Applying for a US Visa from London
Making a US visa application at the US Embassy in London
Most British passport holders can visit the US for up to 90 days for tourism or business-related purposes under the US Visa Waiver Program. The VWP allows citizens of 38 countries (including the UK) to enter the US without a visa.
UK residents who do not hold citizenship of a country eligible under the VWP and who are not citizens of Canada or Bermuda, are required to obtain a visa to travel to the United States.
To travel visa-free, you will first need to apply online for ESTA travel authorization.
If you are refused ESTA authorization, or are otherwise ineligible for visa-free travel because:
- you are a national of a country which is not covered by the VWP;
- you have a criminal conviction for certain offences;
- you have violated US immigration law; or
- you have previously been refused entry into the US
to travel to the US for a short-term stay, you will need to apply for a B visa.
Choosing a US visa
UK residents travelling to the US for reasons other than tourism or business-related activities, or for a period of more than 90 days, or who are otherwise ineligible for ESTA authorization, will need to apply to the UK Embassy in London for the relevant US visa.
The US immigration system provides a number of visas depending on your reason for travel to the US. These includes temporary and permanent visas, and are generally based on entry by reason of work or employment, education or training, or family life.
Common visas include the B visitor visa and the spouse-based immigrant visa, which permits US citizens to sponsor their spouse to move back to the US with them.
US citizen spouse who have been living in the UK under a British visa or with a British or European passport can be at a significant processing advantage. Processing time to obtain the spouse visa is generally reduced to around 3-4 months since the application can begin at the USCIS field office in the US Embassy in London
The US Embassy in London also handles applications for renunciation of US citizenship.
Making your US visa application in London
Once you have identified the relevant visa category, you can proceed with the application process. This will generally involve:
- Gathering the supporting documents and information
- Completing the relevant application form and filing it at the US Consulate in your country of residence (US Embassy in London or Belfast for UK residents)
- Paying the relevant application fee(s)
- Attending the visa interview at the US Embassy in London, if you are between the ages of 14 and 79
- Decision – visa granted, further information requested or visa denied
US visa interview at the Embassy in London
An important stage in the visa application process is the visa interview. If you filed your application at the Embassy in London, you will need to attend an interview there.
Schedule around 3 hours for the visit as a whole. Visitor visa interviews generally last around 20 minutes, where the application is straightforward and the applicant is well prepared. While at the Embassy, you will also have your biometric data taken.
During the interview, you will be asked to explain the purpose of the proposed trip to the USA and answer questions on your application, the information you have already provided and many be asked to present documents to evidence your application. Being prepared is essential – it takes the pressure off, and improves your prospects of the visa being granted promptly.
B visitor visa applicants will need to evidence their intention to leave the US at the end of their trip. Proof of your ties to your country of residence could include recent mortgage statements, details of your continued employment in the UK. You will also need to prove you have access to sufficient funds to maintain you during the trip.
It will be at the adjudicator’s discretion. If you are unable to answer a question or provide evidence on a specific point during the interview, the adjudicator may request that you submit the outstanding information following the interview. This will delay visa processing.
Visa processing times can vary. A decision may be given straightaway, and you can submit your passport at the end of your interview to be stamped and the visa issued, or may take a few working days. Some visas or applications take considerably longer, up to 6 months, due to the complexity of the case.
Refused US visa application?
If your application is refused, you will lose your application fee(s).
Take professional advice to understand why you were denied, starting a new application will necessitate addressing the issues that failed your initial application. It may be that an alternative visa or immigration route is more appropriate for your circumstances, needs and eligibility.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.