You 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.
You should be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen on or after 1 March 2011, you are normally not eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and will need to apply for a US visa.
You should also be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Cuba, you may not be eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and may need to apply for a US visa. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need.
The US Embassy advise that travellers who come under the following categories should not attempt to travel on an ESTA and should instead apply for a visa: those who have been arrested (even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction); those who have a criminal record; those who have been refused admission into, or have been deported from the USA; those who have previously overstayed under an ESTA. Further details are on the US Embassy Website.
If you’re fully vaccinated
Most fully vaccinated foreign citizens can enter the USA. The US authorities will accept any COVID-19 vaccine approved for emergency use by the World Health Organisation or approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These are the AstraZeneca, BIBP/Sinopharm, Covishield, Janssen, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sinovac vaccines. In addition, those who have received the full series of an active (not placebo) COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca or Novavax COVID-19 vaccine trials are considered vaccinated. More details are on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Embassy websites. British nationals planning to travel to the USA should familiarise themselves with the new requirements on the CDC website before booking any travel, especially if you are travelling from China, Hong Kong or Macau as new requirements begin on 5 January 2023.
All current visa holders based in the USA who leave the country and then re-enter will need to follow the vaccine entry requirements unless they have an exception. This includes students on F-1 and M-1 visas and those previously issued with an existing National Interest Exception. Further information is on the US Embassy website.
All air passengers to the USA are also required to provide contact information to their airlines before boarding. You should check with your airline before you travel for more details. Effective from Sunday 12 June 2022 at 00:01 ET (5:01 am BST), the CDC no longer require pre-departure COVID-19 testing for USA-bound air travellers.
Upon arrival, fully vaccinated travellers:
- do not have to quarantine
- are recommended to take a viral test within 3 to 5 days of arrival in the US.
If you have recovered from a documented COVID-19 infection within the past 90 days (regardless of vaccination status):
- you do not need to get a test 3 to 5 days after travel
If you are travelling domestically within the USA, 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.
Proof of vaccination status
The USA will accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record and proof of COVID-19 vaccination issued in the Crown Dependencies. Your final vaccine dose must have been administered at least 14 days prior to travel. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.
The CDC website lists the forms of acceptable proof of COVID-19 status. This also includes the European Union Digital COVID Certificate. Other accepted methods of proof include a printout of a COVID-19 vaccination record or a COVID-19 vaccination certificate issued at national or subnational level or by an authorized vaccine provider. Alternatively, digital photos of a vaccination card or record, a downloaded vaccine record or a vaccination certificate from an official source (e.g. public health agency, government agency, or other authorised vaccine provider), or a mobile phone application without a QR code. All forms of COVID-19 status must have a personal identifier, at a minimum including full name and date of birth, that match the information on a passenger’s passport or other travel documents. It must also include the name of the official source issuing the record and the vaccine manufacturer and date(s) of vaccination.
If you’re not fully vaccinated
Only those with an exception or US Citizens, US Nationals, and US Lawful Permanent Residents will be able to enter the US unvaccinated. More details are on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Embassy websites, which includes a list of exceptions from the vaccination requirements for certain categories of non-citizens and non-immigrants.
If you’ve had COVID-19 in the past year
If you’re not fully vaccinated but have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last year you still cannot enter the USA unless you meet one of the exceptions detailed on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Embassy websites.
Children and young people
Children 17 and under are exempt from the vaccination requirement.
For travel, the US definition of a fully vaccinated child is the same as the definition of a fully vaccinated adult. This is different to the UK. Further details are on the US Embassy website.
After arrival in the US, children 17 and under that are not fully vaccinated may be required to attest that they will take a test 3 to 5 days and will self-isolate should any symptoms develop or if they test positive. A parent or other authorized person should attest on behalf of a passenger 17 and under. More details are on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If a child (17 and under) 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.
From 6 October 2022, all US-bound passengers who have been in Uganda in the 21 days prior to their arrival in the US will be subject to enhanced screening for Ebola. This will take place at one of five designated US airports. Further information can be found here
US Visa appointments
Due to the continuing impact of COVID-19, visa appointments at the US Embassy in London remain limited. Therefore, in making an application, you are strongly advised to plan as far ahead as possible before your date of travel. If you have an urgent need to travel, you can request an expedited interview through the US Embassy’s appointment service provider.
Further information is available on the US Embassy’s website.
If you’re transiting through USA
Those transiting through the USA 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. You must still follow the COVID requirements detailed above. All passengers must follow state and local COVID safety requirements.
Only those with an exception or US Citizens, US Nationals, and US Lawful Permanent Residents will be able to transit the US unvaccinated. More details are on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Embassy websites, which includes a list of exceptions from the vaccination requirements for certain categories of non-citizens and non-immigrants.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
If you are visiting the USA 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.
Check with your travel provider to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
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 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.
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 to the USA from Cuba
It’s possible to travel to the USA after you’ve been to Cuba.
However, you may need to apply for a US visa before travelling to the United States, as you may not be eligible to use an ESTA to travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). If you have any further questions or concerns, contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.