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My mother in law has a 2 year visa for the UK. She is planning to visit her family in the UK from Turkey on a 1 way ticket. Is this possible? She would like to decide once she is here in the UK when she would like to return, obviously within the the 2 year visa time limit. It is also cheaper doing it this way.

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    (1) you can NOT stay for 2 years. (2) the short answer is you need a return ticket. – Fattie May 10 at 12:25
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    @Fattie No, you don't need a return ticket. You probably need evidence of onward travel out of the UK by whatever means. ("Probably" because you might be able to convince the immigration officer that you'll leave, even if you don't have the ticket yet.) – David Richerby May 10 at 14:32
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    @DavidRicherby . Right, the short answer is "you need a return ticket". – Fattie May 10 at 14:35
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    @Fattie No, you probably need evidence of onward travel out of the UK. That could be a plane ticket, a ferry ticket, Eurostar, ... – David Richerby May 10 at 14:42
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    Hmm, as you know, you don't "need" evidence of onward travel. (Unless something's changed very recently?) Regarding having "soft" onward travel evidence ("I bought a ferry ticket!") it's an instant 100% flag to officers of your actual intentions. (Note that in the actual situation described - ie, the question on this page - there is just no reason, at all - whatsoever - in any way - at all!! - that the person would not have a return ticket. If you're traveling with flexible return date you just ....... change the ticket. A one-way would be instant flag :/ ) .. I'd say. – Fattie May 10 at 14:46
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Your question suggests a significant misunderstanding of what your mother-in-law's visa allows.

Two years is the period for which the visa is valid. Individual visits on a Standard Visitor visa cannot be more than six months each. You are also not allowed to "live in the UK for long periods of time through frequent visits" (source for both claims: UK Government: Standard Visitor visa).

Even when somebody has a visa, they must still convince the immigration officer at the border that they will keep to the terms of that visa. One of these conditions is that they will leave the UK within six months. We cannot say for sure what will happen but if somebody arrives who:

  • has family in the UK;
  • has a one-way ticket;
  • has no commitments in their home country that mean they have to go home on some particular day,

then the immigration officer could feel that they aren't convinced this person will leave the UK.

Presumably, if your mother-in-law had said in her visa application that her plan was to fly to the UK and stick around for maybe two years, she wouldn't have got the visa. The fact that she got the visa indicates that she must have described her plans and her situation in Turkey in a way that convinced the visa officer that she would abide by the terms of her visa. She should visit the UK in a way that is consistent with what she said in her application.

Finally, I'm surprised by your claim that it's cheaper to buy two single tickets than a return. That's very unusual: with a full-service airline, two singles are usually significantly more expensive than a return; with a low-cost carrier, they're usually the same price. The last time I needed to fly one-way, it was actually cheaper for me to buy a return ticket and not show up for the return flight.

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    "She should visit the UK in a way that is consistent with what she said in her application." This is extremely good advice. If she turns up and either announces or has any visit significantly different from what she outlined in her visa application, they may cancel the visa. At that point her problems have gone from large to large and long-lived, as she will find it considerably more difficult to get another visa in future. – MadHatter May 10 at 9:55
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    In terms of the pricing OP may be referring to buying a flexible return ticket which is a lot more expensive than two single tickets usually. Unless you're my father-in-law and have an understanding with the airline – MD-Tech May 10 at 12:06
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    Bear in mind - OP's Mum only has to have a ticket out of the UK. If she has a Eurostar ticket for the train to Paris, this is "proof of onward journey", and may be substantially cheaper/more flexible than an airline ticket. – Luke Stevenson May 10 at 14:02
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    In my experience, when you buy a normal 2-way ticket you can almost always rebook any part of the trip for a price of approximately €50 (plus any price difference between the original and the new ticket). If I don't know exactly when I want to return, I buy a 2-way ticket with a return on the last date that I can reasonably expect that I want to return (and make sure that the ticket allows me to make this type of change). Then I just rebook the return ticket when I know for sure when I want to return. This is usually the cheapest way to do it. – jkej May 10 at 14:26
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    @RichardTingle Of course trying to enter with two singles is fine. But the asker is proposing to enter with no ticket home, and only buy the return ticket when they've decided when to travel. – David Richerby May 10 at 14:31
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UK doesn't put much stock in travel reservations easily cancelled for a refund. It's not nothing, but it's not much. If you think it's important, you may have another problem.

She needs to make her case to the Immigration Officer at Heathrow (or wherever she attempts to enter the UK). The IO will look at her story, facts and stuff, and wants to see that her apparent purpose corresponds with what's allowed on her visa, e.g.

  • will do what was said at entry, and will return home as promised
  • Won't live in the UK e.g. via repeated visits*
  • Won't take a job in the UK, not even for family
  • Won't rely on social services ("the dole")

For instance, they'll look at home-ties - does she have good reason to return home? And means - does her trip plan make sense given her financial situation? Her facts and story are much more important than her return trip ticket.

If a return trip ticket seems important, this may be because the rest of your facts are lacking. That would be a serious weakness in the application, and you should focus on that.


* if you were thinking that "2 year visa" means you can stay in the UK for 2 years, no. It just means multiple visits are allowed, and you don't need to apply for a new visa every visit. Each visit must still conform with visa requirements, law and common sense.

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    "must still conform with [...] law and common sense" Butbutbut... it's impossible to do both of those things at the same time! :D – David Richerby May 10 at 16:45
  • Re: "Won't seek employment in the UK, not even for family": The italicized bit sounds like "Won't even help family members with their job searches", but on reflection, I think you probably mean something like "Won't even seek to work for family members". Could you clarify? (And would that rule out even, say, babysitting grandchildren while visiting their parents?) – ruakh May 11 at 17:16
  • @ruakh how's that? (although, UK doesn't like you interviewing or otherwise seeking employment either... let them find 10 copies of your CV in your baggage, you will be going home that day... – Harper May 11 at 19:05
  • @Harper: Much clearer, thanks! – ruakh May 11 at 20:11

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