How to Apply for a Tourist Visa for California From the UK

Visa for California Plans

The Sunshine State is famous worldwide for many reasons- and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the USA. California boasts a wealth of attractions from Hollywood to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Whether you are seeking sun, sea and sand or a bit of glamour and infamously exciting nightlife, California is the place to be. Before you go you must arrange a visa according to the current rules.

As the most visited state in the US, California is no stranger to tourists from across the globe including the United Kingdom. Brits travel for hours to enjoy everything it has to offer including highlights such as Disneyland, Yosemite National Park, and some of America's most vibrant cities.

San Diego International and San Francisco International are two of the busiest airports along with LAX, serving the three largest and most exciting cities in the state. Families, couples, and young adventurers alike can all find something to marvel at in these bustling metropolises.

Visa for California Planes

Entry rules state that anyone who is not a US citizen needs a visa to visit California. Visa applications are fairly straightforward through the electronic system especially for most non-immigrant visas.

There are multiple visa options for UK citizens hoping to experience California first hand including a fast-track easy visa option known as the ESTA under the visa waiver program.

Below, you can find details of the types of visa you can apply for as a British national heading to California and a step-by-step guide through the application process. We also cover the standard requirements and answer important eligibility questions.

Who Can Apply for a Visa to Travel to California?

Visa for California Golden Gate

Most UK citizens can apply for a California visa. As long as they are only planning a temporary stay in the USA and do not have a criminal record, they should not face much trouble gaining approval from the US consulate.

California Visa Options

It is essential to select the correct visa category for any visit to California. People seeking permanent residence, working rights, or student visas should check the specifics- but the general process remains the same.

Standard Visa

Visa for California Passport

Whether you are going for business, pleasure, or schooling you need to apply for a visa. The step-by-step process below applies to all of these visas, but the documents you need may vary.

If you just plan to travel to California as a tourist, a standard tourism visa is best although you should try to get travel authorization through the visa waiver program if possible.

ESTA - The Visa Waiver Program (Country Dependant)

Visa for California ESTA

The visa waiver program (ESTA) is an alternative form of travel authorization valid for some people from some countries. The UK is on the list of countries that qualify for the ESTA but that doesn't mean anyone applying is certain to have it approved.

It is the easiest way to get a US visa for California as long as the necessary criteria are met. If you do qualify for this, the application process is much simpler (see below).

What Do You Need to Apply for a California Visa?

Visa for California Application

A Valid Passport

Anyone applying for a US visa must have a valid passport with at least six months remaining from the date of application.

Payment Confirmation

You must provide proof of payment for the visa application fee at your appointment before it can be processed. Accepted methods include Mastercard and Visa.

Form DS-160 (Non-migrant Visa Confirmation Page)

Form DS-160 is the formal application used for US visas. You must fill this out online before arranging an appointment (unless you are going for the ESTA Application).

A Recent Photograph of the Visa Applicant

The photo you provide as part of your California visa application must have been taken within the last six months, be a true likeness, and meet the usual passport photo regulations.

Photobooths used around the UK for applications for other travel documents are a great choice because they work to the standards set by government organizations for official use.

How To Apply: Step-by-Step Guide

Visa for California Application Guide

Step One: Gather Everything You Need for the Application

The first step when applying for a US visa is preparing all the necessary documents. It is recommended to do this before you start your application online to avoid delays or complications.

In most cases, UK citizens applying for a US tourism visa only need the things mentioned above. You may, however, need to provide additional documents if applying for student visas or are visiting for business purposes.

This may include details of your planned itinerary, a copy of your criminal record, tax documentation, or an invitation (if traveling for business).

Step Two: Complete Form DS-160 Online Through the Electronic System

You can find Form DS-160 (the form used for US visa applications) on the Department of State website. It is a fairly straightforward form that asks for some personal information and details of your travel purposes to California.

The form should be completed electronically, then saved and printed.

Step Three: Pay the Application Fee

Once the form is complete, you will be directed to the payment system where you can pay the fee using a bank card. It is a secure payment system handled directly by the Department of State.

Make sure you keep the confirmation of the payment as proof the funds have been sent.

Step Four: Schedule an Appointment at the Nearest US Embassy

Visa appointments can also be arranged through the electronic system. It will show your nearest US embassy (London) and provide options for a set date and time. Choose a slot that works for you and book your space.

Step Five: Attend the Visa Appointment

You must attend your scheduled appointment at the chosen time. There is a brief interview at which you should present all the necessary documents for your chosen application. After the appointment, you should receive confirmation of your visa acceptance and can then book your flight.

How Does the ESTA Application Process Differ?

Visa for California ESTA Difference

The visa waiver program is a much faster, easier way to gain travel authorisation for a trip to California. British citizens should be eligible for this but there are some exceptions.

You can apply for an ESTA Visa through the visa waiver program if:

• You are a full citizen of the United Kingdom (or another eligible country)

• Your visit to California will not last any longer than 90 days

• You have never been deported from the US

• You do not have a criminal conviction or criminal record

• You have not been arrested or are awaiting trial

• You don't currently hold a visitor visa for the US

If you meet the criteria, you can apply for an ESTA Visa online without attending the US embassy. It is a short form found on the Department of State website and comes with a lower fee.

All you need to apply is a valid passport, proof that all criteria are met, and a current e-mail address and phone number.

There are many benefits to the ESTA Visa including the price, speed of application and approval, convenience, and the fact it allows you to make multiple trips to California and other parts of the US.


Visa for California Summary

The best way for UK citizens to apply for a visa to enter the US and California is through the visa waiver program. If you are eligible, this is the recommended option.

Those who do not qualify or have purposes other than tourism for wanting to visit California should follow the process detailed above.

California is a hot spot for tourists around the world but prior travel authorization is a must before booking a flight to the Sunshine State. Get your visa sorted, then get ready to jet off!