The Savvy IMG

An Essential Guide to the UK Standard Visitor Visa for PLAB and Clinical Attachments

If you’re like most IMGs planning to pursue a career in the UK, you’ll need to apply for a UK Standard Visitor Visa at some point. If you’ve never looked into this visa before, here are the basics of what you need to know.

Table of Contents

uk standard visit visa for plab gmc

Who needs a Standard Visitor Visa?

Most IMGs who are not UK or EU nationals, will need the Standard Visitor Visa if they want to come to the UK for the following reasons:

  • To appear in PLAB 1 or PLAB 2
  • To appear in any other exam eg. MRCP, MRCS etc
  • To attend a PLAB academy in person 
  • To undergo a clinical attachment
  • To visit family or friends
  • To visit the UK for tourism

Related: How to find a UK clinical attachment

How can I be sure if I need a visa?

You can check by visiting this link simply answering the three questions. The 3 questions should generally be answered like this:

  1. Input your nationality
  2. Select “Work, academic visit or business”
  3. Select “6 months or less”
Once you do this, you’ll get a definite answer about whether you need a visa.

What about the PLAB Business visa?

There used to be a Business Visitor Visa with a specific PLAB version. This has now been replaced by the Standard Visitor Visa, so if you are visiting the UK for the PLAB exam and need a visa, forget about looking for the Business Visitor or PLAB visa. You now need to apply for the Standard Visitor Visa.

Related: What you need to know about PLAB

How long can I stay in the UK?

In most cases, your visa will be valid for 6 calendar months and you can enter and leave the UK multiple times within that 6-month period. 

Eg. If your visa is valid from January 1st, 2019 to June 30, 2019. This means you can enter the UK on January 15, 2019, stay for 3 months, and leave on April 16, 2019. You can then come back on May 10, 2019 and leave on June 30, 2019.

It does not mean that you can stay in the UK for 6 months over a calendar period of more than 6 months.

Eg. If your visa is valid from January 1st, 2019, it does not mean you can enter the UK on January 15, 2019, stay for 3 months, leave on April 16, 2019, then come back in June 15, 2019, and stay for another 3 months and leave on September 15, 2019.

This will be seen as overstaying and will jeopardise any future visa application.

You can also apply for a long-term visitor visa for 2, 5 or 10 years. Each visit you make on this visa cannot be longer than 6 months.

Sometimes your visa will be valid for less than 6 months, this depends on multiple factors in your application including what you’ve written in your cover letter as the purpose of the visit, the amount of funds you have available to you, your ties to your home country, and your travel history. Submitting the correct paperwork is essential.

Suggested: How to find cheap short-term accommodation in the UK

How much does it cost?

A Standard Visitor Visa costs £95, this usually covers the standard 6-month period. For a long-term visa, the fees are as follows:

  • 2 years – £361
  • 5 years – £655
  • 10 years – £822

Related: The costs of GMC registration and tips to save money

Are there any restrictions on the visa?

What you cannot do with your Standard Visitor Visa:

  • Do any paid or unpaid work
  • Apply for public funds
  • Register or give notice for marriage or civil partnership
  • Live in the UK through frequent visits
    • Eg. You get a 10-year visa, and come to the UK for 6 months, then leave for 2 weeks, then come back for 6 months etc. This is not allowed.

Can I bring my family or dependants?

Yes, but they will need to apply for their own visitor visa. So they’ll need to have their own passport, submit their own visitor visa application, and pay another fee.

If you’re planning to bring your children with you, the guidelines for visa applicants under the age of 18 are outlined in this official guidance. The name of the parents must be included in the application and the child will only be able to enter the UK if they arrive in the UK with you.

When should I apply?

You can apply for a Visitor Visa as early as 3 months ahead of the day you plan to travel to the UK. You cannot apply any earlier than this.

Eg. You plan to travel on March 5. This means you can submit your visa application on December 6. You won’t be able to submit your application before December 6.

But you should start preparing your paperwork for your visa application even before this.

What paperwork do I need to prepare?

This is the part of your application that you can prepare in advance. The most important components include a valid passport, information about your finances, brief cover letter stating the purpose of your visit (personally when I applied for a visitor visa in 2013 and 2014 I did not submit a cover letter at all), and supporting information about your visit. 

Be sure you prepare the relevant paperwork for the different GMC requirements needed during your visit.

We will write a separate post about Visitor Visa paperwork in the near future including my suggested sample cover letter.

How do I apply?

The application procedure has two phases. 

  1. Online Application 
  2. Providing biometric data (fingerprints,photo) in an appropriate Visa Application Centre. 

I’ll give you a step-by-step guide to complete your application in a future blog post!

How long does it take to approve?

You should receive a decision within 3 weeks of submitting your application.


The UK Standard Visitor Visa is an important hurdle for most IMGs on their path to the UK. This article runs through the very essential things you need to know including who needs it, how much it costs, and how long it’s valid for.

In a future post, I’ll discuss the documents you should submit with your application, what not to submit, and provide a sample cover letter. I’ll also show you step-by-step how to complete your application form in another post.

Please take note

This blog post is meant as a guide only and a starting point for your own research. It is always your responsibility to verify the information stated here before taking action. 

Information provided in this blog post is based on the official UK government website. Please remember that the rules change frequently, so always double check the official guidance. We cannot accept liability if anything goes wrong if you solely go by the advice on this website without checking it first.

We are not immigration advisers and cannot advise you on your individual visa application or answer any questions that are not answered on the official government website. If you require information that is not available online, please contact the Home Office or an immigration adviser for further guidance. 

What’s next?

Now that you know about the visitor visa, you may want to read our article on Getting ready for your first visit to the UK as an IMG

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8 Responses

  1. Could there be any problem when you get D-PLAB Test as they type of Visa issued and I’m going to visit family and friends for few days. What does D-PLAB Test because it’s different from PLAB 1&2.

    1. Hi Ola, I have no idea what a D-PLAB test is. Are you sure you’re looking at the correct website? Please provide a link so we can assist further.

  2. Hey I am applying for PLAB 1 and also doing a clinical attachment simultaneously. What should be my primary reason for the visit, since I can’t select both? Should I choose the other option and mention both or which should I choose? Please let me know.

    1. I’m not a visa expert but I would choose one option and then mention both in the additional details with letters for both.

  3. Hello Nick!
    If I’m an IMG that is planning to sit PLAB 1&2 as well as a attending a PLAB 2 preparation course on a single 6-month visitor visa, do you think I would be able to do so? And how do you think the application should be filled out?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi there! That might be possible if you can show that you have the funds to stay in the UK for 6 months, but there is no guarantee that you will be able to book a PLAB 2 date before your visa expires once you have passed PLAB 1. Keep in mind you can only book PLAB 2 once you receive the PLAB 1 result which takes about 8 weeks.

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Meet the Team

Hi, we’re Drs Nick & Kimberly Tan, the two IMGs behind The Savvy IMG. We write comprehensive guides, create courses, and provide one-to-one guidance to help other overseas qualified doctors on their journey to the UK.
We have scoured the official guidance to put these posts together, but we can make mistakes! If you spot anything that is incorrect, please get in touch and we’ll put it right.
Photo of Dr Nicholas Tan