I am in the process of filling the forms for my wife and daughter (Chinese) to travel with me (British) to the UK for a short holiday. On the government advice located at http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/out-of-country/visitors.pdf it says:

Accommodation and travel details

You may wish to submit the following documents to help show us your accommodation and travel arrangements in the UK and on which date you intend to leave the UK. We advise that you do not make any payments for accommodation, travel and so on until you have received your visa.

  • Details of accommodation and return
  • travel bookings

This could be:

  • hotel booking confirmation (usually email) travel booking
  • confirmation (can be email or copy of tickets) travel agent
  • confirmation of both accommodation details with a supporting letter from the occupant confirming that you are able to stay there

But how do you have tickets for a flight if you haven't made payments. All airlines I've seen require you to pay in full before they issue any tickets.

What is the best way to satisfy this requirement?

  • 2
    As an alternative, did you look at getting a British Passport for your daughter, and a spouse visa for your wife? Might take a little longer than a tourist visa, but future trips would then be much easier!
    – Gagravarr
    Apr 12, 2012 at 9:51
  • 2
    My daughter isn't eligible for a British passport. Spouse visas contain the same advice on flight bookings as other visas plus since a spouse visa is a instrument for later obtaining permanent residence, it has stricter requirements than a tourist visa which, since we want to live in China, not the UK, would not be to our advantage. Apr 13, 2012 at 4:49
  • 4
    NOTE: this guidance refers to the OLD RULES. It is out-of-date (and the answers are out-of-date also). People should use caution when reading out-of-date material
    – Gayot Fow
    Jul 1, 2016 at 6:37
  • Given @GayotFow's comment above, can we mark this question and its answers as obsolete, perhaps using one of the mechanisms suggested at meta.travel.stackexchange.com/questions/1615/… ?
    – A E
    Nov 5, 2016 at 19:07

2 Answers 2


The obvious answer is to pay for your tickets! Presuming you have solid travel plans (which is what they are trying to ask you to prove by showing tickets!) then this shouldn't be a problem.

Of course, the one catch with this is that if your visa application is rejected, you've now got tickets that you are unable to use. Some airlines will allow you to get a refund under circumstances like this (even for a non-refundable ticket), as will some travel insurance policies - however many will not.

There's a few other alternatives, each with their own advantages and disadvantages :

  • Ask your travel agent to provide an itinerary, including flight details (and confirmation numbers if they have them - these are generated before the ticket is paid for) and use that as proof of your flights.
  • Buy a full-fare, refundable ticket and use that for the visa application process. Once the visa is approved, cancel the ticket (getting a full refund), and then book a discount ticket. The biggest catch is that you'll be out of pocket for a reasonable amount of money for a while, and in the interim the ticket prices for the cheap flights might have gone up.
  • Bite the bullet and just buy the tickets - on the presumption that the visa will be approved.
  • 3
    The UK Visa advice explicitly says not to pay for tickets. "We advise that you do not make any payments for accommodation, travel and so on until you have received your visa." Apr 12, 2012 at 7:36
  • @Rincewind42, I guess they just don't want you to blame them when your visa is refused and you are left with non-refundable tickets.
    – Krizz
    Apr 14, 2012 at 22:09
  • 2
    @Rincewind42 That does not mean they will not refuse the visas based on the fact that you have not submitted confirmed tickets. Bureaucrats are often like that.
    – dbkk
    Apr 15, 2012 at 18:32
  • 4
    What I actually did in the end was go through the online booking process and print out the final page before the payment page. This has the flight numbers, dates, times, total cost and the passengers names. I included these with the visa application and got the visa without any issues. Jul 4, 2012 at 0:59
  • @Rincewind42: this sounds like a great idea. Which website did you use ?
    – Paul Praet
    Sep 6, 2014 at 11:30

While both the UK Border Agency and any number of European embassies "advise you not to make payments" before a visa is granted, the reality is that they are simply covering their own tracks (and being nice). I've had friends refused visas for incomplete documentation because they think they can wing it with less documentation.

Rest assured that in most cases, as long as you have all the documents (paid hotel booking, flights, et al) then the chances of you being refused a visa for short-term tourist or business purposes is low. Having 'firm' bookings makes your case stronger. Having said that, here are a couple of ways you can minimise the risk:

  • Instead of booking your flights online, get in touch with a 'proper' brick-and-mortar travel agent. What they can do is file a booking with a airline for a 'held' itinerary. Essentially, they file passenger names, specific flight times, and a price at the time of making the held itinerary. This is NOT a confirmed booking, but you could use this as proof when applying for most visas (unless it specifically asks for a paid booking). Note that while you wait for your visa to be processed, flight prices will most surely go up so the price you pay will be higher than the initial quote.
  • Hotel bookings made through major travel sites are almost always refundable. Check their terms for deductibles and cancellation deadlines. Most of them will give refunds in form of credit on their site rather than a refund to your card though. Shop around on sites to see which one has the most relaxed policy for refunds.

More stringent scrutiny is reserved for longer term visas. As long as you can reassure border control and embassy officials that you do not intend on overstaying, you're fine. For instance, I'd say I've English proficiency equivalent to a native speaker and I hardly ever get questioned at UK Border Control; it helps to be genuinely friendly and cheerful too towards them. On the flip side, I've Indian and Chinese friends (to name a few ethnicities) who aren't perhaps as 'easy' for a native speaker to understand because of their accent or speech mannerisms and they often get questioned longer during visa applications or at border control. The crucial thing is that if you give satisfactory answers and don't contradict yourself - for instance, if a visa officer asks something as simple as your date of birth do NOT mess it up because doing something like that is a red-flag for them - they cannot stop you from being given a visa or entering the country.

  • 1
    In general, a "held" itinerary is confirmed, it's just not ticketed. Confirmed refers to the flights being reserved but not (necessarily) paid for, and at that point you'll normally have a confirmation number which is normally a 5-6 digit alphanumeric like "ABC1D2". Ticketed means that it's actually been paid for, and you'll get a ticket number which is normally a bit long numeric-only number.
    – Doc
    Apr 13, 2012 at 21:57

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