Pre-entry TB Testing for UK Visa applications
Q1. Why is pre-entry TB screening required for UK visa applications?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a serious airborne infection. According to UKBA, TB constitutes a global public health issue and they are therefore rolling out pre-entry testing to countries that have a high incidence of TB according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to UKBA, pre-entry testing is more thorough, and therefore more effective in allowing earlier detection and treatment of TB. The agency further states that pre-testing also allows migrants to take the test at their convenience, and that removing on-entry screening reduces congestion at UK airports (previously, passengers seeking to stay in the UK for six months or more were tested by the “Port Medical Inspector on entry”. i.e. they were tested at the airport).
Q2: Who needs to be tested for TB?
Currently, UKBA has introduced pre-testing in the countries listed below. If you are resident in any of these countries and are travelling to the UK for a period of longer than 6 months, you need to undergo TB screening before submitting your visa application. Please note that business, tourism and family visitors do not require pre-entry TB screening. This includes people applying for 2, 5 and 10 year visitor visas, because the maximum stay in the UK at any one time is still 6 months.
Countries where pre-testing is required (1 Jan 2013):
- Burkina Faso
- Côte d’Ivoire
- South Africa
Countries where UKBA proposes to introduce pre-testing at some stage in the future:
- Cape Verde;
- Central African Rep;
- China, Hong Kong SAR;
- China, Macau;
- Congo Dem Rep Zaire;
- Equatorial Guinea;
- Korea Dem People;
- Korea Rep of;
- Papua New Guinea;
- Russian Federation;
- Sao Tome and Prince;
- Sierra Leone;
- Solomon Islands;
- Vietnam; and
Q3: Where do I get tested?
You must be screened at a clinic approved by the UK Border Agency. In most countries, this will be an IOM (International Organisation for Migration) testing centre, in others, such as India, this will be at a centre that has been approved by the UKBA. The UK Border Agency will not accept a certificate resulting from screening conducted by a clinician who is not on the approved list for your country. You may not use your own doctor, unless he or she is listed.
You can find the lists of approved clinicians for your location on the UKBA page for your country (in your search engine type, for example, UKBA India, to find the UKBA page for your country).
Q4: How do I make an appointment to be tested?
You should contact one of the clinicians on the approved list. You can expect to obtain an appointment within a few days, but should allow up to 10 days in busy periods.
The UK Border Agency cannot intervene to bring forward an appointment for you.
It is therefore important that you allow sufficient time for the screening process before you apply for your visa and before you make firm travel plans.
If you would like an appointment with a female clinician, please ask the clinic when you schedule your appointment.
Q5: What do I need to take to my appointment?
You should take your passport as proof of identity, with your TB testing fee and any relevant medical records.
If you have had TB in the past, but are now clear, you should provide details of your previous screening and, if possible, your x-ray results.
Q6: Does the test cost money?
Yes, there is a fee for TB screening. The UKBA page for your country will say how much the fee is. You will have to pay this fee yourself. The fee covers all diagnostic requirements. It does not cover treatment if TB is detected.
The fee is not refundable in the event that the applicant is tested positive for TB or decides not travel to the UK, or their visa is subsequently refused.
Q7 What does the test involve?
The clinic will explain the process to you and you will be asked to sign a consent form before screening. You will then be given a chest x-ray.
You should allow 30-60 minutes for the whole process, which includes administration, taking the x-ray and analysis of the test results.
You may need to remove your clothes from your top half for the x-ray. You will be given a gown.
If the x-ray is inconclusive, you may be asked to give a sputum sample. Sputum is the substance you bring up from your lungs when you cough.
Q8: How long does it take to get the results?
If you only require an examination and x-ray the process can be completed in one day.
If you require further examination, this may take longer. The results of a sputum test can take up to two months to process.
If you require treatment for TB, this will take six months or longer to complete.
Q9: What if I disagree with the test result?
The consent form states that the clinician’s decision is final.
Q10: If I am referred for further tests, can I decide to get screened by another clinician?
The UK Border Agency is monitoring all screening. If you are referred for further tests by one clinic then you are required to undertake the further tests. UKBA will have a record of this. All clinics follow the same procedures, so the results will be the same at another clinic.
It will not be possible to circumvent the requirement to be certified as being clear of TB before applying for a UK visa.
Q11. What is the validity of the TB certificate?
The TB certificate is usually valid for six months.
The exception is when an individual is free from TB, but has had a family member with TB or other contact with a person with whom they have shared a closed environment/household for a prolonged period. In this case, the certificate will have a validity of three months.
Q12: Are there any conditions that would stop me being tested?
No. According to UKBA there are no medical conditions that prevent you from taking the test.
Q13: I am pregnant, do I still need to be tested?
Yes, you need to be tested. You will be given the option of the following tests:
– an x-ray with an extra protective shield that will protect you and your unborn child or
– a sputum test.
