Do you need a visa to travel to New York? If you are British, then the answer to this question is NO.
But that’s only if you meet certain conditions. Indeed, depending on your situation, you will either have to ask for an authorization to enter the U.S. territory (an ESTA) or get a visa for New York.
I am often asked this question on the blog, so I created an article to let you know all the formalities that apply to you. After this, all you will have to do is pack your bags for the Big Apple 😊
By then, if you still don't know what to visit in New York, I have a full article on the subject for you!
A visa is not required for you to travel to New York
If you fall into one of the two categories below, you do not need a visa to travel to New York.
- You are a citizen of a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program
The countries that are part of this program are the following: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Taiwan.
This program aims to simplify entry procedures to the United States for short stays and to better protect its borders (to secure its borders, the country wishes to keep a list of people entering and leaving). Since the United Kingdom is part of the Visa Waiver program, you will not need a visa for New York.
- You intend to stay in New York for less than 90 days
Your trip of less than 90 days must be for tourism or work purposes (conferences, trade shows, business meetings...).
However, you must fill out an ESTA application
If you have a valid British passport and you wish to visit New York for a short stay (for tourism or business), you will not need a visa.
However, before leaving, you must apply for a travel authorization: ESTA
What is ESTA ?
ESTA is an electronic authorization to enter the United States. “ESTA” stands for "Electronic System for Travel Authorization".
Since January 12, 2009, this authorization is required for anyone – living in a country that has signed the Visa Waiver Program – travelling to the United States.
Where to apply ?
The ESTA is a simplified and quick application that you must request from the American government.
No need to stress! Everything can easily be done online before you leave for New York (at least 72 hours before!).
The form to fill out can be found by clicking on the following link: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/. This is the official link
Be careful, there are many sites that offer their services in the context of an ESTA application. Unfortunately, most of them are fraudulent, so make sure you are on the official US government website.
Here's how it works: click on "New Application", accept the legal terms and conditions and start filling out the form. You'll need to provide personal data, your NY contact information, answer eligibility questions (often personal and a bit shocking). Then, you will have to waive your rights. Review your answers and confirm. You will be given more verification questions before finally paying for your ESTA ($14 or £11, I explain more about this a bit below), by either credit card or PayPal.
Usually the ESTA will arrive within a few seconds. Feel free to print it.
How to know the answer?
If the authorization is late in coming, you can check the status of your application directly on the official website. The three possible status are:
- "Approved Authorization": you are authorised to travel to the United States. You will receive a payment receipt indicating the amount of your payment ($14 or £11).
- “Unauthorised Travel": you are not authorised to travel to the United States, but you can apply for a visa. You will receive a payment notification of $14.
- "Authorization Pending". Your travel authorization is under review. Check again a little later.
When to apply for an ESTA?
Even though you can apply for an ESTA up to 72 hours before your departure, I strongly advise you not to wait until the last minute! If you can, do it one to two months in advance.
Don't do it too early either. This way you won't lose months of validity that could be useful should you wish to do a second stay in New York soon after the first (mainly for work purposes).
IS THE ESTA APPLICATION FREE?
The ESTA authorization is free, but the application process isn’t. It costs $14 (approximately £10.50) per person, regardless of age or status, to register and process your demand (service fee). The online payment is secure.
If your ESTA application is approved, you will be charged an additional $10 (£7.50). But if your electronic travel authorization is denied, you will only be charged for the processing of your application.
Please note that any future ESTA applications will be subjected to the same fee.
What is the validity period of the ESTA?
The ESTA is valid for two years from the date of acceptance. Therefore, if you wish to travel to the U.S. again within that 2-year period, you will not have to reapply 😊
The ESTA allows you to travel as many times as you want.
One exception: if your passport expires before the 2 years are up, your ESTA application expires as well. In that case, you will need to reapply.
And once in New-York ?
This travel authorization does not guarantee admission to the United States! Once you arrive in New York, a Customs and Border Protection officer will check your ESTA through your passport. The final decision is up to him or her: whether or not to allow you to enter the country.
If you have travelled to the United States before, you may be able to access automated checkpoints. They are a real time-saver at the airport!
