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The problem is very simple yet complicated as hell.

My girlfriend wants to visit to me in UK, but we are very confused about the visa things.

As far as we understand when she'll come to UK she'll be allowed to travel for three months just with her passport. But I need her to stay longer and the question is - is she gonna be able to apply for UK standard visa that is for six months while being in here in UK? Or she'll have to get back USA to apply for that visa?

Maybe somebody has done something similar and knows something about it...

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    I don't think that there is a UK embassy or UK Visa center in UK for obvious reasons. With that said, she would need to visit and apply for the visa in the USA. – LampPost Jun 30 '16 at 20:55
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    @LampPost she normally wouldn't need a visa at all, but if she did, she could apply for it anywhere outside the UK, not just in the US. Schengen consulates are allowed to accept applications only from those residing in their territory, but UK consulates do not have such a rule. – phoog Jun 30 '16 at 21:36
  • @phoog oh I overlooked that fact. thanks for the correction – LampPost Jun 30 '16 at 21:45
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    An applicant for an entry clearance must be outside the United Kingdom and Islands at the time of the application. – Gayot Fow Jun 30 '16 at 22:06
  • And one more point to remember if longer stays happen quite frequently, she might have a thorough interrogation or maybe denied entry. – DumbCoder Jul 1 '16 at 8:01
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Actually she can stay for up to 6 months visa-free, but this is decided by the border guard on arrival. The more documentation you provide supporting her reasons for visiting (and above all, her intention to go back), the more likely she'll be granted a 6-month stay.

Curious: why do you "need her to stay longer"? That's what I would ask myself if I was a UK border agent, and I would like to see documentation verifying it.

By the way, as far as I'm aware she'd Need to exit the country to get a visa if she first entered visa-free. One can change from a long-stay (eg. work, student) visa to another inside the UK, but not from visa-free status to a visa

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    @ArtursDerkintis be careful, though. If she says when she enters that she's planning to stay for some number of months then she will be subjected to extra scrutiny. – phoog Jun 30 '16 at 21:12
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    "She is my gf and I need her to stay for longer" is exactly the sort of thing that will get her denied entry. If they think she is really trying to live with you under the pretense of visiting occasionally she will be turned around at the border. – DJClayworth Jun 30 '16 at 22:17
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    @HeidelBerGensis all I can tell you is that every time I visited the UK with a US passport, I stayed for less than a week and I got a 6-month admission stamp. – phoog Jul 1 '16 at 0:30
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    "One can change from one visa to another inside the UK, but not from visa-free status to a visa" This isn't correct for the Standard Visitor Visa. There are no switches allowed in either case and attempting to switch can get the person in trouble. Please read Paragraph 24 of the rules, or give permission for me to edit your answer. – Gayot Fow Jul 1 '16 at 3:50
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    @Crazydre, no she shouldn't lie, unless she is very, very confident in her ability to spin a consistent story. We've got loads of questions on here from Americans who would have been let in if they just told the truth, but tried to say what they thought the IO wanted to hear. If she's visiting for longer, and staying with her boyfriend, she should say that if asked. However the worrying part of the phrase is "need". What is the need (not want) for. The word implies activities not allowed as a visitor. – CMaster Jul 1 '16 at 8:00
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No, it is not possible to apply for a visa (of pretty much any kind) for the UK, from within the UK. In fact, they must (under normal circumstances) apply from their country of residence - note that the UK frequently refers to visas as "entry clearance". According the UK Immigration Rules, part 1:

  1. An applicant for an entry clearance must be outside the United Kingdom and Islands at the time of the application. An applicant for an entry clearance who is seeking entry as a short-term student must apply to a post designated by the Secretary of State to accept applications for entry clearance for that purpose and from that category of applicant. Subject to paragraph 28A, any other application must be made to the post in the country or territory where the applicant is living which has been designated by the Secretary of State to accept applications for entry clearance for that purpose and from that category of applicant. Where there is no such post the applicant must apply to the appropriate designated post outside the country or territory where he is living.

However, your central premise is somewhat flawed. It isn't possible to extend visitor stays by getting a visa. Equally, the UK doesn't really differentiate between those who have a visa and those who don't need one - they are all, normally admitted for 6 months. So your girlfriend can remain for up to 6 months without a visa. However, the length of admitted stay is at the discretion of the Immigration Officer that admits her. See again, Immigration Rules part 1:

23A. A person who is not a visa national and who is seeking leave to enter on arrival in the United Kingdom for a period not exceeding 6 months for a purpose for which prior entry clearance is not required under these Rules may be granted such leave, for a period not exceeding 6 months.

It seems as if you and your girlfriend are not really familiar with the rules. You should probably become (at least passingly) so, especially with Appendix V which describes the rules for visitors. The sections of interest to you are probably V1 and V4 (which describes who is eligible, and what you can and can't do). Note that V4.10 forbids you getting married unless you have a visa that is marked for this purpose.

Note that your girlfriend may be asked what she is doing, how long she intends to do it for, and how she intends to support herself in this time. She may be asked to provide evidence to support this. They may call you, to confirm that her story is correct and that you will house her. You should agree in advance how long she is staying. If she is not so wealthy that plane ticket costs are trivial, she should have a return flight ticket (can be refundable/changeable) so that they know she can still leave even if she overspends. Alternatively, she may get waved through after minimal questioning - but you need to be prepared for the more thorough approach.

Note that the phrasing of your question would ring alarm bells for immigration. You say (emphasis mine):

But I need her to stay longer

There is nothing permitted under visitor rules, other than perhaps medical treatment that would count as need rather than want. Saying things to the IO like "But I need to stay for 4 months" will immediately set off alarm bells and further questioning.

Note: Your girlfriend shouldn't attempt to follow any "strategies" when talking to the IO, except telling truthful answers to their questions. If you search the tags together, you will find numerous examples of US citizens who were refused entry when trying to be clever, who would have been allowed in if they just both:

  • Were honest/truthful
  • Didn't volunteer extra information/ask for things that don't exist (eg a 3 month "visa" for a 2 week visa-free stay)

Related material

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    I think we can all agree that "I Need to stay for x months" or "my bf Needs me to stay for x months" isn't the best Thing to say. Better to say one wishes to stay for that long and provide documentation if asked – Crazydre Jul 1 '16 at 10:50
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    +1, despite not being accepted by the OP, this is the right answer to the question. The accepted answer is not totally wrong, but substantially inaccurate. – Gayot Fow Jul 2 '16 at 13:04
  • @GayotFow Totally agree, I personally think the asker should accept this answer rather than mine – Crazydre Jul 5 '16 at 18:33

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