Though the United States of America apply strict requirements to many countries in the world in order to permit their residents to enter, this is not the case when it comes to Britons. The citizens of the United Kingdom are privileged regarding traveling to the US. They are part of the list of the countries the US applies the visa waiver system to, through which the visitors can apply online for a traveling authorization in order to be permitted to enter the US, by land, air or sea.
In this article, we will go through the USA visa types for British residents, how to apply for an USA visa from the UK, meaning the process that they has to go over in order to obtain an American visa, including the requirements and tasks one has to fulfill in order to qualify.
Do I Need a Visa For USA From UK?
If you are a citizen of the UK you are not required to apply for a visa for USA since the UK is one of the 38 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program. The Visa Waiver Program is a stamp on the passport which allows citizens of 38 countries to enter the U.S without a visa.
However, all UK residents who do not hold a citizenship of a country that is exempt from U.S visa requirements and are not citizens of Canada or Bermuda are required to obtain a visa to travel to the United States.
Electronic System for Travel Authorization – ESTA
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an automated system established by the United States of America, which determines the eligibility of travelers to visit the USA, under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is administered by the US Department of Homeland Security and permits the residents of 38 countries to travel to the USA for tourism and business for up to 90 days, with just a travel authorization. British citizens, with the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, have been part of this list since 1988.
However, two categories of UK citizens are excluded from the eligibility to apply for a travel authorization:
- Those who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of the UK).
- And those who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.
However, the citizens of these 38 countries, including the United Kingdom, when traveling to the US for other reasons as employment or medical treatment, must apply for a regular visa as regulated by the US visa policy.
If you are a UK citizen whose travel authorization has been refused, despite of applying several times, you will also have to apply for a regular visa, even if your purpose of visit is business or tourism.
Choosing a Visa for USA Based on the Purpose of Travel
If you are entering the US for non-business or tourism purposes, then you will need to apply for a visa even if you are a citizen of a VWP country. The US immigration authorities have established a number of visas depending on the reason behind one’s purpose to enter the country. The residents of the United Kingdom can apply for one of the types of visas as listed below:
A-1/A-2 Visa – Diplomats & Foreign Government Officials.
This type of visa applies to diplomats and other foreign British government officials entering the US with the purpose of engaging in official activities.
UK residents eligible for a A-1 visa:
- Head of UK government (Prime Minister), regardless of purpose of travel
- Ambassador or Consul of the United Kingdom embassy or consulate in the United States
- UK government cabinet member or minister, traveling to the US with the purpose of engaging in official activities
- UK residents part of European Union delegation representatives
- Family members (spouse and unmarried sons and daughters) of a UK citizen, holder of a US A-1 visa
UK residents eligible for a A-2 visa
- Full-time employee assigned by the UK government to work at its embassy or consulate in the US
- UK government official visiting the US with the purpose of performing government related duties
- UK military members assigned to work at the UK embassy or consulate in the US, or stationed at a US military base
- UK residents, staff of a European Union delegation representatives
- Family members (spouse and unmarried sons and daughters) of a UK citizen, holder of a US A-1 visa
Keep in mind that aside of the Head of the government of the UK no other government official visiting the US for a non-official purpose, is eligible for this visa type. Officials of local governments representing a local political entity are not eligible for this type of visa either.
A-3 Visa – Domestic Employee of a A-1/A-2 Visa holder
This is a visa established for the personal employees, attendants or domestic workers of the government officials and diplomats who hold a valid A-1 or A-2 visa.
B-1 Visa – Business visitors
United Kingdom residents who are not eligible to apply for a travel authorization will have to apply for a B-1 Business Visa. In order for one to be able to obtain this visa, he or she must fulfill the criteria listed below:
- Your business must be of a legitimate nature
- You plan to remain in USA for a limited period of time
- You are financially capable to maintain yourself during the time you are staying in the US
- You have no intention of abandoning the UK and staying in the US a US A-2 visa
Under this visa, your spouse and children are not eligible to apply for a dependent visa.
B-1 Visa – Domestic Employee
This type of visa is for personal or domestic employees (cooks, nannies, butlers, chauffeurs, maids, gardeners, paid companions, etc.) who are accompanying or following an employer to the US. One of the most important requirements that the US authorities ask for in this case, is the documenting of a proper wage to the employee.
B-2 Visa – Holiday, tourism, medical treatment
The B-2 visa is established for visitors that plan to travel and experience the United States, visit family, friends or relatives, for holidays, or enter the country to seek medical treatment.