IN SOME CASES, YOU WILL NEED TO APPLY FOR A VISA FOR NEW YORK
Here again, a Visa alone will not guarantee you entry into the United States! It only allows you to present yourself at a U.S. port of entry and request, at that time, permission to enter the United States. Only the U.S. immigration officer who will greet you upon your arrival in New York will allow you to stay or not.
In which case should I apply for a visa for New-York?
You must apply for a visa to travel to New York:
- If you intend to stay in the United States for more than 90 days. In this case, it is essential; no matter the reasons for your stay!
- When your ESTA application has been denied
- When you have dual nationality: that is, you have a British passport, but your second passport is from a country considered to be at risk, namely: Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Syria.
- Only persons who have been in one of these countries since March 1st 2011 are concerned. People working for an organisation on an official mission, a humanitarian NGO or as a journalist are not concerned.
Note that you must provide proof that you do not intend to settle permanently in the United States and that you intend to return to the UK. For example: your marriage certificate, an ownership title, an employment contract...
WHAT ARE THE STEPS TO TAKE TO OBTAIN A VISA?
You must apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in the UK OR at the U.S. Consulate closest to your home. When you apply for your visa, you will need to know precisely when you are going to New York.
U.S Embassy of the United States in the UK
33 Nine Elms Lane
London, SW11 7US
☎ (0)20 7499-9000
Here is the list of U.S. consulates in the UK:
223 Stranmillis Road
Belfast BT9 5GR
☎ (0)28 9038 6100
(not for visa information)
U.S. Consulate Edinburgh,
3 Regent Terrace
☎  (0)131 556 8315
16 Middle Road,
Devonshire, DV 03, Bermuda
☎  (0)1 295 1342
Please note that before applying for a visa, you will need to fill out an application form: the "DS-160 / Non-Immigrant VISA" from the US government. It will then be sent directly to the consular services of the Embassy.
You can access the form here: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/ . It will take you a little time to complete (about 1 hour). Before you start, make sure you have gathered the required documents.
Here is the procedure to follow:
- Select your country of residence.
- Enter the code / captcha and click on "Start an application".
- On the next page, accept the terms and conditions and start filling out the form. The information you provide includes your identity, address and phone number, professional background, passport, family, local contacts, your stay in New York, and the people who will accompany you...
- Answer all the questions and check your answers.
- Upload your photo.
- Send the form.
The website is in English, so you don’t have to worry about that. But if you want to change the language of the site, you can see the translation of the text by clicking on your prefered language in the top right corner. Then, simply hover your cursor over the words and you will see the translation of the words appear 😉
After submitting your application, you will receive instructions on the next steps such as scheduling your interview with the embassy or consulate.
You will be able to do this here: https://ais.usvisa-info.com/ (you can choose your language and nationality). Note that you will need to register on this site.
On the day of the interview, depending on the visa you are applying for, you will need to bring a number of documents with you: work contract, pay slips, bank account details, ownership titles. Don't forget your passport, the copy confirming that you have sent your application form, your proof of payment of the Visa fees....
You can check the status of your visa application directly on the website.
Processing times vary, but you can receive your visa quickly (within a week of your interview). However, I advise you not to take your plane ticket until you get your visa – just in case!
If you can, apply for your visa at least two months before you leave for New York.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR VISA APPLICATION IS DENIED?
You will receive a letter that explains why your visa was denied.
- If the reason for denial is "214(b)": you cannot enter the United States at this time. You will be able to reapply, but this means you will have to start the process from the beginning.
- If the reason for denial is "221(g)": You can continue your application, but you will need to follow additional instructions.
For more information, click here.
WHAT TYPE OF VISA SHOULD I APPLY FOR?
Please note that there are several types of visas. The one you apply for will depend on your situation/status or the purpose of your stay: tourism, business, exchange program, study, temporary employment, investors... Make sure you choose the right category!
Don't forget: fill out the visa application form (DS-160) first!
Here are some examples of visas:
- The Work Visa (H, L and Q visas)
This is the visa you should apply for if you have found a job in the USA. This visa is highly coveted, but only 65,000 are granted each year.
