I am a US citizen planning on a trip to the UK. Everything I read says that I can stay for 6 months without a visa. Also I read that the duration is up to border security. Do I get a one way ticket and stay as long as border security allows, or get a round trip ticket staying 6 months and hope that they allow me to stay the entire time?
This is the difference between theory and practice.
In theory, you can get in for six months or ‘as long as the border guard allows’. We all know that all of us are honest human beings that would never put a toe out of the line, and therefore the border guard can be sure that you will leave the UK at the end of your allowed six months, even though the flight has not been booked yet.
If I turn on the irony in the statement above, we are in the middle of the practice. Of course you are technically allowed six months, but the immigration officer wants to know:
- Will you leave at the end of your trip?
- Do you have the funds to sustain yourself during your trip?
- Will you attempt to work illegally, abuse the NHS or do something else that goes against the laws or well-doing of the UK?
- And will you really leave at the end of your trip?
I have emphasised the leaving bit here, but the funding is at least as important. It is on you to show them that you can do it and that you won’t be relying on anything handwavy. Remember, you are not allowed to work and they really don’t like people coming in as a tourist and then working.
So if you walk up to the border control at your airport of entry, they’ll start a little chat and ask you when you intend to leave. And if you don’t have a good answer there, it’ll go South very quickly and you might just get the worst.
For an idea of what the worst could be, see this question: What are the visa rules for US speakers, at UK conferences, who may be getting paid?
The visitor rules are in Immigration Rules Appendix V
AIUI the way it works is.
You turn up at the border and the border guard interviews you. If they determine you are a legitimate visitor who can afford their stay, won't work or abuse public services in the UK and will leave on time you will normally get 6 months leave to enter. If they don't think you are a legitimate visitor they can refuse you entry and put you on the next plane home.
They also have a couple of middle ground options of giving you a shorter admission period or giving you what is known as a "temporary admission" where you have a few days to leave the country.
The difficulty with a long tourist visit is going to be convincing them
- that your ties to your home country are strong enough that you will return as promised and yet flexible enough that you can take a long break.
- that you are rich enough to fund a long trip to the UK without getting tempted to work.
Arriving without a ticket back out of the UK is generally a bad idea. People who intend to return to their home countries normally buy return tickets.
I came as a tourist for 6 months to visit my boyfriend an the time. I was allowed into the country. Here is what I did.
I booked my tickets for arriving in the UK and leaving in 6 months time so I had proof that I was intending on leaving.
I brought my bank statements showing how much money I had in my account to prove that I had money to sustain myself while I was there.
I also provided the address where I was staying at and whom. My boyfriend who is English and owned his own house at the time flew with me.
I brought a recent health check my doctors showing I was in good health so I could prove that I didn't want to use the NHS services.
They did want to interview him when I landed and I did have to provide proof of his bank statement so show in the event I couldn't support myself that he could.
You really do need to come prepared with proof and documents especially to show you are leaving. They aren't used to people coming in without a visa and saying they want to stay for 6 months. They also are looking for a reason to be able to say "No" especially now with all the Brexit fuss. Don't go there without proof of booked plane ticket for leaving. Even if you can show you have funds to support yourself if you don't have proof that you are leaving you won't get in.