Visas for Scouts visiting the UK
Visa and immigration
Scouting is a world-wide movement and one of the aspects of Scouting is the ability to travel but also being able to host Scouts from many countries in the United Kingdom. This information is aimed to support UK scouts travelling overseas and UK scouts hosting/inviting foreign Scouts to the United Kingdom.
UK Scouts traveling overseas
When travelling overseas, you need to be aware of any visa or additional documentation required for the country you are travelling too. You can find out about this via the Foreign and Commonwealth office and select the country and then entry requirements. For example, some countries require you to have a minimum expiry on the passport or additional letters for travelling with children. In a minority of cases, problems will arise if groups do not comply with their visa restrictions.
Hosting foreign scouts in the United Kingdom
Hosting foreign scouts is an exciting way to help young people understand the wider world and experience different cultures. As part of the planning of hosting, host need to consider any visa requirements that the HM Visa and Immigration require.
In addition to confirming with Government regulations, it is important to be able to confirm that the guest is a member of their Scout Association in their home nation.
We advise that the following points are considered when hosting/inviting foreign scouts to the United Kingdom:
Invitations to groups with whom you have previous contact can and should continue. If your correspondence is directly with the group concerned, please copy the national Headquarters of the originating Association into the correspondence, so that approval can be given for a visit. Failure to do this may result in the British High Commission or British Embassy refusing visas. Confirmation is also needed from the home Association that applicants to events in the UK are members of that Association. This can often be time consuming so it is important that this process is started as soon as is possible.
This can be supported by the International Office at Gilwell Park.
Speculative requests need to be treated carefully. Do not accept to host a group without the express, written permission of the International Commissioner or Headquarters of the National Scout Organisation involved. The International Office can help confirm this information.
Invitations should follow the sample framework and the official Scout logo should be used in the letterhead. Embassies and High Commissions will not recognise the special logos devised for events, however these can be included alongside. This sample can be obtained from the International Office.
Host groups need to confirm the full name, date of birth (age), passport details, home country and home Scout Association for all of those to be invited. This will enable you to issue a letter of invitation for the group. State clearly the terms under which the group is accepted, both for the benefit of those issuing visas and for the visiting group. It is worth being very clear about travel, funding/money arrangements and programme while in the UK.
If the process of requesting an invitation starts less than 4 months before your event, it is very unlikely that the various checks can be carried out in time. If a letter of invitation should be sent more than 2 months before your event, then the process should be terminated. British Embassies and High Commissions will often interview all applicants and interview times are fixed well in advance. It is not possible to ‘slip in’ extra interviews close to the time of departure and many young people have been left disappointed in the past.
It will be helpful to ask the group to complete a registration form which contains all the relevant details.
This can be used as the basis for the letter of invitation, which is returned the applicant who attaches this with their application. This should be sent in PDF format. Copies of the letter of invitation should NOT be sent to the High Commission or Embassy.
In the period before the group arrives, be very clear on the conditions under which the visiting group is accepted. For example: many African groups will wish to make contact with family members in the UK, before, during and after any event they are attending. Hosts need to decide the level of disruption they are prepared to accept and this must be clearly outlined in pre-event information.
All adults in the group should be issued a yellow card and talked through the meaning of this while they are in the United Kingdom. While they are being hosted, this policy supersedes any child protection processes their home nation follows.
If visiting groups are permitted to split up and visit relatives or friends, hosts should appoint a liaison person who has contact details for all of the party. It may be helpful to have digital photos of each member.
It's worth checking the status of return flights and ensure that all guests are checked in and ready to travel.
Please advise the International Office/Headquarters of problems as they arise. Do not wait until they are overwhelming or until there is nothing that can be done.
The Africa Regional Office of the World Scout Bureau advises caution in inviting adult only groups, or groups composed entirely of those 15 years and over – as young adults are those most likely to stay longer than their visa permits. It is suggested, that unless they have confirmation from their National Association a letter of Invitation is not issued until it is confirmation of membership. The international office is available to support you if required.