The H1B visa is the most interesting visa because it allows you to work temporarily in the USA for up to 3 years (and it is renewable for up to 6 years). This visa is for qualified employees or those with special skills (computer experts, engineers, health professionals, researchers...),
Your employer must first request Labor Condition Application approval from the Department of Labor and then file a petition with the U.S. Immigration Services (the cost of this application is approximately $500 or £375). Then, you will need to provide a copy of the degree required for the job, evidence of your specific abilities to perform the job, and provide supporting documents including a copy of your signed employment contract.
It will take two to three months to receive a response. If the answer from the American Immigration Services is positive, the company will send you a form to fill out. You will then have to make an appointment with the embassy.
- The "student" visa (F or M visa)
This is the visa that you must apply for if you want to study in New York. Please note that you must provide proof that you will be able to support yourself in NY.
Note that the F visa (for general studies) allows you to work up to 20 hours/week, but not the M visa (for professional studies), except in the case of an internship.
- The "Business" visa (B1 visa)
This visa is for business travel: prospecting, negotiations, investments, conferences/meetings/seminars, exhibitions ....
- The tourist or medical visa (B-2)
This visa is for tourist trips, visits to relatives and stays for medical reasons.
You can combine the two visas B1 and B2!
- “Athlete" visa (P visa)
This visa is for athletes who have an international reputation. You must provide proof of your skills in a specific field, participation in a competition or a contract signed with an American league.
- The "artist" visa (O visa)
This visa is for people who have special skills in the arts and are travelling to the United States to participate in a cultural program or competition.
Other types of visas are:
- The "au pair" visa (J visa)
- The "exchange, training or internship" visa (J visa)
- The “journalist" visa (I visa)
- The "investors" visa (E visa)
- The “Diplomatic" or "Official" visa (A, C3, G or NATO visa)
- The "domestic employee" visa (B1, A3, G5 and NATO-7 visas)
- The transit visa (C visa)
HOW MUCH DOES A VISA COST?
All applicants are required to pay a visa application fee. These fees vary depending on the type of visa: from $160 to $265 (or £122 to £203).
160 USD (£120)
265 USD (£200)
B, C, D, F, M, I, J, TD/TN, T, U
H, OP, Q, R L
E1, E2, E3
To see the categories and types of visas, scroll down a bit to refer to the different letters.
The payment is made by credit card on the official website at the time of the request, therefore before the delivery. These fees are not refunded in case of refusal of the visa and they are valid only for one application.
Please note that additional fees may apply for some applicants:
- "SEVIS Fee" for a "Student Visa" (H or F) or "Exchange Visitor" (J) application,
- “Reciprocal Fees": when a foreign government imposes fees on U.S. citizens for certain types of visas, the U.S. imposes reciprocal fees on citizens of that country. The UK does not charge a reciprocal fee with the United States.
If the visa is accepted, it will be affixed to your passport.
Please note that:
Since November 8, 2021, tourists and business travellers are once again welcome in the United States: the entry ban that was introduced by the former President Trump, more than a year and a half ago due to the coronavirus, has been lifted.
Note that to travel to the United States, you must also:
- Have a complete vaccination certificate (including two doses, the last one having been done at least 2 weeks before your departure), as well as a test certificate attesting that you have really been vaccinated;
- Have a biometric or electronic passport (since April 1, 2016);
- Hold a passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the intended period of stay (it must also have one or two blank pages to affix the Visa or ESTA and entry stamps);
- Present a round-trip ticket (by air or sea);
- Show proof of creditworthiness during your stay in New York (credit card, traveller's checks, etc.).
The different visas for the United States
These letters refer to the table above regarding the cost of the different visas.
(C) : Transit to the United States
(D) : Crew members
(F) : University students
(M) : Non-university students or professionals
(I) : Media or journalists
(J): Exchange Visitor
(TD/TN): NAFTA Professional
(T): Victims of human trafficking
(U): Victim of criminal activity
(H): Temporary Worker or Trainee
(O): People with extraordinary abilities
(P) : Athletes, Artists and Performers
(Q) : International Cultural Exchange Visitor
(R) : Religious worker
(L) : Professional transfer
(E1) : Treaty Trader (worker from a partner country)
(E2) : Treaty Investor (Investor from a partner country)
(E3) : Australian Specialty Worker
(K) : Fiancé or spouse of a US citizen