Visiting the United States as a Tourist

Grand Canyon

We get many questions relating to tourist travel to the United States.  Below is our collection of FAQs and links which we hope are of use:

 

Do I need a Tourist Visa?

Currently, many British citizens traveling on a valid, individual machine readable or e-passport, with a return or onward ticket, and who are staying for less than 90 days, qualify for the Visa Waiver Program and can travel visa-free with only an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

There are conditions, so please review the information concerning visa free travel on our Visa Waiver Program eligibility page and about Criminal Records & Ineligibilties.

Official Travel Information

See the Transportation Security Administration’s TSA For Travelers (www.TSA.gov)

General information for visitors to the U.S.A. is as follows:

Travellers wishing to inform themselves about TSA programs and methods will find this on our TSA page. Some generic information is below:

  • Secure Flight
    Under the Secure Flight program, TSA prescreens required passenger data, full name, date of birth, gender, and Redress Number (if available), against government watch lists for international and domestic flights into, out of, within, and over the United States.  In addition to facilitating secure travel for all passengers, the program helps prevent the misidentification of passengers who have names similar to individuals on government watch lists by providing an integrated redress procedure.
  • Customs and Border Protection 
    Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provide Information for travelers to the United States who are visiting for the purpose of working, studying, business travel or immigration. Their website is at www.cbp.gov
  • Consular Affairs
    The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is the official source of information about United States visa policy and procedures.
  • Biometric Identity Management Identification Services
    The Department of Homeland Security’s Biometric Identity Management Identification Services is part of a continuum of security measures that begins overseas and continues through a visitor’s arrival in and departure from the United States.

I still have the Green card (I-94) or White card (I-94W) in my possession! What should I do?


If you have left the United States and are still in possession of the I-94 or I-94W it is in your best interest to forward it to the appropriate authorities (see the 2nd accordion entry) so that your record is corrected and that you do not experience any problems on future travel to the United States as a result.

Where can I obtain tourist information for the U.S. ?


Although the United States no longer has an official national tourist office in the United Kingdom there are several organisations which provide information, inspiration and assistance to international travellers to the United States.

Please note there is currently no central office for tourist information within the American Embassy in London.

ViVisitTheUSA websitesitTheUSA.co.uk lets you explore the 50 states and U.S. territories before you go.

Learn more about what destinations fit your interests and what types of trips you can take.

 

VisitUSA Association

The Visit USA (UK) Association was established over twenty years ago to promote leisure travel from the UK to and within the USA.

Visit USA (UK) has a membership of approximately 200 diverse organizations including airlines, hotel groups, tour operators, transport, attractions and states and destinations.

It provides information, travel offers and news tailored for travelers to the U.S. at www.visitusa.org.uk and in its annual Visit USA Travel Planner that can be accessed in digital format, or a printed copy ordered, online at www.visitusa.org.uk

 

Recreation.gov is your gateway to discover America’s Outdoors and more!

Discover which parks, forests, lakes, museums, and areas managed by federal agencies offer recreation opportunities near you or your destination.
Use interactive maps to get information, plan your trip, or to initiate a reservation on-line

 

ABTA - Travel Association

ABTA is the UK’s largest travel association, representing both travel agents and tour operators. ABTA also provides advice to the travelling public.

 

 

U.S. Tourist Bureaus in the United Kingdom


A number of tourist destinations have representation in the U.K.  Following is a list of U.S. states and popular destinations with their tourism board websites.
Do please remember that none of the below are qualified to answer visa-related information. To find out more about visas, please consult our visa information.

State websites and Contact numbers:

Region Websites and Contact Numbers

Direct Flight City and Tourism Center Contact Number

 

Where can I find information about the National Parks of the U.S.?

The National Park Service Website provides general information about visiting National Parks in the U.S. together with an alphabetical list of parks with detailed, park-specific information.

In addition you can pre-book thousands of camping sites and tours through Recreation.gov

Will my British driver’s license be adequate for renting a car?

The U.S.A. has an agreement with most countries whereby the renter’s full national driving license may be used for a period of up to one year in the U.S.A. This applies to the full U.K. driving license. Provisional licenses are not acceptable.

Most car rental companies require that you have held a full license for at least one year, regardless of age. The minimum age for renting a car is normally 21 although it can be as high as 25. Often an additional charge is levied on drivers who are under 25 years of age.

International Driving Permits (see: postofffice.co.uk) are generally not required in the U.S.A but it is helpful to carry one. If they are taken, they are only valid in conjunction with a full national driving license. They should not be accepted on their own. It is recommended that drivers who possess a full national license that is in script other than Roman, i.e. Cyrillic or Arabic, should also obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Young drivers may wish to obtain an International Driving Permit to use as a photo ID, in place of a passport, for entry into bars and nightclubs where the minimum age for entry is 21 years.

If you have endorsements on your license, do check with your rental company that these do not present a problem.

We suggest that you check the requirements of your prospective automobile rental company by contacting them direct.

How can I obtain a disabled parking permit for my car while visiting the U.S.?

More information on disabled parking permits as well as contact information for many states is available on our disabled parking permits for visitors page.

How old do I need to be to buy an alcoholic drink or gamble in the U.S.?


The minimum age for buying and consuming alcohol in the U.S.A. is 21 years, as it is for gambling or entering casinos. Photo ID may also be required for entry to bars and nightclubs (see International Driving Permits above).

What’s the weather like where I’m going?

The Weather Channel, a 24 hour cable channel, and the national newspaper USA Today are among a number of websites providing current weather reports and 5 day forecasts for U.S. cities.

How can I obtain tickets to tour the White House?

1600 Penn - White House
1600 Penn – White House

The American Embassy in London cannot provide tickets to tour the White House nor can the British Embassy in Washington, D.C..
Some websites still show outdated information!

You may wish to consider tours of the U.S. Capitol Building, where visitors are able to arrive on the day and obtain a timed-entry tour pass. Your passport is required for entry. You can also book a Pentagon Tour.

Non-US Nationals will need to submit the British Embassy’s address instead of their home address. Further assistance regarding the online booking process should be directed to the Pentagon Tour Office via telephone:  +1 703 697 1776.

How many British tourists visited the U.S. last year?

The International Trade Administration’s Tourism Industries Office has issued a report indicating that there were 4.9 million visits to the U.S. by United Kingdom residents in 2015 out of a total of 77.5 million.  See also the Tourism Industries one-pager Fast Facts 2015 (PDF, 1 page).  (As of June 2017 this is the latest data available).

Many other travel statistics can be found on the Tourism Industries Office website.

I have a British passport and want to get married in the United States.  Can you help me?

If you as a British passport holder or British citizen want to get married in the United States you need to check the information provided by the Foreign & Commonwealth office on Getting Married Abroad.   You should also get in touch with the British Embassy in Washington or the nearest British Consulate in the United States.