Travel Guide: Visit USA as a UK Citizen

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The United States of America has several strict regulations that visitors to the country must adhere to. However, the citizens of the United Kingdom appear to be exempt from these restrictions. Therefore, as long as you own a British passport, you only need an ESTA for UK citizens to enter the United States of America.

Before now, applying for and getting a UK to USA Visa was a demanding and exhausting process. You may have to spend hours searching for crucial visa requirements for United Kingdom citizens. But the American visa-waiver program has dealt with this issue.

What is ESTA?

The ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) visa waiver permits qualified nationalities to enter the United States by sea or air for business or tourism purposes. The United Kingdom is one of the forty countries involved in the Visa Waiver Program.

British citizens with unrestricted right of permanent residence or abode in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and Wales have been part of this exclusive list since 1988.

But all residents of the United Kingdom who don’t hold the citizenship of any of the countries exempted from US visas, and are also not citizens of Bermuda or Canada, are mandated to obtain a valid visa to travel to the States.

The difference between a US visa and an ESTA

There is a significant difference between a US visa and an ESTA. A US visa holder must file a DS-160, i.e., a more comprehensive application form. The applicant must also attend a crucial interview at a United States embassy or consulate.

Moreover, applicants may have to prepare several additional documents. These documents will help authenticate the applicant’s reasons for traveling to the United States of America.

How UK citizens can apply for an ESTA

UK citizens can apply for an ESTA online at least 72 hours before departure for the United States. The ESTA is the standard requirement that you must present before boarding a sea or air vessel to the States.

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Applicants must present or use an electronic, un-expired passport when applying for the ESTA.

This implies that UK citizens may need to apply for a United States visa without an ESTA, which can be time-consuming.

ESTA requirements for UK citizens

There aren’t too many ESTA requirements for UK citizens. But applicants must possess a full, electronic British citizen passport with a machine-readable section.

Traveling to the States must be for authorized transit, business, or tourist visits. However, the purpose of visiting the United States should not exceed 90 days. The applicant must also arrive in the United States by sea or air.

The Visa Waiver Program cannot be used if the applicant travels to the United States for employment, to study for credit, to work as a journalist, or in film, radio, or any other information media. In addition, it can’t be used by any UK applicant looking to take up permanent residence in the United States.

Temporary residency for UK citizens

Every UK citizen wishing to stay in the United States for over 90 days may be entitled to a non-immigrant visa. This visa allows users to enter the United States, but only on temporary bases.

The non-immigrant visa’s validity varies from three months to ten years. But this depends significantly on the visa the user chooses. Some non-immigrant permits can even be extended beyond the initial validity.

Permanent residency of UK citizens

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The only way this happens is for the UK citizen to become a permanent resident in the United States. The British citizen will require a Green Card which is an immigrant visa.

However, getting a Green Card can take years since the USCIS generally limits several immigrant visa categories per annum. The best way around this is by applying for a non-immigrant visa before requesting an immigrant visa. This shortens the time the applicant will have to spend outside the US.


UK citizens travel to the United States of America for several reasons. But before leaving the UK to travel to the USA, travelers must take note of the several immigration and travel options open only to British citizens.

Thanks to the Visa Waiver Program, applicants won’t require a US visa to visit the USA. But they must apply for travel authorization via the ESTA.

Although intending travelers can apply for ESTA 72 hours before leaving the country by air or sea, it is recommended that they perform the application process almost as soon as they solidify their travel plans.