British citizens in the US
British citizens travel to the United States for a wide variety of reasons and there are a number of travel and immigration options open to UK nationals. Before you leave the United Kingdom to travel to the U.S, you should be aware of how long you can stay in the United States for and whether you need to apply for a visa.
The length of time that a British national can stay in the U.S for depends on whether they hold a U.S visa and the type of visa that they hold. British citizens can stay in the U.S permanently if they hold an immigrant visa or green card, but they can only stay temporarily if they hold a nonimmigrant visa or no visa at all.
No matter which way they have been granted entry into the USA, British citizens cannot overstay their entry irrelevant of whether they hold a British passport or not. Overstaying your permitted entry into the United States can have serious repercussions, including harming your ability to return to the United States again. If you overstay for more than 180 days you will be barred from re-entering the US for 3 years. If you overstay for more than a year then you will be barred from re-entry for 10 years.
The Visa Waiver Program
British citizens can enter the United States and stay for 90 days without needing a visa. This is because the United Kingdom is part of the US Visa Waiver Program. The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens from 39 countries to travel visa-free to the US for business or tourism purposes.
It’s worth noting that although British citizens may not require a US visa under the Visa Waiver Program, you will still need to apply for travel authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). You can submit your ESTA application any time before you travel but it is recommended that you do so as soon as you have made your travel plans. During your ESTA application, you will be required to submit some personal information such as details from your British passport and you will also need to answer a few questions to establish whether you are eligible to travel to the United States visa-free.
Your British passport must also be an e-passport for you to be able to use the Visa Waiver Program and it must be valid for at least 6 months after you plan to leave the US.
If you intend to stay for more than 90 days or do activities outside of business or tourism, then you cannot use the Visa Waiver Program to enter the United States and will instead need to apply for a relevant visa.
Temporary residency for British citizens
British citizens who wish to stay in the US for more than 90 days could be eligible for a nonimmigrant visa. A nonimmigrant visa allows you to enter the US on a temporary basis. The validity of a nonimmigrant visa varies from 3 months all the way up to 10 years, depending on the visa that you choose. Many nonimmigrant permits can also be extended beyond their original validity.
There are many US nonimmigrant visas that can be used to live, work, study or join family members in the USA. The most common nonimmigrant visas include:
- K3 Visa for Spouses of US citizens – valid for two years, can be extended in two-year increments
- K1 Visa for Fiancés of US citizens – valid for up to 90 days
- H1B Visa for specialty workers – valid for 3 years, can be extended up to 6 years
- F1 Visa for students – valid for the duration of your studies
Permanent residency for British citizens
For a British national to be able to stay in the U.S indefinitely, they will need to become a lawful permanent resident of the USA, to do this you must get an immigrant visa, also known as a Green Card. Immigrant visas can be notoriously difficult to get, the USCIS usually puts a cap on the immigrant visa categories every year and this means that the application process can take years.
The application process for nonimmigrant visas is usually much quicker and you can still apply for an immigrant visa whilst in the US on a nonimmigrant visa. For this reason, many British citizens choose to apply for a nonimmigrant visa before their immigrant visa, therefore reducing the amount of time they have to spend outside of the United States.
How can IAS help?
If you want to travel to the United States, our immigration lawyers are here to help. Whether you are seeking entry into the USA to work, study, visit as a tourist or join family members, our team of lawyers that specialise in immigration law will find a suitable immigration route for you.
Before you leave the United Kingdom to travel to America it’s vital that you are aware of how long you are allowed to stay in the country for and that you hold the necessary visa, if relevant to your circumstances. Failure to do these things could result in you breaking immigration rules and could impend on your ability to make another trip to the USA in the future.
Navigating the immigration system in the US, however, can be difficult to do. IAS is a law firm based in the United Kingdom, but our lawyers specialise in international immigration issues. We have a team dedicated to US-related immigration issues who can help you. One of our lawyers can answer any questions you may have about visiting or moving to the United States and can tell you whether you need to get a visa and what types of visas you could be eligible for. Our lawyers also provide assistance will all types of US immigration applications, including for both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. Our services include helping you to fill out any required forms, assisting you with gathering all the necessary documents for your application and liaising with USCIS on your behalf throughout the application process.
For more information about how our lawyers can assist you, contact us today on 0333 305 9375.
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