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Travel to US without visa [Read More]

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Entry requirements

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in the USA set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Entry to USA

It is not possible for most British nationals to enter the USA if they have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil, China, South Africa or India within the previous 14 days. Those arriving from outside these areas will need to get a visa or an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) visa waiver to enter or transit the USA as a visitor. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need.

US citizens and permanent residents of the USA, certain specified close family members and certain other limited categories of visas holders (such as UN staff and diplomats) are exempt. They will still be able to enter the USA, subject to normal entry requirements. Further details are on the US Embassy Website.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all air passengers arriving to the US from a foreign country get a COVID test no more than 3 days before their flight departs and present a negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight. If you are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine or a vaccine authorised for emergency use by the World Health Organisation, you should also get a viral test 3 to 5 days after travel. Unvaccinated people should get tested with a viral test 3 to 5 days after travel and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel. Those who have recovered from a documented COVID-19 infection within the last 3 months, should follow all requirements and recommendations for fully vaccinated travellers, except you are not required to get a test 3 to 5 days after travel unless you are symptomatic. In addition, everyone should follow all state and local guidelines. More details are on the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention website.

On 21 January 2021 President Biden signed an Executive Order requiring masks to be worn on aircraft, trains, buses and at airports.

Quarantine requirements

For international arrivals, the CDC requires that unvaccinated passengers are tested within 3 to 5 days after travel and self-quarantine for 7 days after travel. Passengers fully vaccinated with an FDA or WHO-approved vaccine do not have to quarantine but need to take a viral test within 3 to 5 days of arrival. If you are travelling domestically within the US, individual states and territories may have their own quarantine requirements. A full list of local quarantine requirements is available on the CDC website. You should check the list frequently as it is likely to change, sometimes daily, as rates of COVID-19 transmission increase or decrease.

Demonstrating your COVID-19 vaccination status

The USA has not yet confirmed that it will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record. You should follow the entry rules for unvaccinated people. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination.

Entry for Green Card and Current Visa Holders

New and renewed Green Cards (a Permanent Resident Card) are not currently being issued. However, existing Green Cards remain valid, although individuals who have been away from the USA for a substantial period of time should check their validity with their nearest US Embassy or Consulate before traveling. Further details are on the US Citizens and Immigration Services website.

Those with existing visas remain valid as long as the holders are in the USA. All current visa holders based in the USA wishing to travel to the UK or any other country covered by the Presidential Proclamation are strongly advised to check before they travel as to whether they would need an exception to re-enter the USA. The US authorities only consider applications for these once you have left the USA, so applying before travel is not possible.

Students travelling from the UK (and the Schengen Area and Ireland) with valid F-1 and M-1 visas, do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel.

New Visas and Humanitarian Exceptions

The US authorities are only providing emergency and mission-critical visa services at present and visa appointments remain limited. Due to the impact of COVID-19, their visa services and travel restrictions may change rapidly. If you have an urgent need to travel, you can contact the US Embassy to ascertain if you might qualify for an economic interest, humanitarian, or other exception. However, the criteria for these exceptions are very strict and you should be ready to provide as much information as possible to support your application if you apply for one. Should you not meet the current criteria for an exception, existing appointments for non-urgent non-immigrant visas may be cancelled at short notice. You should continue to check the US Embassy website for any changes.

Further information is available on the US Embassy’s website.

Transiting USA

You cannot enter or transit the USA if you have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil, China, or South Africa within the previous 14 days. For further information, please check the advice from US Customs and Border Protection website. Those transiting to the USA from outside these areas will need to get a visa or an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) visa waiver. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need. US citizens and permanent residents of the USA, certain specified close family members and certain other limited categories of visa holders (such as UN staff and diplomats) are exempt. They will still be able to enter the USA, subject to normal entry requirements.

All passengers transiting the USA by air are asked that they take a COVID test 1-3 days before travelling. All passengers must follow state and local COVID safety requirements, including mask wearing and social distancing.

For further information, please refer to the US Government’s travel page.

Regular entry requirements

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. You don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.

Global entry

The US Customs and Border Protection programme Global Entry gets pre-approved travellers through border control faster at some US airports. If you’re a British citizen you can now register to get a UK background check on GOV.UK. If you pass the background checks, you’ll be invited to apply for Global Entry.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) aren’t valid for entry into the USA or transit through the USA on an ESTA. If you’re planning to enter or transit through the USA using an ETD, you must apply for a visa from the nearest US embassy or consulate before you travel, which may take a number of days, or hold a valid lawful permanent resident card (often referred to as a ‘green card’), which you must have with you on arrival.

UK ETDs issued in the USA are valid for exit from the USA.

Bringing medicines into the USA

There are restrictions and prohibitions on the import of certain prescription drugs into the US. The USA Food and Drug Administration website contains further information and advice on bringing medicines into the USA.

Travelling with children

If a child (under the age of 18) is travelling with only one parent or someone who isn’t a parent or legal guardian, you may be asked to provide certain documents at the border. For further information, see the US Customs and Border Protection website.

Travelling to the USA from Cuba

It’s possible to travel to the USA after you’ve been to Cuba. However, you may wish to take supporting documents about the purpose of your trip to Cuba in case you’re questioned by US immigration officials at the port of entry on arrival in the USA. If you have any further questions or concerns, contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.

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