I am a United States citizen with a 6-month Tourist visa to the UK (a stamp in my passport). Additionally, in 2013 I spent about two months in the UK on tourist visas, split between two separate occasions (one month in April-May, and one in August-September). My passport was stamped in December of 2013, and I have two other stamps from those previous visits (so three total, now)

My original intended departure date from the UK was March 1, but that is no longer the case, as I plan to stay out the duration of my visa.

My question is, can I leave the UK (to travel in Europe for a week, for example) and come back in with this visa? Will they re-stamp me, or see that my existing stamp is still valid? Will it be a problem that I've been coming-and-going in the UK relatively frequently? Are there any other concerns I should be aware of?

2 Answers 2


Per the UK Border Agency website, a “general visitor” (with or without visa, depending on citizenship) should not “live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits”. So if you already made several long stays and try to come back for several months, there might be a (small?) risk that the border force officer checking your passport would suspect you are lying about the purpose of your stay in the UK and are actually living there illegally.

I also remember reading about a limit of not more than six months in any twelve months but I don't know if it's a hard limit or just a rule of thumb and I can't find any official source for that. If that's the case, traveling around March should be no problem, traveling in May would be more difficult (if I understand your description correctly, at that point, you will have spent 8 months of the previous year in the UK).

I am not a lawyer but I assume that formally, as in most countries, neither a proper visa (if your situation made one necessary) nor a previous visit would entitle you to enter the UK. Border officers will typically evaluate whether your fulfill the requirements for entry every time you cross the border, which means that every time you leave the country, you expose yourself to the risk of being refused entry, however small.

In any case, if you are questioned at the border, anything you might provide to establish that you are a legitimate visitor (details and documentation of where you stayed and will be staying, details of people you want to visit or things you want to do, name of places you intend to see, funds to support yourself, a return ticket to your country of residence, etc.) might be helpful.


Per the UK Home Office, as a US passport holder you don't need a visa to travel in the UK as a tourist. What you actually have is not a visa -- you're just given leave to stay for 6 months, and when you leave and return you'll be given another leave to stay when you pass immigration control.

For holders of passports for which visas are required, whether they need a new visa to re-enter the country depends on whether the original visa was single- or multiple-entry, as well as the validity period.

  • Thank you for your answer. Do you think they would refuse my entry if I had, say, a month "left" on my initial leave to stay?
    – NWard
    Jan 20, 2014 at 14:01
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    I don't think so, the limitation is that each of your stay can only be for 6 months. As an Indonesian passport holder (who needs a visa to travel to the US), we have similar limitations -- the visa is valid for 5 years, normally, but each stay in the US can only be for 6 months.
    – michel-slm
    Jan 20, 2014 at 14:42
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    @micel-sim: Since the UK also issue tourist visas to nationals not ordinarily required to have a visa, you are actually not able to tell what NWard is having stamped in his passport. Jan 20, 2014 at 16:54
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo I think in this case michel-slm is correct. My passport stamp reads "Leave to enter for six months", or something to that effect.
    – NWard
    Jan 21, 2014 at 12:26
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    @NWard: In which case, that is just an ordinary "entry stamp" in your passport and not a visa, as you claimed in your question. Jan 21, 2014 at 14:35

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