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Only citizens of Canada, Bermuda and Mexico are allowed to travel to the US without a visa – under certain circumstances. Citizens of every other country will need to apply for either an ESTA or a visa in order to pass through customs.

For UK Citizens

  • UK citizens generally do not need a visa and are able to travel to the US by applying online for an ESTA – Electronic System for Travel Authorisation. You can apply for this online by clicking HERE. This is a possible option for all countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Programme, or 'VWP', but the nationals of these countries must meet eligibility requirements to travel without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program. Therefore, it is recommended that you apply or check your eligibility for applying for an ESTA before you travel so that you are aware of any problems and know whether you will need to apply for a visa instead.
  • You can check whether you are eligible to apply for a visa HERE
  • For a full list of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Programme, please click HERE
  • The ESTA only allows you to stay in the USA for 90 days, and you will not be allowed to work there in any way or study while there. To do this you will need a specialist visa – for more information please click HERE.
  • Travellers using the VWP who are also planning a short trip to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island will usually face no problem being readmitted into the United States, within a 90 day period.

Reasons for Applying for a Visa

You must apply for a visa if you:

  • Want to remain in the United States for longer than 90 days, or envision that you may wish to change your status (from tourism to student, etc.) once in the United States;
  • Want to work or study in the United States, travel as a working foreign media representative, come to the United States for other purposes not allowed on a visitor visa, or intend to immigrate to the United States;
  • Are a national of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Republic of Korea, or the Slovak Republic AND DO NOT HAVE an electronic passport with an integrated chip;
  • Are a national of one of the VWP countries not listed above AND DO NOT have a machine-readable passport (MRP) (depending on the date the MRP was issued, renewed, or extended, it may also need to contain a digital photograph or an integrated electronic chip);
  • Intends to travel by private aircraft or other non-VWP approved air or sea carriers to the United States. Click here to see the approved carriers list;
  • Has a criminal record or other condition making them ineligible for a visa (see Classes of Aliens Ineligible for Visas).
  • Has been refused admission to the United States before, or did not comply with the conditions of previous VWP admissions (90 days or less stay for tourism or business, etc.).

Other Information

Please note that if you have children and would like to take them with you to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program then they MUST each travel with their own passport, no matter their age. 
Recent changes in U.S. laws governing visa policy and procedures have increased the amount of time it can take to obtain a visa.  Apply early!  Even with the visa processing improvements that have been made and will continue to be made, it is inevitable that delays will sometimes occur.  Processing times will vary.

The information on this page is supplied by the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office. If you do not live in the UK please check with the relevant office in your country of residence for this information.