Are you an American planning to travel to the United Kingdom? Perhaps you’re dreaming of visiting iconic cities like London and Liverpool.
In any case, to visit the home of the British Royal Family and The Beatles, you will need to be sure you have the correct documentation sorted.
Americans don’t usually require a visa to visit if they’re just heading here on holiday. However, if you’re looking to stay in the country for a while longer, perhaps to work here, then different rules apply.
If you’re looking forward to having crumpets or a spot of afternoon tea, read on for all the travel document information you need to know!
- 1 Do US Citizens Need a Visa for the UK?
- 2 UK Visa Requirements for US Citizens
- 3 Can American Citizens Work in the UK?
- 4 How to Apply for a UK Visa From the USA
- 5 UK Visa From USA Application Process
- 6 UK Student Visa for US Citizens
- 7 UK Visa FAQs for Americans
- 8 Further Information About Travelling to Britain
Do US Citizens Need a Visa for the UK?
You will be pleased to learn that as an American you do not require travel authorisation to visit Britain on vacation. You can explore the country for up to 6 months visa-free! This is providing your visit is for tourism or to spend time with friends or family.
While visiting as a tourist, you cannot:
- Undertake either paid or unpaid work for a British company or as a self-employed professional.
- Claim public money (known as benefits).
- Get married or register a civil partnership. You require a Marriage Visitor visa for this.
Living in Britain for long periods of time through frequent or successive visits is also not allowed.
UK Visa Requirements for US Citizens
Although Americans don’t need travel authorisation to visit the United Kingdom on vacation, there are certain requirements you must meet.
You must not undertake any of the activities listed above. Furthermore, you will need to be able to show to officials the following documents:
- A valid passport or travel document. Your passport should be valid for the duration of your time in the UK.
You may also be asked to prove that:
- You are visiting the country for tourism.
- You have accommodation arranged for your stay.
- You can support yourself and any dependents during your trip.
- You plan to leave the country at the end of your stay (evidence of a return ticket or plans for your onward journey).
Can American Citizens Work in the UK?
Yes, thousands of Americans earn a living in Britain. However, if you’re looking to come work here rather than simply come visit for leisure purposes, you will need to secure the correct paperwork.
As a general rule, Americans don’t need a visa for some business and academic activities in the UK, but if you plan to work in the country you must obtain one. If you have already secured a job, your employer must request a work permit for you before you arrive in the country.
Americans can come to Britain visa-free if you are invited as an expert in your field for a ‘Permitted Paid Engagement’.
In this case, you can stay for up to 1 month without requiring travel authorisation. However, you can only be paid by a UK-based organisation to do certain things. You can consult the full list of these on the British government’s website.
How to Apply for a UK Visa From the USA
The good news is, if you do need to apply for a standard UK visa for US citizens, then you can start your application online today. This may apply to you if your visit is not for tourism purposes or any of the other allowed activities, or if you live in the States but hold a passport from a different country that is not exempt.
This may also apply if you have a criminal record, or you have previously been refused entry into Britain.
UK Visa From USA Application Process
1. Complete the online application form on the UK Visa Immigration Service website.
2. Pay the relevant fee
The cost depends on how long the authorisation is valid for.
3. Once you have completed the application you will be asked to book a biometric enrolment appointment at an Application Support Centre (ASC). During this appointment, you will have your photo and fingerprints taken.
4. Attend an Application Support Centre (ASC)
Take your current passport and a copy of your appointment confirmation letter to the appointment. While you are there, officials will take your biometric information and stamp your letter once done.
5. Post your completed application
You will have 5 days from when your letter is stamped to post it along with your application form, current passport, UPS return shipping label, and any supporting documents (if you haven’t uploaded them online). Your passport must have at least 1 visa page which is blank on both sides.
These documents must be mailed to the following address:
VFS Services USA Inc.
UKVI Scanning Hub
145 West 45th St
New York NY
Providing you have sent across all the requested documents, you should then receive your approved travel documentation in a couple of weeks.
UK Student Visa for US Citizens
Students coming from the United States to learn can stay in Britain for up to 6 months visa-free. This is provided that you plan to study at an ‘accredited institution’.
You cannot do a course exceeding 6 months, nor can you do paid or voluntary work (unless it is an eligible medical, dentistry or veterinary placement).
A current passport or travel document that is valid for the duration of your stay must be shown when you enter the country.
You may also be asked to prove:
- That you have a place at an accredited institution (through a letter of acceptance, for example).
- How you will fund your studies and support any dependents.
- Where you will be staying while you complete your studies.
- That you’re able to pay for your return or onward journey.
If you’re coming to study in the UK for longer than 6 months, you will need to apply for a visa. You can do this following the process outlined above.
UK Visa FAQs for Americans
Please find below more helpful information for Americans planning to visit England or elsewhere in the British isles. We hope they resolve any lingering questions you may have.
Do US Green Card Holders Need a Visa for the UK?
Yes, they do. If you would normally require a visa to enter the country, then you will have to apply for one even if you have a Green Card.
Being a Green Card holder and permanent resident of the States does not automatically give you the same right as Americans to enter Britain visa-free as a tourist.
US Embassy in the UK
Here is the address for the US Embassy in London:
33 Nine Elms Lane
The embassy is open Monday through to Friday from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm. This excludes American and British public holidays.
Find out more about the other United States Embassies in the UK.
How Many Americans Live in the UK?
According to the last Census in 2011, there were 173,470 US-born residents in England. Around 36% of the Americans living in Britain live in London. The American embassy in London is the largest in Western Europe.
Can Americans Drive in the UK?
Yes, providing you have a valid driving licence from the States, you can drive in the UK for up to 12 months. Bear in mind, it is normally more expensive to hire an automatic car than a manual. This is because it isn’t as common to drive an automatic here.
Further Information About Travelling to Britain
We hope you now feel confident about arranging your trip and are clear on whether or not you require travel authorisation, depending on the purpose of your visit to the UK. From beautiful thatched-roof cottages to cobblestone streets, you are sure to fall for Britain’s charm!
If there are things you still want to know about visiting the home of Harry Potter, take a look at our page about travelling to the UK.
And you’re visiting the UK from the EU, read up about the upcoming UK Electronic Visa Waiver.