Do I need a passport or visa to enter?
While some countries impose minimum passport validity for arriving passengers, there is no such requirement for the United Kingdom. U.S. citizens seeking entry as tourists or visitors are required to present a valid passport. U.S. citizens traveling to the UK for purposes other than tourism should refer to the UK Border Agency website to verify if a visa or entry clearance certificate is required for entry. U.S. citizens traveling from the UK to other countries, or changing planes in the UK en route to onward destinations, should check the passport and visa requirements of any onward destinations prior to entering the UK. The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has a five-tier, point-based visa system that affects U.S. citizens coming to the United Kingdom as well as U.S. citizens and family members already in the country. You can find information on the point-based system on the UKBA website. You must be outside the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man when you apply for a UK visa.
Companies and individuals intending to employ U.S. citizens, or other nationals from countries beyond the European Economic Area and Switzerland, are required to apply to the UKBA for a sponsorship license. Information on the sponsorship license can be found on the UKBA website.
Educational organizations must also apply for a sponsorship license from the UKBA. This includes U.S. educational institutions offering only short-term study abroad programs on their own premises in the United Kingdom to students who are enrolled in the United States but come to the United Kingdom for one or two semesters prior to returning home to finish their degrees. Information on the license for educational institutions also can be found on the UKBA website.
Students and prospective students who intend to stay longer than six months, and those coming for less than six months but who wish to work while studying, are required to obtain a student or prospective student visa before traveling to the United Kingdom. If you do not, you will be refused entry to the United Kingdom. You can find information on student visas on the UKBA website. Students may apply online.
Please note that charity workers, religious workers, and other temporary workers -- even those performing unpaid duties -- are required to obtain a visa prior to traveling to the United Kingdom. You can find information on temporary workers on the UKBA website.
It is your personal responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate permission to enter the United Kingdom. We cannot intervene on your behalf when applying for a visa, nor can we obtain one for you at the airport. We cannot assist if you are denied entry into the United Kingdom and returned on a flight to the United States. The UKBA website will help you find out whether you need a visa to enter the United Kingdom.
Effective November 1, 2011, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) now requires any visitor or resident without recourse to public funds to clear any National Health Service (NHS) charges before being admitted back into the UK. The threshold for defaulters is £1,000 (approximately $1,600). Anyone who has not paid their outstanding NHS debts will be refused entry or the issuance of a visa until the charges are settled. Visit the UKBA website for more details. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the UK. Anyone who does not appear to be in good health may be required to undergo a medical exam (including an HIV test) prior to being granted or denied entry into the United Kingdom.