Holiday Visa for USA from UK – FAQs

If you’re planning to travel to the US for a holiday, you will need to ensure you have secured the relevant permission from US authorities to enter the country.

The main options for British nationals for tourism are visa-free travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), or a tourist (B classification) visa. Eligibility, entry requirements and costs differ depending on which route you proceed with.

We answer some of the most commonly asked questions by British nationals looking to visit the US as tourists.

Am I eligible for visa-free travel to the US?

As a British national with a valid, e-passport you may be able to travel to the US without having to go through the process of applying for a US visa.

That said – while a visa may not be necessary, you will have to undergo security pre-screening. This is done via ESTA – the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation.

If you have a valid US visa, you will not need to apply for ESTA.

To apply for ESTA you will need to complete and submit the online form for every traveller (including children). The information you provide will determine your eligibility for travel under the Visa Waiver Program.

To be eligible, the following must apply:

  • You are a national of a VWP country (such as the UK).
  • You hold a valid e-passport from this country.
  • You are travelling to the US temporary business or pleasure you are travelling through the US to another destination country (transit).
  • Your trip is 90 days or less.

In most cases, decisions are instant, although it is recommended to apply at least 72 hours before your date of departure.

If successful, you’ll be issued a confirmation number which you will need to present at the border along with your passport.

While ESTA approval remains valid for multiple visits to the US, it can be good practice to update the information about your US travel and accommodation arrangements in advance of each trip to avoid delays at border control due to additional questions or information requests.

Is the UK one of the US Visa Waiver countries?

Yes, the UK is one of the countries participating in the US Visa Waiver country.

This means British nationals, ie those with a valid British passport, can apply for ESTA to evidence they satisfy all of the requirements.

How much does ESTA application cost?

The ESTA application costs $14 per applicant. If your application is rejected, you will receive a partial refund of $10.

I have a criminal record – can I travel to the US?

Your options here will depend on your specific circumstances, the nature of the offense and the punishment you received.

Those offences considered less serious for example may not in themselves preclude you from travel to the US, whereas crimes involving moral turpitude will generally render you inadmissible.

Where you do have a record of criminal activity, you would need to submit a waiver of inadmissibility. This would be presented to an embassy officer together with your visa application to request entry into the US where you are otherwise deemed inadmissible by reason of your criminal record.

In all cases, full disclosure to the US immigration authorities is mandatory. Failure to declare an offense, regardless of when and where in the world it took place, would be considered visa fraud and could result in entry refusal to the US, and impact your future US visa applications.

Even where a visa waiver is granted, you may still face additional questioning and scrutiny at the border when attempting to enter the US, under Customs and Border Protection officials’ discretionary powers.

I’m not eligible for ESTA – can I apply for a visa?

If you are not eligible for ESTA travel, you will need to apply for a US visa.

If you are a national of a non-Visa Waiver country, a B-2 visa will be needed to vacation in the US. You would apply using form DS-160, and providing the required supporting documents and attending a visa interview at a US consular post or Embassy in the country where you are making your application.

If however you are ineligible for ESTA travel by reason of having a criminal record, it’s likely you would need to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility to accompany your visa application.

This is a highly complex area of US immigration and you are advised to take professional legal advice on your circumstances to ensure you are following the required process and providing all relevant information and documentation.

This will depend on the grounds for your ineligibility. If you are ineligible for ESTA on grounds of inadmissibility, such as having a criminal record,

How much does a US tourist visa cost?

To apply for a B visa, you will need to pay the MRV visa application fee at the time of filing your application. At the current rate this is $160.

US visa fees are subject to change and it is recommended to check the prevailing rate at the time of making your application.

I’m planning to carry out some business-related activity while I’m in the US – is that allowed?

The VWP permits tourism as well as some business-related activities, but not carrying out gainful employment.

The B-1 business visa will cover you if you are travelling to the United States to temporarily engage in business activities, such as attending a conference or seminar, or other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature. The B-1 visa will not allow for gainful employment or productive activity such as operating a business.

If you are looking to combine business and tourism while in the US, you should look at the B1/B2 visa. At your visa interview, you should expect to be questioned about your plans and you will need to detail both business and leisure aspects. Note that if you secure a B2 visa on the basis of vacationing in the US with no intention to carry out business-related activity, you would be in breach of your visa conditions if you do during your stay carry out such activity, for exmaple, attending a business conference. It’s a matter of thinking ahead and ensuring your application covers your full planned activity.

Beware Border Control!

While ESTA approval or a visa will permit you to trval to the US, gaining entry will remain subject to the discretion of the border officials. You may be required to answer further questions relating to your circumstances and plans while in the US in order to be granted entry.

NNU Immigration can help with any questions about applying for a US visa.

Travel restrictions affecting VWP travelers have become more stringent in recent years, and it will be important to confirm your eligibility, and ensure ESTA authorization is in place before you travel to the US.

NNU Immigration can advise on all aspects of the VWP, specifically in relation to eligibility, applications, notification of personal changes.

We can also provide specialist advice on the nonimmigrant visa options available to you where the VWP is not available or appropriate for your circumstances.

If you have questions on the Visa Waiver Program, please contact one of our attorneys at or +44 0208 004 3492.

Recent Articles & Videos