Practical information & advice
Generally anybody travelling to the US for less than 90 days can travel under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP). However, if you’ve been arrested or convicted of certain offences, you are ineligible to travel under the VWP and will need to apply to the US Embassy for a visa.
Read our latest news posts about travelling to the US
Here you’ll find links to various parts of this site where we have information and useful resources relating to travelling to the US.
It can be difficult to match your UK offence with a US equivalent but it might help to have a look at our page on identifying whether my offence is a crime involving moral turpitude.
If you’re able to travel without a visa using the VWP, you’ll need to register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) before you travel.
There are a couple of options available to you. You could consider rearranging your trip and then applying for a visa or alternatively you could lie on the ESTA form and travel without a visa.
The process of applying for a visa can be quite long and expensive. You will need to complete an online application form, obtain official confirmation of your criminal record and attend an interview at the US Embassy.
In deciding whether to grant you a visa, the consular officer will take various factors into consideration including the seriousness of the offence and the sentence/disposal that you received.
Index of our information pages
- Do I need a visa?
- Travelling without a visa
- Applying for a visa
- Will I get a visa?
- Identifying whether my offence is a crime involving moral turpitude
Here you’ll find some of the common advice we give on travelling to the US. This is based on what we’ve learnt as a charity, as well as the real-life experiences of people with convictions.
- The process of applying for a visa to the US can be a long (and expensive) one. However, we regularly receive reports of people being successful in their applications, so if you are serious about travelling to the US, you shouldn’t be put off by the process.
- People with convictions also travel to the US on a daily basis, choosing to lie on the ESTA form (i.e. declaring that they’ve never been arrested or convicted) instead of applying for a visa, and are generally able to travel with no difficulties. However, our experience suggests that this option is only really suitable for people who are willing to take this risk, as it is technically a criminal offence, and for most people choosing to go to the US for a leisurely holiday, it is not normally a risk that people wish to take.
Frequently asked questions
Here you’ll find some specific questions that we regularly get about travelling abroad and the answers we generally provide. More detailed FAQ’s may be included in the information pages above.
If your visit is for business, this could have implications on your future employment. Not knowing what would happen if you were questioned can be extremely worrying. For those who are travelling for a holiday, the anxiety could ruin your trip. If you think that it is better to lie on the ESTA, you will need to be prepared to continue the lie if you are questioned face to face by an Immigration Officer in the US. This can be quite a frightening experience.
From our experience, much will depend on the consular officer that deals with your case, and how you present yourself at the interview. Ultimately, if you decide that you need to apply for a visa, you’ve got nothing to lose by applying. We certainly hear of many people who have been successful in getting a visa and these include a range of convictions and disposals.
If you feel that you’ve omitted evidence material to the visa decision, you will need to reapply for a visa and appear at the embassy in person. See our will I get a visa section.
Here you’ll find links to useful organisations and websites related to travel to the US that we refer to in our information and advice. Contact details for the organisations listed below can be found here.
- ACPO Criminal Records Office – Prepares and issues police certificates for anybody applying for a visa to travel to the US
- US Embassy – Responsible for issuing visas for travel into the US and the Visa Waiver Program
Read personal stories
The personal stories below have been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.
Discuss this with others
Read and share your experiences of dealing with sexual offences on our online forum.
Key sections include: