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London for 2 Months as an American - Visa Needed?

Hi All,

I am staying in London for two months (from the USA), and wanted to confirm that a visa is still not necessary. I saw some older posts saying it was not needed unless staying for 6 months, but was hoping to confirm nothing changed.

Thank you!

Posted by
4981 posts

Assuming you hold a US passport, then you can stay "up to 6 Months" without any additional Visa or permissions. The exact time is up to the border agent, though it would be rare for them to restrict you to less than six months, or to deny you entry, but they can.

All this is independent of restrictions concerning the Covid crisis, for that they can deny you entry, or at least you would need a valid reason for entering, and be prepared to endure a two week quarantine, possibly other requirements regarding testing or medical checks. This policy is subject to change, so look into it, then keep tabs on the current policy...it could change a day or two before your trip...and you are screwed.

Posted by
1127 posts

It depends on what you’re doing for the 2 months. Studying or working is different than tourism. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world so where would you be staying? Immigration is going to look differently on a wealthy retiree than a 20 year old backpacker.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you @Paul and @Dale for the replies! Good to know that a Visa is not necessary, I appreciate the help.

The plan is to work remotely for 1-2 months in the spring. Of course, this is completely COVID dependent and I understand the situation could change 9 months from now.

My hope is to rent an Airbnb during since many are offering month long stays. I don't have a "legitimate" reason for going - my company does have an office there, but I certainly do not need to be there for 2 months. Since my job can now be done remotely, I figured it was a good time (I know, very debatable given COVID) to experience a new city - a mature "study abroad" if you will. I suppose I would need to have a better reason than that (such as visiting family) when talking to the border agent.

Posted by
114 posts

Ruth, I've been thinking the exact same thing these days! Now that I have to work from home, I'm thinking, "well, can I just move anywhere I want to in the world and still keep my job?" LOL I know it's not that easy though.

Posted by
31218 posts

It would probably be a good idea not to make any non-refundable deposits, as spring visits to anywhere in Europe are still somewhat uncertain. It's difficult to know when the Covid-19 situation will be under control.

Posted by
4435 posts

Sorry, but working remotely in the U.K. is still working, for which you require a visa. You can stay for leisure purposes for up to 6 months.

Posted by
24867 posts

If you are touristing - assuming things are open - we've just had an edict that throughout England groups meeting outside or inside are limited to 6 from the weekend - you will likely be admitted.

If you are working, that's different. People working will likely require a work visa.

Posted by
1127 posts

Working remotely for a USA company is going to be a thorny issue. First of all, check with your company to make sure they’ll allow remote logins out of the USA. My previous company didn’t, not even to check emails

After that, check with the embassy. You’re probably not taking a job away from a U.K. citizen but immigration may not see it that way. Politics can get in the way and taking jobs and the pandemic could have U.K. immigration being extra strict as to the definition of work.

Posted by
4981 posts

Regarding the working remotely...

Having worked for a multinational corporation with offices all over the world, including divisions in the UK and EU, We completed an assessment for any international travel. The basic requirements came down to length of stay, the pay arrangements, and the nature of the work. Basically for short term stays (within the period granted for general travel), working for a US employer or division and being paid in US funds to a US Bank, and not working within an "in-country" organization structure, then no additional visa was required. The only employees that ever ran into a visa requirement were those travelling for more than the granted allowance (90 days or 6 months) and/or were there, integrated into a facility, performing tasks normally done by "locals", usually as part of a job rotation(Temporary assignment to that division).

Visiting, going to meetings as part of your US job, performing remote work related to your US job, even performing physical work related to your US job (I would perform Process and Quality Audits), all did not require a Work Visa as you were not doing a Job that would be done by a citizen.

My word is certainly not authoritative, but the Legal group at that company worked pretty hard to keep things right, as the penalties in Dollars and effect on Government contracts was huge; and these were my experiences.

Posted by
5942 posts

Assuming you hold a US passport, then you can stay "up to 6 Months" without any additional Visa or permissions.

The above is true if you are going for leisure reasons, not if you're going to work.

Posted by
9189 posts

Prior to the virus, I made numerous 2-3 month trips to the UK. When asked how long I was staying, I told them. They asked why and I said lots of things to see. (Which was true.) They asked when I was leaving and I told them the date and that I had a confirmed flight. They want to make sure you are not working and plan to leave.

Do not tell them you might work remotely. Let me repeat that.....do not tell them you might work remotely. Did you get that? . Do not tell them you might work remotely.

Working remotely is work and you need a work visa for that. If you tell them that, they might put you on the next plane back.

Check the rules--as of today--of what you need to enter the UK. While you don't need a visa, there is some new paperwork to do:

https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control

Posted by
4981 posts

I guess I will add to what I mentioned before. By going to the UK and logging in on your PC and performing work for a a US company and a being a non-resident of the UK and a US citizen, for the period of two months, you will not require a work visa in the UK. The key points are:
- You are not a Resident.
- You are not being paid by any entity in the UK
- You are not creating anything of value or performing a service for anyone in the UK
- You are not going to the UK for the sole purpose of working, your work does not require your presence in the UK.
All that said, as far as the UK is concerned...you are not working.

Even, as I mentioned before, if you were performing work duties...ie: Going to Meetings, giving presentations, doing research, actually a whole list of items, you still do not require a Work Visa. You can even perform paid work under certain circumstances, that is more limited, but still allowable. But do not take my word, please go here:

https://www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa/y

The key areas to look at are..."Permitted Activities for all visitors"

Even if you pick your purpose as "Business" and look for requirements, the key point is "Paid Work" meaning being paid to perform a service in the UK...you are not, and even then,m some paid work is allowed. However, as you stated, your purpose for going is not Business, you are just performing your normal US job responsibilities while visiting.

Posted by
1127 posts

In the end, it’s up to the U.K. border force. Another thing to keep in mind is the USA election, other countries are well aware that some Americans won’t like the result one way or the other and may looking to get a foot in the door abroad.

Posted by
18138 posts

I would urge you to go to the link Paul has provided, read carefully, and keep following the trail indicated there. In your shoes I would definitely end up calling the British consulate, because I don't see any statement to the effect that the prohibition on (most) paid work doesn't apply if your payment is being made by a US entity to a US bank account while you're working for your employer in the UK. There are specific exceptions mentioned, but nothing that appears to me to fit your situation, so I think it may all come down to what they mean by prohibiting "paid and unpaid work".

I am not a lawyer or otherwise expert in this field.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you all SO much - you all have been incredibly helpful. It's definitely a somewhat crazy time, so I will consider your comments and recommendations carefully.

Posted by
3444 posts

This is just my experience, I am no expert in this area, things may have changed for many reasons since the last time I was in the UK, but here goes:

I worked for a major world wide corporation. They had offices in London. Every time I went there on a work trip my employer made sure I had a current and valid work visa. Each visit while working was for an average of 6 weeks. My pay was still from the US office into my US bank account. I could have just as easily done what I did from my home office in the US. The only reason to be there was to do the face to face meeting and greeting, and to make the time zone difference less of a pain.

Did I need a work visa? I have no idea. Apparently I did since my employer went through all of the pain of getting one for me (and the other dozen of us who regularly made this trip). I do know the last time I was in London I did not have a current work visa, and I was only there on holiday and not working, and I got a closed door chat with two different border agents who were stuck on the fact that I had always previously had a work visa in my passport. They let me stay in the UK for the time I wanted after reviewing my holiday plans.

Posted by
18138 posts

That's very interesting, Mark. In this computerized age, patterns like that are super easy to see.

Posted by
3444 posts

Yes, my journeys were definitely part of a long running pattern that I made no attempt to hide (I never had any reason to). When the pattern was broken, it was very easy for them to notice and get interested in me.