If you are a national of the United States, Canada or Australia, or live legally in those countries, you don't need to apply for a tourist visa to enter the United Kingdom. Visas, usually for visits of up to six months, are granted on entry, when you present your passport, as long as you satisfy the immigration officer that the purpose of your visit meets UK Immigration Rules. There is no charge for visas granted on entry.
Here are some other points about visas to be aware of:
- The same rules apply to citizens of most, but not all, South American and Caribbean countries as well as Japan.
- Members of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland do not need a visa to visit, or live and work in the UK.
- Different rules apply for students on degree courses and people arriving in the UK (from outside the EEA) to work.
If your plans include more than a simple vacation, it's a good idea to check the UK government's handy, online questionnaire Do I Need a UK Visa. And, if it does turn out that you need one, you can apply for, and usually pay for, a visa online at Visa4UK