If you are a citizen or legal resident of the United States of America, and wish to travel to the United Kingdom, you will most probably have to obtain a visa first, in order to be eligible to enter the country. The UK government has established types of visas that fit every traveler based on their purpose of entry.
Each visa type has its own requirements, aside of the common requirements. The application process is pretty similar for most of the visas, but it still might differ from one category to the other.
This article explains clearly and in a detailed way the steps a US resident has to take in order to be able to obtain a UK visa.
Who Needs to Apply for a UK Visa From the US?
Citizens of the United Stated do not need to apply for a UK visa if they plan on travelling to the UK for short stays up to six months, for tourism or business purposes. However U.S citizens are required to apply for all other types of visas in order to travel or stay in the UK.
On the other hand, lawful U.S residents may be required to obtain a visa for to travel to the UK depending on their country of citizenship and the purpose of travel. You can check out if you need a UK visa here.
Choose the Right Type of UK Visa
For a US citizen the first step towards a successful visa application is to decide what kind of visa he or she needs to enter the UK. Before scheduling an appointment and starting to gather the required documents, check out the list of UK visa types, and try to figure out which visa fits you.
A US applicant can enter the UK under one of the following visas:
UK Work Visa
This is a visa especially for high-end professionals from other countries who wish to work and live in the UK for shorter or longer periods.
UK Visitor Visa
This is a visa issued to visitors that wish to enter and stay in the UK for periods shorter than six months. Visitors are prohibited from getting a job inside UK with this type of visa, just as with many other types.
UK Transit Visa
This Visa is for foreigners who are not from the EEA or Switzerland, and are using the UK as a transit country to pass from another country to their destination. This visa offers the opportunity to apply for a long-term transit visa if the applicant has enough evidence that he needs to travel regularly through UK to arrive at his destination, but has no intention to stay or live there permanently.
UK Settlement Visa
This type of visa is for those who have been living in the UK for a long period with a temporary visa, and now want to receive a permanent one. The visa applies to people who have lived out of the UK at least 2 years and now want to return, or their passport was lost.
UK Family Visa
This Visa type is for people who have family members working and living in the UK and want to join them for more than six months, as their dependants. The dependents can be husband or wife (spouse), partner, fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner, children, parents, other family members.
Temporary Visa for Refugees and Stateless persons
Eligible for this visa are only the people who are about to enter in the UK and are at the borders because had to leave their country as their life was seriously threatened. The application for this visa is made from within the UK.
Points Based System (PBS)
The Points Based System is the means of regulating immigration to the United Kingdom, which evaluates visa candidates based on the points they can gather by meeting visa requirements. Each visa requirement has its points, and there is an appointed number of points the candidate should gather in order to receive the visa.
There are 5 different of visas based in the Points-Based System:
- Tier 1 Visas – For highly-skilled professional foreigners.
- Tier 2 Visas – Skilled foreign workers with a job offer in a shortage area.
- Tier 3 Visas – For low-skilled foreign workers with a temporary job offer in a shortage area (This type of visa has never been implemented since it has been assessed that the UK has already enough low-skilled workers.)
- Tier 4 Visas – Foreign students and specialists.
- Tier 5 Visas – Youth mobility and temporary foreign workers.
How to Apply for a UK Visa From USA?
Complete the Online Application form
A website has been introduced by the United Kingdom, through which the UK visa applicants from anywhere in the world can apply. In order to start their application, the applicant has to use this website, by firstly registering an account where the applicant can give the required information and pay the visa fee.
Give correct and honest information. If the information in the application form doesn’t comply with the information in the other required documents, your application will be rejected. After you fulfil the application and submit it, you will receive a form which you have to print and save for later when you submit the required documents. If you don’t have a printer after you submit the application, do not panic. You can log in to your account again on another computer linked to a printer, and print the form.
Book an appointment
Then you will have to schedule an appointment at one of 130+ Application Support Centers (ASCs) throughout the United States for Biometric testing. At this appointment you will have your digital image taken and also a digital scan of all ten fingers. The earliest you can submit your visa application with all of the required documents is one or one and a half days after and the latest 2 weeks after biometric submission.
At the appointment you should have with you
- your current passport
- a print out of your application form
- a copy of your biometric confirmation receipt
Children under the age of 5 are exempt from having their fingerprints taken
Collect the UK Visa Required Documents
The UK embassy, or consulate where you will be applying in the US for a UK visa, can provide you with a list of visa requirements, based on the visa type you are applying for. Depending on that, aside of the commonly required documents that are listed below, you will also have to submit some extra documents that prove the purpose behind your planned travel to the UK.