Please note: if you choose to have a sputum test in these circumstances, there will be an additional cost. The results can take up to two months to be processed. Alternatively you may wish to defer screening until you have delivered your baby. Please speak to a healthcare professional at the clinic if you have any questions.
Q14: Do children have to be tested?
All children aged 11 years upwards must be tested.
Parents or guardians of children below 11 years need to bring their children to the clinic and complete a health questionnaire for them. The clinician will then decide whether a child needs to be screened. If the clinician decides not to screen a child, a certificate will be provided to state that the child was not tested. This certificate must be submitted with the child’s UK visa application. All children under the age of eighteen years who are attending a clinic, must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Children must bring their passport as proof of identification, medical records and any x-ray results.
Q15: If I have a valid TB certificate for another country such as Australia, can I use it for the UK?
No, you may not use a certificate you have already obtained for travel to another country. You need to be screened specifically by a UK Border Agency approved clinician to comply with the UK visa requirements.
Q 16: Will UKBA share my TB test result with any other organisation?
If TB is a notifiable disease in your country, the clinician will report cases of active TB to the local, regional or national authorities as required. The clinician must also report these cases to the UK Border Agency. Information will also be shared with other clinicians who take forward follow up treatment.
The UK Border Agency may share data with other UK government departments such as the Health Prevention Agency.
Q17: What happens if I require a TB test but I do not want to take one or have time for one?
If you intend to apply for a UK visa in a category for which TB screening is required and you do not submit a TB certificate which states that you are free of TB, your visa application will be refused.
You may not apply for your visa and then submit a TB certificate later. Your application will be refused.
Q18: If I am getting treatment for TB, may I travel to the UK?
No. You must be treated and then be screened successfully to show you are free of TB before you may apply for a UK visa.
Q19: What happens if I am tested positive for TB?
You will not be issued with a certificate if you have been diagnosed with active TB. The clinician will give you advice about the need to seek treatment immediately and provide a TB treatment referral letter. Treatment may be carried out by the same clinician who has conducted the screening. Such treatment will accord with WHO treatment standards.
Q20: Do I need to be tested again following treatment for TB?
Yes. If you have had treatment following a positive result, you will need to take the TB test again. The UK Border Agency must see a valid test certificate from an approved clinic confirming that you are free from infectious TB. You should also provide details to the clinician of your previous screening, your x-ray if possible, and information on your treatment and recovery.
Q21: Who is exempt from testing?
The following are exempt from the requirement:
- diplomats accredited to the UK;
- returning residents (unless they have been absent from the UK for more than two years);
- Certificates of Entitlement holders (Right of Abode in the UK);
- children under the age of 11 years old (unless deemed necessary by a clinician)N.B. Children are not automatically exempt from the requirement to present a TB certificate showing that they are free from active pulmonary TB. Children under 11 years old need to attend a clinic, where their parent(s)/guardians will need to complete a medical questionnaire. The clinician will decide whether screening is required and whether an individual certificate will need to be presented.
An applicant applying for an EEA family permit is not required to produce a certificate showing them free from active pulmonary TB as EEA family permits are valid for six months.
Q22: I have a valid TB certificate, but it will no longer be valid at the time that I enter the UK. Can I travel to the UK with an expired TB certificate?
Because of the visa processing times, it may well happen that your TB certificate expires before you travel to the UK. The UKBA website does not offer clear guidance on whether or not your certificate still needs to be valid on entry. It merely recommends that you take the Certificate (plus X-ray) with you. It does not specifically state that the Certificate still has to be valid at the time of entry.
What do the Immigration Rules say?
There is no specific requirement in the Immigration Rules for your pre-testing TB certificate to be valid at the time of entry to the UK. There is only a requirement to present a valid certificate at the time you submit your visa application:
Immigration Rule A39. “Any person making an application for entry clearance to come to the UK for more than six months from a country listed in Appendix T Part 1 must present at the time of application a valid medical certificate issued by a medical practitioner listed in Appendix T Part 2 confirming that they have undergone screening for active pulmonary tuberculosis and that this tuberculosis is not present in the applicant.” (“at the time of application” means at the time you submit your visa application or, in legal terms, at the time you pay your visa processing fees).
Appendix T (the Appendix to the Immigration Rules on TB screening). “Migrants applying to enter the UK for more than 6 months from the countries listed below must present at the time of application a valid medical certificate issued by a medical practitioner listed in Part 2 of this Appendix confirming that they have undergone screening for active pulmonary tuberculosis and that such tuberculosis is not present in the applicant.” (again, “at the time of application” means at the time you submit your visa application or, in legal terms, at the time you pay your visa processing fees).
If your TB certificate expires before entering the UK, we recommend that you take the Certificate, and the X-ray with you to the UK. If you feel uneasy about this, you could of course always have another test, and take the old and new certificate with you.
Please remember that you should always refer to the UKBA website for up-to-date information before applying for any UK visas.