|If you are a British citizen and you want to visit the USA for less than 90
days as a visitor then you do not need a visa. You can enter under a visa waiver
scheme. You will however be both photographed and fingerprinted. Whatever you
do DON'T exceed this period because it will be ten times harder to get in next
Over 90 days then you need a visitor's visa. This is currently valid for
ten years and will entitle you to attempt to enter the USA any number of times.
It does NOT mean you will be granted permission to enter on the day. The visa is
issued by the State Department. Permission to enter at the point of arrival is granted by the
Immigration Service which is now part of Homeland Security and NOT connected to
the State Department. The Immigration Service will NOT usually grant you
permission to remain in the USA more than six months at a time. In fact I don't
believe that they are allowed to. I've enquired about extending this period and
been advised that they cannot do it at the border entry points and ports.
In England you have to apply to the US embassy for a B2 (holiday) visa. To get the forms
(DS-156) you have to go on the internet http://www.usembassy.org.uk/cons_web/visa/visaindex.htm. If you are between the ages of 16 and 65 you
will also have to attend at the embassy in person for an interview (U.S. Embassy,
5 Upper Grosvenor Street, London, W1A 2JB). In order to
book an appointment, you have to ring a premium rate phone number 09055-444-5460
(calls cost £1.30/min). You will be
given a date and time normally about three weeks hence. What they don't tell you
is that about 200 people are given the same time as you are. We were given a
time of 1100hrs and told not to arrive more than 30 mins before. On arrival we
joined a queue around two sides of the building which (in April 2004) was surrounded by concrete
blocks, high fences, barbed wire, cameras, dogs, American security personnel
with guns etc. We didn't get to the
airport type security barrier at the front of the building until after 1230hrs.
This entitled us to join another queue inside the building to get a numbered ticket for
an appointment. That took another hour plus. Then we waited for our number to be
called, along with about 400 others in a room with seating for about 150. There are
toilets but no drinks or food.
We were eventually seen about at 1500hrs. The questions were basically
about the American authorities being assured that we didn't want to stay in the
US ie did we have good reasons to return to the UK.
Family in the UK and none in the US helps. But how do you prove you own a house
when you have paid off the mortgage, without paying to get the deeds out of
storage? It was quite hard not to comment that it
was probably the last place apart from sub-Saharan Africa that we would want to
live! The interview lasted only about five minutes but it was reiterated that we
would not be allowed to stay for the year we wanted but only for six months.
Costs for the two of us for this process:
Phone call £4 - The first minute
and a half is a recorded announcement.
Visa Fee £65 each (must be paid at
a bank using the supplied paying in slip BEFORE you go to the embassy)
Photographs £4 There are nonsense specifications
(which cannot be met by normal shaped people) and lead you to believe that
ordinary passport photos will not do. In fact they are perfectly acceptable. But
don't try to use a home printed digital photograph. The pictures are good enough
but the printing is not. They will be rejected because they won't scan properly.
Return Postage £10 must be paid at the embassy in cash (no
credit cards) for a recorded delivery envelope in which they return your
Travel to London £250 for us - including an overnight stay
In contrast on the other side of the square is the Canadian embassy where we
found a charming young bilingual receptionist unprotected by all the
paraphenalia seen earlier. She didn't really understand our question about what
we needed to stay in Canada since we can visit Canada for six months without a visa at
all (as British citizens).