a free travel agreement between the Central American countries, she doesn't have proof in her passport of travelling. We could both book flight tickets to return to El Salvador within 6 months of her arrival, prior to her visiting the UK?
    – Corey01
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 14:58
  • Different circumstances but this would be worth reading travel.stackexchange.com/questions/85927/…
    – Traveller
    Commented Feb 3, 2019 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


TL;DR The answer to the visa-free entry vs Visitor visa conundrum for a pretty lengthy visit really depends on how risk-averse you are. Personally I always favour a conservative approach that is least likely to jeopardise further visits. Your girlfriend does not need a visa to visit the UK for up to 6 months. I would stick with that, but for 3-4 months max rather than 6.

Irrespective of whether your girlfriend requests leave to enter as a visitor on arrival at the UK border or applies for entry clearance (a Standard visitor visa) in advance, the same Immigration Rules apply. In addition, official advice for visa-free nationals is to bring with them the same documents they’d use to apply for a visa, to show to the Border Official if asked.

In the situation you describe, the ‘Genuine Visitor’ eligibility criteria are particularly relevant:

V 4.2. The applicant must satisfy the decision maker that they are a genuine visitor, which means the applicant:

(a) will leave the UK at the end of their visit; and

(b) will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK their main home; and

(c) is genuinely seeking entry or stay for a purpose that is permitted under the Visitor route as set out in Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities and at V 13.3; and

(d) will not undertake any of the prohibited activities set out in V 4.4. to V 4.6; and

(e) must have sufficient funds to cover all reasonable costs in relation to their visit without working or accessing public funds, including the cost of the return or onward journey, any costs relating to their dependants, and the cost of planned activities such as private medical treatment. The applicant must show that any funds they rely upon are held in a financial institution permitted under FIN 2.1 in Appendix Finance.

Out of the above, (a) might be the hardest to demonstrate. A 6 month visit, whilst allowed under the rules, isn’t something many people can do while retaining strong ties to home. Your girlfriend has a limited travel history, and no real compelling ties to home, such as a job. Conversely, she does have a compelling ‘pull’ to the UK (ie you).

Applying for a visa stating an intended trip of 6 months and getting a refusal because of (a) above would most likely make future visitor trips to the UK harder.

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