Mail your application
After gathering every required document, then you will have to send them to the UK Border Agency New York via mail or registered travel agent. Put your passport, application form, and the other documents in an envelope. Arrange them according to the checklist and do not staple any of them. Send your documents to one of the following addresses, according to the visa type you have applied for.
UK Visas and Immigration
British Consulate General
845 Third Avenue
International Operations and Visas
Whether your application gets approved or not, you will however have to provide a fully addressed prepaid electronic shipping label inside the package with your documents. Keep a copy of the way-bill for your records.
Required Documents for UK Visa Application
- Valid Passport- you must have a valid passport for at least six more months from the date of your application. This passport must have at least one blank page in order to be able to affix visa.
- Old passports- in which you have visa stickers or stamps that prove your travel history.
- Photo – submit a recent professional photo taken based on the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
- Proof of US status – which might be either an Original Alien Registration Card (Green Card) or an Original US Visa
- Travel Itinerary – proof that you have purchased round trip flight booking on your planned dates of travel from a to the US.
- Employment Letter – this is a confirmation that you are the employee of a company which has approved your dates of leave.
- Proof of Accomodation:
- Letter of Invitation – if you are planning to stay over at friends or family members, then your host must write you a letter which includes the length of your stay, the address and also the contact information of your host among others.
- Hotel Confirmation – if you plan to stay at a hotel instead, then a hotel booking confirmation must be submitted.
- Proof of means of subsistence – the applicant will have to submit proof that they are financially capable to maintain themselves during their whole stay in the UK. This includes bank statements not older than three days, pay slips, and other types of evidence for your income as rental income, etc. If you are coming to the UK under some program that will financially support you then you’ll have to submit evidence for that.
Proof Concerning the Purpose of Travel
Depending on the type of visa you are applying for, you will have to submit some extra supporting documents, alongside the commonly required documents, to prove the purpose behind your travel. Below, you can find some of the supporting documents that are required for the following visa types:
UK Business visas
- Short CV
- Letters of support from a UK based organization, institution or company
- Letters of recommendation from recognized experts
- Examples of recent significant media recognition
- Proof of having won international awards for excellence
- Proof of appearances, performances, publications or exhibitions in last 5 years
- A UK-recognized bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD awarded before your date of endorsement
UK Work Visa
- A job offer in the UK that cannot be filled by the local or the EU workforce;
- A sponsorship letter (an employer, regional administrator, local authority who holds a valid Tier 2 Sponsorship License)
UK Student Visa
- Parents’ or legal guardian letters (if under 18)
- Criminal record certificate
- A valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Clearance Certificate issued by the Foreign and the Commonwealth Office, the Department of the Counter-Proliferation Department.
- Confirmation Letter From the Official Financial Sponsor
UK Family Visa
- For family reunion visa as a partner or a child of someone living in the UK under the refugee or humanitarian protection status in the UK – Only if the family was created before the exit of the depending family member from their home country.
- Information about any child of the main candidate or their dependent partner (name, birthday, nationality, passport information, with whom they live, who takes care of them despite parents, what’s the daily role as a parent, legal rights to participate in the child’s life, new child’s life (in case of divorce), places visited by the child, education, and so on);
UK Settlement Visa
- Documents to confirm a strong connection to the UK
- Document of a rented apartment
- Document for having a property in the UK – land registry document
- Documents to confirm the most of life spent in the UK
- Documents to show a strong reason for being out of the UK for such long
- Documents to confirm the time the candidate left the UK
UK Transit Visa
- Booked travel tickets confirmed
- Confirmation from travel agent
- Document to confirm being permitted to entry the other country
- Visa for the other country (if required)
- Document to confirm being permitted to entry the other country
- Documents to confirm the reason for traveling to the other country
Temporary Refugee Visa
- Registration with the police – police registration certificate
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Education certificate
- Medical documents – if suffering from any medical condition
- Documents to confirm the home address in the UK
Priority, Super Priority and Premium Visa Services
These are optional visa services for which the applicant has to pay an extra fee in order to get an answer in their application within a shorter period of time.
These services are paid online, and here you can visit vfsglobal.co.uk/usa for more information in this regard.
These services can be used by applicants applying for one of the below listed visa types:
- Tourist and short stay (visitor) visas
- Points-based system Tier 2 and Tier 5 applicants with authority to be living in the United States
- Point-based system Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) if you are currently in the US for a similar purpose to take up in the United Kingdom
- Points-based system Tier 5 (Temporary worker – Creative and Sporting) if currently in the USA for a similar purpose to take up in the UK
- Points-based system Tier 4 student visas – for applicants who are resident in the USA and are subject to different document requirements under Tier 4 of the Points-based system