Updated: February 11, 2020
Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics indicate that 5.3 million non-British nationals reside in the UK. If you are such a person, and would like to apply for a US visa here in the UK rather than in your home country, there are some issues you should be aware of.
First of all, anyone who is physically present in the UK may apply for a US visa regardless of their nationality or UK immigration status. Eligibility will be determined by the consular officer at the time the visa application is submitted. Visa applicants should ensure that they are thoroughly prepared for their visa application and interview in order to avoid the possibility of a visa denial.
In most cases—and in all cases involving an application for a B ‘visitor’ visa—the consular officer is required by US law to assume that the applicant intends to stay in the US permanently, as an immigrant. (For a discussion of the immigrant presumption, see our website article A 214(b) Denial: What It Means, What You Can Do.) In evaluating visa applications consular officers will consider applicants’ personal circumstances, travel plans, financial resources, and their ties (including a residence) outside of the US. While it is important to support your visa application with appropriate documentation, don’t overlook the need to be able to explain in the interview the reason(s) for your proposed travel to the US and to clearly demonstrate that you meet the requirements for the visa category you are seeking. Translators are not provided; US visa posts in English-speaking countries conduct interviews in English only.
US law places the burden of proving visa eligibility squarely on the applicant. It is generally recommended that visa applicants apply for US visas in their home country because US consular officers in those posts are more familiar with the social, economic and cultural circumstances of the home country than a UK-based consular officer would be. Home country-based officers are also better positioned to make a determination about residence abroad and the applicant’s intent to return to the foreign residence. In addition, the consular officer will speak the language of the country in which she is stationed, potentially making it easier for an applicant not confident in English to answer the consular officer’s questions.
A consular officer in the UK (whether at the Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Belfast) will also want to know why the applicant is applying in the UK rather than in his or her home country. The length of time a visa applicant has resided in the UK and the specific reasons why the individual is residing in the UK (e.g., for study or work) may also be relevant since the longer a person has resided in the UK, the likelier it is that the individual has built ties and commitments to the UK to compel them to return after visiting the US. Younger visa applicants may not yet have had an opportunity to form many ‘ties,’ which creates challenges for their applications. In these cases, the consular officer may also consider the applicant’s expressed intentions, family background, long-term plans and prospects in the country of residence and home country as well as previous travel history.
We hope that this short article has been informative. However, it does not purport to cover all permutations of this issue and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice tailored to the specifics of your situation. If you believe that legal advice would be helpful you should consult a qualified US immigration attorney.