- UK Visitor Visa from the USA
- Permitted activities for US citizens without a visa
- Permitted activities under the UK tourist visa
- Types of visitor visa
- Visitor Visa requirements
- Studying in the UK under a visitor visa
- Permitted business activities under a visitor visa
- How to apply for a UK visitor visa from the USA
- Document checklist
- UK standard visitor visa validity period
- How can Total Law help
- Frequently Asked Questions
UK Visitor Visa from the USA
The UK tourist visa or visitor visa allows foreign nationals to enter the UK for up to six months.
US citizens do not need a visitor visa to visit the UK for six months or less. However, if you are a green card holder or a US resident, you may be required to obtain a visa for UK travel, depending on your country of citizenship and your reason for your international travel.
US citizens visiting the UK from the USA as tourists or business visitors can obtain a visa upon arrival in the UK. If you seek to enter the UK for any other purpose, such as work or marriage, you must obtain an appropriate UK visa to get entry clearance for your duration in the UK.
Although US citizens do not need a visa, those with a criminal record or who have been refused entry into the UK may need a standard UK visitor visa.
For assistance with your UK visa application, call us on +1 844 290 631218 or contact us online.
Permitted activities for US citizens without a visa
If you are visiting the UK with your US passport, you can spend time with family and friends or tour the United Kingdom for up to six months.
As a tourist without a visa, you cannot:
- Work, whether it’s paid or unpaid, employment or self-employment
- Claim benefits (public funds)
- Come to the UK frequently (successive visits)
- Marry or get into a civil partnership
- Give notice of marriage or a civil partnership
If you qualify to visit the UK without a visa, travel with a valid US passport that lasts the duration of your stay. You should also carry proof of your reason for visit, funds to cover your trip and transport out of the UK, accommodation, and your intention to leave the UK after your trip.
Visitors below 18 who are traveling alone may be required to show a consent letter from their parent or guardian.
Permitted activities under the UK visitor visa
A UK tourist visa allows you to enter the UK for these purposes:
- Visit family or friends
- Volunteer with a registered charity for up to 30 days
- Partake in some business activities, including attending a business meeting, interview, conference, or seminar
- Partake in a school exchange program
- Do some study activities, such as partake in a recreational course for up to 30 days.
- Privately-funded or US-government funded medical care or to donate an organ to a family member or friend
The UK government does not permit visitor visa holders to do paid or unpaid work and other non-permitted activities for US citizens without a visa.
Standard Visitor visa
The Standard Visitor visa is for those who plan to visit the UK for some business activities, short courses, tourism, or medical purposes. This is the most popular visitor visa.
You may apply for the transit visa if you plan to change flights in the UK and pass through while going to another country. Not every traveler needs a visitor transit visa, but if you need to go through the UK border control to get to your connecting flight or have a stopover in the UK that lasts for up to 48 hours, you may need a transit visa.
Permitted Paid Engagement Visa
The Permitted Paid Engagement visa is for those invited by a UK organization to come to the UK for a specific paid work that qualifies for this route. UK visas under this category can have up to one month validity period.
Business Visitor Visa
Running a business, participating in paid or unpaid work, or doing business in any form is not permitted on a visitor visa. Business visitors can partake in certain activities, including attending a meeting or signing a contract. However, they must obtain a business or work visa to run a business.
Marriage visitor visa
If the UK is your wedding destination – you plan to marry your partner during your time in the UK – you should get a marriage visitor visa. You must provide evidence of the intended wedding and your intent to leave the UK at the end of your visit.
Study visit visa
This visa is for those who want to take a course that lasts up to six months. They must meet some other requirements to be able to obtain this visitor visa. If you want to take a course that lasts for longer, you should consider a student visa.
Visitor Visa eligibility requirements
To qualify for the UK visitor visa, you must:
- Have a valid passport or travel document to cover your entire stay in the UK
- Prove you will leave the UK at the end of your visit
- Be able to support yourself and your dependents during the trip financially
- Be able to pay for your return journey
- Not enter the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits
- Prove the purpose of your visit falls under the approved activities
If you are coming to the UK for certain reasons, including studying, doing research, and doing medical activities, you may need to meet additional requirements.
Studying in the UK under a visitor visa
Visitors to the UK can study for up to six months if their visit is to:
- Conduct a short piece of research relevant to their US course
- Take an elective if they are studying medicine, nursing, dentistry, or veterinary medicine and science
- Sit for in or retake an entrance examination or course module, or do a Ph.D. oral exam
- Do an unpaid clinical attachment as a medical, dental, or nursing school graduate
- Take the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) or Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) tests
Your exact activities will determine the documents you provide and the eligibility you meet.
If you are studying at an accredited institution, the home office requires that the institution is not an academy or state-funded school. For distance learning courses, you must only come to the UK for certain activities such as progress checks or to sit for exams.
If you are visiting to do short research or an elective relevant to your US course, you must be at least 16 years old and enrolled in a course overseas.
Unpaid clinical attaches and dental observers must not treat patients in the UK, have not done clinical attachment or dental observer post in the UK before, and provide proof of an offer for their position in the UK.
