UK immigration rules. I am a US citizen. Do I need a visa for the UK?

Remember, immigration law is complex and subject to continuous change. The information provided here may be out of date, or just based on personal experience/knowledge. The use of these pages is therefore entirely at your own risk. Before applying for any type of visas, you should always seek information from the authorities direct via their official websites. You will find some useful website details on our Links page.

I am a US citizen. Do I need a visa for the UK?

The main rule is that all non-European nationals must obtain a visa before they travel to the UK, if they want to come here for more than 6 months.

Short visits

US citizens do not require a visa if they wish to come to the UK for short visits (less than 6 months). There are, however, exceptions:

– if you come to visit in order to marry or to register a civil partnership you will require a visa

– if, during your visit, you wish to take paid employment or produce goods or services in the UK (you will need to obtain a visa under a category in the Working in the UK section on the UKBA website)

Studies

If you are a US citizen and want to study in the UK for more than 6 months, and/or you want to work while you are here, you must obtain a visa before you travel to the UK. You must apply for a visa under Tier 4 of the points-based system (or as a student visitor if you will be studying an English Language course for between 6 and 11 months). The Studying in the UK section on the UKBA website contains more information.

You do not need a student visa if you will be coming to the UK to:

  • study a course lasting up to 6 months (but please note that you cannot work in the UK – this also means that you cannot do any work placements/internships that might be part of your course. If work is part of your course, you will need to obtain a visa even though the course is less than 6 months);
  • receive specific, one-off training (but not on-the job training) provided by your employer or its UK branch, in techniques and work practices used in the UK; or
  • take the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test as an overseas qualified doctor.

Work

Generally, as a US citizen, you must obtain a visa before you can come to the UK to work or do business. You must apply in one of the following categories:

  • Tier 1 of the points-based system – for investors, entrepreneurs, exceptionally talented people and recent graduates of UK universities
  • Tier 2 of the points-based system – for skilled workers who have been offered a permanent job
  • Tier 5 of the points-based system – for temporary workers with a job offer, and participants in the Youth mobility scheme
  • domestic worker in a private household
  • representative of an overseas business

The Working in the UK section on the UKBA website contains more information.

You can also come to the UK as a prospective entrepreneur for up to 6 months, but you will need a visa. The Visiting in the UK section on the UKBA website contains more information.

However, you do not need a visa to come here for up to 3 months as a sportsperson or a creative worker under Tier 5 (Temporary worker – creative and sporting). The Tier 5 section on the UKBA website contains more information, and lists the documents that you must show our immigration officers when you arrive at the UK border.

Also, you do not need a visa to come here for up to 6 months as:

  • a business visitor (please check the Visiting the UK section on the UKBA website for more information of what you can and cannot do as a business visitor)
  • an academic visitor
  • a sports visitor
  • an entertainer visitor

The Visiting in the UK section contains information to help you decide whether you can come to the UK in any of these visitor categories. It also lists the types of document that you may want to bring with you to show our immigration officers when you arrive at the UK border.

Join your family

If you are a US citizen and wish to come to the UK to live with your family, you must obtain a visa.

If your family member is a UK citizen or is settled in the UK, the Family of settled persons section on the UKBA website and the “Settle” page of our website explain which visa you need for a long (or permanent) stay in the UK.

If your family member has temporary permission to stay in the UK (also known as ‘leave to remain’) as a worker or student: the Family of migrant workers and students section on the UKBA website explains which visa you need for a long stay.

If your family member is a national of a country in the European Economic Area or Switzerland, you must obtain an EEA family permit before you can come to live with the EEA national in the UK.

Transit

US citizens do not require visas to transit the UK en route to another destination.

The text above is an adaptation of the contents on the UKBA website as at 12 August 2012. Since immigration regulations are subject to change, please visit the UKBA website for up to date information.

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