My wife is Thai and with me in the UK on a settlement visa. I have suffered a catastrophic back injury which is life changing.

My wife is not coping well being alone and having to look after 2 young children.

My parents are old and can not help.

We really need to get my wife's mother over from Thailand fast to be able to help and to comfort my wife.

I can see the standard visitors visa has to be applied for 3 months before you intend to leave. Is there another option? I don't think we can wait that long.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • 4
    The typical processing time is around 15 days. You can check specific times for for the location where the application is being submitted here visa-processingtimes.homeoffice.gov.uk/y
    – Traveller
    Nov 15, 2019 at 22:28
  • 33
    Warning: a visitor visa does not allow one to do paid or unpaid work, and the UK Border Force's definition of what that means may not agree with what a reasonable person would expect. I think I've read of someone being deported for babysitting for a family member, although I can't find a reference right now. Nov 15, 2019 at 23:43
  • @PeterTaylor - I think you mean "removed", not "deported". Deportation is when the person is subject to a Deportation Order made by the court, because they're guilty of a serious criminal offence. Nov 18, 2019 at 9:52
  • 1
    @ChrisMelville that's a distinction that only applies to specific legal terms in UK law. It's pretty clear from the comment that the legal mechanisms involved are unknown, and the enforced return it describes does fall within the English-language meaning of "deported".
    – Will
    Nov 18, 2019 at 16:05
  • 5
    Also, in the meantime, the NHS should offer some degree of homecare given your condition. If you haven't looked into your options for these services, it may be a good idea to do so.
    – J...
    Nov 18, 2019 at 20:11

3 Answers 3


You've got one bit backward: You can apply for a visa up to three months before travel. It is the earliest you can apply, not the latest.

As for obtaining a visa quickly, you can pay for priority visa service for a decision within 5 working days or super priority service for a decision within 24 hours when you apply for the visa.


Visa-wise, your situation is a mess because (thanks J...)

There is no provision in the Immigration Rules for leave to enter to be granted solely to allow a person to care for a friend or relative in the UK. *(document linked later)

Interpretation: they wish to allow it, but immigration law has no idea how to treat it.

You have a long term health issue so I presume you'll need long-term support, which means a Visitor visa is dicey. You can't chain visits, because UK will stop "living in the UK for long periods of time through frequent visits". Using it is a short-term band-aid that will paint you into a corner later.

Further, what you're looking for is an aide, nanny, or assistant. That is employment. Your entire venture will fail if you do not understand that fact. Now, there's a long-term visa for family members, and once thus landed, obviously a family member can provide that support. However the application is expensive and slow.

As a short-term visitor

Border Force will have trouble believing a Southeast Asian of limited means wants to vacation in the UK for months. So the temptation is to claim a short e.g. 7-day vacation. But that creates a piccadillo: do you leave in 7 days to avoid a soft overstay (of your stated intents)? You can get away with that for 3 months, but then, you are unlikely to be approved for a future entry unless the soft overstay can be explained well.

On your second entry, how do you explain to the immigration officer how you blew right through your stated plans, and stayed right up to the hard overstay limit? This will destroy your credibility for a future entry. Do you stay the full 3 months of the visa and then leave (to avoid a hard overstay), in which case you cannot explain the substantial soft overstay? Or do you simply abscond on the visa, and stay indefinitely, and duck into an alley every time you see a Border Force truck? None of these are good options.

A misstep here - abusing a visitor visa - will disqualify your relative for the other options, and place in suspicion anyone else you try to bring in. So choose wisely.

One bright spot is this, from this document (Chapter 17, Sec. 2), 17.1.1, and I advise reading this document through:

Where the Entry Clearance officer feels that an applicant seeking entry to care for a relative does not qualify as a visitor, but there are compelling and compassionate circumstances, the case can be referred to, Referred Cases Unit, UK Border Agency International Group to be considered outside the Immigration Rules.

This is essentially "throwing yourself at the mercy of the immigration system", but that is sensible, because this type of case does not fit anything well: it's clearly not short term leisure/vacation, but it is also not quite what the employment rules intend. And as said at the start, the Immigration Rules don't know what to do with family caregiving.

As a family member

Look into Part 8 (family members). The difficulty with this type of visa is the high cost and long wait for approval. From Border Force's perspective, their mission is to create some path of resistance to prevent what the more xenophobic Yankees call "chain migration", where one person brings in their family, who bring in their family, who bring in their family etc. So this process is made expensive, slow and uncomfortable to provide a general deterrence.

You would have a painful 1000 quid application fee and a wait of several months.

Unfortunately, a person can't stay in the UK on a visitor visa while this is sorted out; they're expected to stay in their home country during the application process (and may be called into the embassy/consulate there).

So if you have a second family member who could caretake while your mother-in-law goes through this process, that may help.

It is worth it to pursue, however. Once it is obtained, then the question of a long-duration stay, and of doing domestic chores within the family, is settled.

As a worker

The problem with a visitor visa is that as far as they're concerned, sneaking in family to work in a family business is the oldest trick in the book. It is one they are familiar with and on the lookout for. Especially when it's a big rush, because that typically means a restaurant lost a cook or dishwasher and needs a replacement ASAP. What inevitably follows is the worker staying indefinitely, being paid under the table, employment taxes not paid, and healthcare coming off the dole.

Look intoPart 5 (domestic workers in private households), note that "raising a daughter" easily counts as work history under the circumstances. Note also 159G in part 5.

"But I aim to pay them nothing" - that makes no difference in employment law. It actually makes it worse as far as Border Force is concerned, because part of their remit is to combat human trafficking, and so they need to diligently research every such claim to exclude that.

The correct way to do this is either

  • apply for the correct working visa for the family member. This visa will have a much longer duration, so you won't have the above problem, and be renewable potentially indefinitely.

  • as they intend, hire a British citizen for this task; or an EU citizen up until Brexit. As for the cost, they expect you will avail yourself of any and all government assistance programs offered for this.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Willeke
    Nov 18, 2019 at 16:24

I agree with Michael's answer that there's no problem applying for a visa much sooner than 3 months. Even going with the normal no-rush option, my wife's nephew got a month long visa sorted in a few weeks this summer.

I'd agree with the Harper's answer that if your intent is for your mother in law to do any kind of work, I'd not apply for a visitors visa but rather look for other alternatives. But, if your wife would be happy to just have some company in a stressful time, I'd just keep it short and clear by saying that you want to bring your mother in law over to visit the family and maybe do a little light sightseeing or similar.

However, I have no idea why Harper talks about a 7 day visit, if anything I'd say that such a short visit would be very unusual for a family member visiting and might make the border force suspicious. At least from Thailand, there's nothing unusual for family members to come and visit for multiple months, I've had my mother in law (also Thai and with with very limited means of her own), come over and visit for month long visits twice without any issues at all. Many other friends and relatives have brought over family members for extended periods of time and I've never heard anyone mention any issues with the border force.

As long as you can show that you have the means to support her properly and that she'll have suitable travel insurance etc, and, whatever you do, don't lie or exaggerate any details on the application (income or similar), they do check up on stuff and any lying will probably mean an instant denial.

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