Entry clearance is the procedure used by Entry Clearance Officers (ECOs) at British embassies overseas to check, before a person arrives in the UK, if that person qualifies under the Immigration Rules for entry to the UK. In all cases, the authority to admit someone to the UK ultimately rests with the Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) at the port of entry.
In some cases entry clearance is mandatory, in others it is optional.
Who needs an entry clearance visa?
Non-visa nationals do not require an entry clearance before travelling to the UK unless they are coming to the UK for more than six months or coming to the UK in certain categories, for example, as a fiancé. Where a non-visa national insists on applying (even if an entry clearance is not required), the application should be accepted.
A non-visa national is a:
- National of a country which is not listed on the UK visas and entry clearance page;
- British Overseas Territories citizen;
- British Overseas citizens;
- British National (Overseas);
- British Protected Persons; and
- British Subject.
Visa nationals must obtain entry clearance before travelling to the UK unless they are:
- Returning residents;
- Those who have been given permission to stay in the UK and, after temporarily leaving the UK, return within the duration of that permission to stay;
- School children resident in an EU member state who are on an organised school trip from a general education school and accompanied by a teacher.
A visa national is:
- A national of a country listed on the Home Office’s visa nationals page
- A stateless person
- A holder of a travel document unless issued by the UK, or
- A holder of a passport issued by an authority that is not recognised in the UK.
There are different types of entry clearance visas that you can obtain such as a visitor visa (if you are visiting friends or family for up to 6 months at any one time), a spouse visa (if you are married to a British citizen) or a fiancé visa (if you intend to marry a British citizen and require temporary entry to the UK to allow the marriage to take place).
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Source: Government UK