Those applying for this type of visa must show evidence that they have strong connections with the United Kingdom, and do not intend to stay in the USA.
C-1 Visa – Transiting the United States
If you have to pass through the United States en route to another country, but you are not eligible for a Travel Authorization, then you will have to apply for a C – 1 Transit Visa. If you already hold a valid visitor visa, then you can use that one to transit USA.
D Visa – Crew Members working on air or sea carriers
You must hold a C-1/D visa if you work as a crew member at an international sea carrier or airline that travels from the UK to the USA.
American Visa Application Requirements
- After you have selected the visa type you need to apply for, you should start gathering the documents that are required for that visa. Usually the common required documents are as follows:
- Confirmation page of the application form DS-160;
- Appointment confirmation page (if applicable)
- Passport – valid for at least 6 months beyond your date of planned stay in the US. The passport must have at least one blank page in order to be able to affix visa.
- One photo – of 5 x 5 cm size, taken within the last 6 months. If you have successfully uploaded a picture to the DS-160 application form, then you are not required to submit an additional photo.
- Previous US visas – if you have visited the US before with an older passport, then you shall take it with you on the day of the interview at the embassy or consulate.
- ACRO – which is a police certificate you should submit if you have ever been arrested, cautioned or convicted.
- Letter from a physician, if you have a medical condition that could have a bearing on your eligibility for a visa.
- Invitation letter, if applying for a B-2 visa
- If you have ever been rejected for entry or deported from the US, you must also submit documents in this regard.
US Visa Application Process
After you have decided what type of US visa you need and you have collected the required documents, it’s time to apply.
The US visa application will go through these simple steps:
- Fill in Form DS-160.
- Pay your application fee.
- Schedule visa interview.
- Attend the visa interview.
Fill in Form DS-160
You should complete the online application form DS-160 and then print the confirmation page. Take this page with you when you attend the interview. The application form contains questions about personal information as:
- Full name
- Marital Status
- Date & Place of Birth
- Mobile number
- Passport number
- Passport book number
- Family information
- Work, etc.
There are also a couple of questions on security and background information which include the questions listed below:
- Have you ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime, even though subject of a pardon, amnesty, or other similar action?
- Have you ever violated, or engaged in a conspiracy to violate, any law relating to controlled substances?
- Are you coming to the United States to engage in prostitution or unlawful commercialized vice or have you been engaged in prostitution or procuring prostitutes within the past 10 years?
- Have you ever been involved in, or do you seek to engage in, money laundering?
- Do you seek to engage in espionage, sabotage, export control violations, or any other illegal activity while in the United States?
- Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities while in the United States or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities?
- Have you ever or do you intend to provide financial assistance or other support to terrorists or terrorist organizations?
- Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization?
- Have you ever ordered, incited, committed, assisted, or otherwise participated in genocide?
Pay your application fee and schedule the interview
Go to https://ais.usvisa-info.com/en-gb and pay the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) application fee and schedule an interview. You can do that by following these steps:
- Create a user account
- Enter the DS-160 confirmation number you have received in your email after completing the form
- Complete the courier document return process
- Pay the application fee
- Schedule an appointment for interview
The MRV Fee for visa applicants depends on the type of visa one applies for. The schedule is tiered as follows:
- MRV Fee – $160
- Petition Based Applicants (H, L, O, P, Q, R) – $190
- E-1, E-2 & E-3 visa applicants – $205
Attend the Visa Interview
All applicants from the age of 14 to the age of 79 that apply for a USA visa from the UK, have to appear in person at the US consulate or embassy for the interview. Applicants under 14 and over 80 are eligible to apply by a courier.
Show up on time, since arriving too late may result with the cancellation of your appointment. Get yourself ready to be at the embassy or consulate where you apply for around two to three hours, because of the processes. Have all your documents with you, and nicely organized.
Before you attend the interview, the embassy / consulate staff will collect, data enter and examine your application documents. You will have to get your fingerprints scanned, and then you will have a few-minutes-short interview with a consular officer.
Application Processing Time
Successful applications take no more than three to five workdays to get approved, Despite of that, sometimes the application processing may take up to 6 months or even longer. Your passport will remain at the embassy while your application is being processed. After the approval or rejection of your visa, the embassy or consulate will deliver your passport. You cannot collect your passport by yourself.
What to do in Case of Visa Denial?
In case of visa denial you will not be able to get your fee money back. However, you can still re-apply in the future by submitting a new application and paying the visa fee again.
In order for your application not to get rejected for the same reason again, your should present proof of changes in the circumstances since your previous application that got rejected.