To make a visa application to the UK from the USA, you will need to complete an online application form and pay the relevant visa application fee. However, the biometrics enrolment process in the US differs from many other countries. This post will cover the process of applying for a UK visa from the USA, from visa application submission through to the decision on the immigration application.

Once you have submitted the visa application form, you will then be prompted to book a biometrics appointment. At this appointment, you will have your photograph and fingerprints taken. Further information on what happens at a biometrics appointment can be found here. Children under the age of five will not be required to provide their fingerprints.

In the United States, there are two different types of centres you can choose to attend: VFS Global centres and Application Support Centres.

Apply for a UK Visa From the USA

Application Support Centres in the US

It is free to use Application Support Centres (ASCs) but if you do not wish to upload your supporting documents online you will have to purchase document scanning assistance. The full list of Application Support Centres is available here.

For the biometrics appointment, you should arrive at your allotted date and time. You should bring with you your current valid passport and a copy of your appointment confirmation letter.

Following attending a biometrics appointment, you will need to post your passport along with your supporting documents, if you have not uploaded these online, to this address within 5 days of the appointment:

USCIS Application Support Centre

128 East 32nd Street

New York NY

10016 Fl 4

Importantly, to have your documents including your passport returned to you, you should include an addressed pre-paid UPS electronic shipping label inside the package.

Additional Services for Application Support Centres

If you choose to use an Application Support Centre (ASC), you can still purchase the majority of the additional services from VFS Global. These include priority services and courier services.

Subject to availability, you may be able to obtain the Temporary Passport Retrieval service to have access to your passport whilst your visa is being considered. You are still required to initially post the passport to New York and if your visa is approved, you will be asked to return the passport so the vignette can be issued.

VFS Global Centres in the US

All information regarding the VFS Global application centres is available here. Some are Premium Application Centres and some are Temporary Enrolment Locations. The current Premium Application Centres are located in:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New York
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Washington DC

The current Temporary Enrolment Locations are located in:

  • Brooklyn
  • Dallas
  • Elizabeth
  • Philadelphia
  • San Jose

When you attend a VFS Premium Application Centres, you have to purchase a 'Settlement Premium Package' which involves additional fees. The current fees for these at Premium Application centres are:

  • Gold Premium Package USD 2300
  • Silver Premium Package USD 1300
  • Bronze Premium Package USD 630

When a decision has been made on your application, your passport will be returned to you via courier as part of the settlement package you selected.

Temporary Enrolment Locations do not use settlement packages and you can instead book specific priority services. You will also need to either upload your supporting documents online or purchase Document Scanning Assistance.

Additional Services for VFS Global Centres

As a part of the Settlement Premium Package, a document scanning service is included but you can also opt to upload your documents online.

The packages each vary in the services they offer and how quickly they aim to process the application. Some aim to process the application by the next business day. The availability of the packages also depends on whether the application is for settlement in the UK or not.

The cost of additional services is in addition to the visa application fee. If the visa application is refused or in exceptional cases if it takes longer to process, the service costs are non-refundable.

Which US Application Centre Should I Select?

This is entirely a matter for you. As above, the ASC service is free but you may wish to see if there are any of the features of the Premium Packages which appeal to you. Either way, the application will be decided by the same organisation.

You may also want to consider whether the ASC or VFS Global centre locations are more convenient for you to attend your appointment.

There are also Keep My Passport services available at VFS centres if you need it for travel or identification purposes.

Processing Times for UK Visa Applications Submitted in the US

The Home Office's website publishes updated current processing times here. This varies depending on the type of visa application you are making. The processing time will start when you have attended your biometrics appointment or when your supporting documents have been received in New York. Further information on processing times can be found in this blog post here.

If you purchase a priority service as set out above, this can significantly reduce the processing time.

Applications which are not straightforward may result in a delay in processing times. An application may be considered not straightforward if for example you have:

  • been refused a visa for the UK, and/or;
  • been refused leave to enter the UK, and/or
  • been deported, removed, or otherwise required to leave the UK, and/or;
  • overstayed a period of leave in the UK, and/or;
  • had leave to remain in the UK curtailed by the Home Office, and/or;
  • been refused leave to remain in the UK by the Home Office, and/or;
  • been refused a visa for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States of America, or the Schengen countries, and/or;
  • you have been interviewed, detained, or prosecuted by the police for any offence in the UK or elsewhere, and/or;
  • you have an unspent criminal conviction in any country, and/or;
  • you have committed a criminal offence in any country, and/or;
  • there is a need to check or gather further information in order to complete your visa application.

Therefore, if there is a complicating factor, you may not want to use priority services as it may not reduce the processing time.

If Your UK Visa Application Is Approved

Once your application has been approved, you will receive a vignette in your passport which will permit you to enter the UK. Your vignette will be valid for 90 days but if you are not able to travel to the UK in this time, you can apply for a replacement vignette for £154.

Your vignette allows you to enter the UK and collect your biometrics residence permit from within the UK. Please note that the system is shifting towards an electronic system and at the point of your application being approved, biometric residence permits may be replaced by an online system.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.