Permitted business activities under a visitor visa
Business visitors can partake in these activities:
- Attend interviews, seminars, meetings, and conferences
- Attend trade fairs to promote their business, not sell
- Negotiate and sign business deals
- Get work-related training that is not available in the US
- Give free talks that are not for profit or given at a commercial event
- Oversee the delivery of goods or services provided by a UK company to their US company
- Carry our visits and inspections to a UK site
- Train or share knowledge on the US company’s projects with UK employees of the same company
- Install, remove, repair, or advise on equipment or computer software if the US company has a contract with the UK company
Determine your need for a visa
The first step to applying for one of the UK tourist visas is to check if you need a visa to visit the UK.
Citizens of some countries, including the United States, do not need a visitor visa to visit the UK for the purposes listed under the standard visitor visa category. There are some exceptions, including those with a criminal record.
If you don’t need a visa, you can travel to the UK. However, ensure that you meet the standard visitor visa requirements before you visit because a UK border officer may review your eligibility and ask you some questions to determine if you should be granted entry into the UK.
For advice or assistance, call us on +1 844 290 631218. We’d be happy to help you obtain a visitor visa.
Apply for a visitor visa
If you need a visitor visa, you can apply for any of the visitor visas, depending on your purpose in the UK. Applicants for the standard visitor visa can apply online at least three months before their intended travel date.
You can apply for a short-term or long-term standard tourist visa; a short-term visitor visa is the regular kind, while a long-term visitor visa is for those who wish to visit the UK regularly.
The other visitor visas have the same visa application process; the difference is in the documents and proof you must provide.
Once you have started your online visa application, you can save the form and complete it later. After completing the UK visitor visa application form, you must pay the visa fee and provide your biometrics (fingerprints and photograph) and supporting documents at a UK visa application center in the USA.
You need the following documents when applying for a standard visitor visa:
- Valid passport
- Complete online application form with details on your trip and personal information
- Proof that you will leave the UK at the end of your trip, such as work commitment in your home country
Depending on your circumstances, you may also need to provide your:
- Employer’s details
- Partner’s details
- Travel history for the last 10 years
- Information on any family members living in the UK
If you are visiting for more than six months, you must take a tuberculosis test and provide the certificate.
The visitor visa you apply for will also determine the other documents you must provide.
If you are traveling to the UK for a short study, you should provide confirmation from your US-based course provider that the research is relevant to the course you’re doing in the US. Some study visitor visa applicants may be required to provide an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate. Otherwise, obtain a student visa/
If you are traveling for academic purposes, you must provide a letter from your employer with details on the dates of your sabbatical or exchange, the research to be undertaken, and the UK host organization.
For a transit visa, you should take the following documents with you and present them to the UK border officer:
- Valid passport or travel document
- Proof that you can enter the country you are traveling to, such as a valid visa or residence permit
- Evidence of journey from the UK to the destination country, such as printed tickets
UK standard visitor visa validity period
Applicants for a standard visitor visa can get different validity periods, but they can only stay for up to six months (or 180 days) at a time and cannot return to the UK frequently or for successive visits.
There is the long-term standard visitor visa in which you can get a 2, 5, or 10 year validity period, but the six-month stay rule still applies. The benefit of this visa, though, is that you don’t need to reapply for a visitor visa during the validity period if your visa covers your intent.
If you are visiting the UK for medical reasons, you can get up to 11 months validity while academic visitors get up to 12 months. In these two cases, you still get the 6 months that come with the standard visitor visa, but you can extend the visa while in the UK.
We are US and UK immigration lawyers. We help those in the US to obtain UK visas and immigration permits. If you want to visit the UK, we can provide you with immigration services that cover:
- Assessing your need and eligibility for a UK visitor visa
- Advising on the necessary evidence and supporting documents to provide
- Submitting a high-quality application on your behalf
- Liaising with the Home Office on your behalf
For more information on how we can help you with UK visa and immigration matters, please call +1 844 290 631218 today.
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No. US citizens can visit the UK without a visa for up to six months. Although the UK does not operate a visa waiver program, some designated countries can visit visa-free.
Citizens of the United States and a few other countries do not need a visa to visit the UK. If you live in the United States and are not a US citizen or a citizen of any other designated country, you may be required to obtain a UK tourist visa to visit the UK.
It usually takes three weeks from when you attended your biometrics appointment to when you get a visa decision. It may take longer, depending on the number of visitor visa applications in the pipeline.
The visa application center in the US should be able to give you a more accurate estimate of how long you need to wait. You may be able to pay for priority service (within 5 working days) or super priority visa service (at the end of the next working day).
Each visitor visa category has a different cost. Here is a breakdown of the visa application fee:
|Standard visitor visa||£95 (for up to 6 months)|
|Standard visitor visa for medical reasons||£190|
|Standard Visit visa for academics||£190|
Standard visitor visas that exceed six months are processed at different fees; the 2-year visa costs £361, the 5-year standard visitor visas cost £655, and the 10-year long visitor visas cost £822.
The home office has strict rules around extending a visitor visa. The total length of time that can be approved for a standard visitor visa is six months. If you were given three months, you might be able to apply for a three-month extension for valid reasons.
Academic visitors, those receiving private medical treatment, and PLAB exam applicants are the only foreign nationals allowed to extend their stay in the United Kingdom past six months each time; they must apply for this extension while in the United Kingdom.