United Kingdom Consular Information Sheet - Tips

United KingdomConsular Information Sheet May 14, 2007 COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a highly developed constitutional monarchy comprised of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland. Gibraltar is a United Kingdom Overseas Territory bordering Spain and located at the southernmost tip of Europe at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of thirteen former British colonies that have elected to continue their political links with London. Tourist facilities are widely available. Read the Department of State Background Notes on the United Kingdom for additional information. ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. A visa is not required for tourist or student stays of up to six months in the United Kingdom (UK) or to enter Gibraltar. Those planning to stay in the UK for any purpose longer than six months must obtain a visa prior to entering. Students enrolled in a course of study that is longer than six months must obtain a visa prior to entering. Those who are required to obtain a visa, and fail to do so, may be denied entry and returned to their port of origin. Foreign visitors who wish to marry in the UK must obtain a visa as a fiancée or marriage visitor prior to entering, or obtain a UK Home Office certificate of approval. The marriage visa requirement applies even to persons who do not intend to remain in the UK after their marriage. The marriage visa requirement does not, however, pertain to Gibraltar. Additional information about marriage in Gibraltar may be found online at http://www.gibraltar.gov.uk/hol/WhatTo/getting_married.asp. Visitors wishing to remain longer than one month in Gibraltar should regularize their stay with Gibraltar immigration authorities. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on the United Kingdom and other countries. Visit the website of the British Embassy in the U.S. at http://britainusa.com for the most current UK visa information, or contact UK consular offices via their premium rate telephone service at 1-900-990-8472. The service operates Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time, excluding public holidays. There is a per-minute charge for calls to this number. See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction. Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations. SAFETY AND SECURITY: The phone number for police/fire/ambulance emergency services - the equivalent of "911" in the U.S. - is “999” in the United Kingdom and “112” in Gibraltar. The United Kingdom is politically stable, with a modern infrastructure, but shares with the rest of the world an increased threat of terrorist incidents of international origin, as well as the potential for occasional and isolated violence related to the political situation in Northern Ireland (a part of the United Kingdom). On August 10, 2006, the Government of the United Kingdom heightened security at all UK airports following a major counterterrorism operation in which individuals were arrested for plotting attacks against U.S.-bound airlines. As a result of this, increased restrictions concerning carry-on luggage were put in place and are strictly enforced. American citizens are advised to check with the UK Department for Transport (www.dft.gov.uk) and the British Airport Authority (www.baa.co.uk) regarding the latest security updates and carry-on luggage restrictions. On July 7, 2005, a major terrorist attack occurred in London, as Islamic extremists detonated explosives on three underground trains and a bus in Central London, resulting in over 50 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Following the attacks, the public transportation system was temporarily disrupted, but quickly returned to normal. A similar but unsuccessful attack against London’s public transport system took place on July 21, 2005. UK authorities have identified and arrested people involved in these attacks. The British Home Secretary has urged UK citizens to be alert and vigilant by, for example, keeping an eye out for suspect packages or people acting suspiciously at subway (“Tube” or Underground) and train stations and airports and reporting anything suspicious to the appropriate authorities. Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution. For more information about UK public safety initiatives, consult the UK Civil Contingencies Secretariat website at http://www.ukresilience.gov.uk. The political situation in Northern Ireland has dramatically improved since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.The Irish Republican Army (IRA) announced on July 28, 2005, that it would end its armed campaign, and agreed to set up a power-sharing government on May 8, 2007. Within Northern Ireland, flash-points for sectarian confrontations still exist, but they are generally removed from areas where tourists congregate. Political demonstrations, however, are well-policed and generally orderly. The potential remains for sporadic incidents of street violence in isolated areas in Northern Ireland during the summer marching season (April to August), with tensions heightened during the month of July, especially around the July 12th public holiday. As a result, American citizens traveling in Northern Ireland could experience delays and disruption. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Recent communications from U.S. Embassy London to the local American citizen community, called Warden Messages, can be found on the embassy’s website. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad. CRIME: The United Kingdom and Gibraltar benefit from generally low crime rates; however crime, including violent crime, has increased over the last few years, especially in London. Incidents include pick pocketing, mugging, “snatch and grab” theft of mobile phones, watches and jewelry and theft of unattended bags, especially at airports and from cars parked at restaurants, hotels and resorts. Pickpockets target tourists, especially at historic sites, restaurants, on buses, trains and the London Underground (“Tube” or subway). Thieves often target unattended cars parked at tourist sites and roadside restaurants, looking for laptop computers and hand-held electronic equipment. Walking in isolated areas, including public parks, especially after dark, should also be avoided, as these provide advantageous venues for muggers and thieves. In London, travelers should use only licensed “black taxi cabs,” or car services recommended by their hotel or tour operator. Unlicensed taxis or private cars posing as taxis may offer low fares, but are often uninsured and may have unlicensed drivers. In some instances, travelers have been robbed and raped while using these cars. Travelers should not leave drinks unattended in bars and nightclubs. There have been some instances of drinks being spiked with illegal substances, leading to incidents of robbery and rape. Due to the circumstances described above, visitors should take steps to ensure the safety of their U.S. passports. Visitors in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar are not expected to produce identity documents for police authorities and thus may secure their passports in hotel safes or residences. The need to carry a passport to cash traveler’s checks is also minimized by an abundance of ATMs able to access systems widely used in the U.S. and offering more favorable rates of exchange. Travelers should be aware that U.S. banks might charge a higher processing fee for withdrawals made at an overseas ATM. Common sense personal security measures utilized in the U.S. when using ATMs should also be followed in the UK. ATM fraud in the UK is becoming more sophisticated, incorporating technologies to surreptitiously record customer ATM card and PIN information. Travelers should avoid using ATMs located in isolated areas. Travelers should be aware that in busy public areas, thieves use distraction techniques, such as waiting until the PIN number has been entered and then pointing to money on the ground, or attempting to hand out a free newspaper. When the ATM user is distracted, a colleague will quickly withdraw cash and leave. If distracted in any way, travelers should press the cancel transaction button immediately and collect their cardbefore speaking tothe person who has distracted them. If the person does not appear genuine,travelers should not challenge them but remember the details and report the matter to Police as soon as possible. In addition, travelers should not use the ATM if there is anything stuck to the machine or if it looks unusual in any way. If the machine does not return the card, it should be reported to the issuing bank immediately. INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate at the opening of the next business day. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate only issues replacement passports during regular business hours. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, report it to local police. The nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate will also be able to assist by helping you to find appropriate medical care, contacting family members or friends, and explaining how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. See our information for Victims of Crime. For further information on the many resources available to victims of crime in the UK, visit the website of “Victim Support,” an independent UK charity that helps people cope with the affects of crime, at http://www.victimsupport.org.uk. MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: While medical services are widely available, free care under the National Health System is allowed only to UK residents and certain EU nationals. Tourists and short-term visitors can expect charges that may be significantly higher than those assessed in the United States. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Hiking in higher elevations can be treacherous. Several people die each year while hiking, particularly in Scotland, often due to sudden changes in weather. Visitors, including experienced hikers, are encouraged to discuss intended routes with local residents familiar with the area, and to adhere closely to recommendations. MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. The Department of State provides a list of travel insurance companies that can provide the additional insurance needed for the duration of one’s trip abroad in its online brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad. Medicare benefits do not extend to medical care obtained outside the United States. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas. Remember also that most medical care facilities and medical care providers in the UK do not accept insurance subscription as a primary source of payment. Rather, the beneficiary is expected to pay for the service and then seek reimbursement from the insurance company. This may require an upfront payment in the $10,000 to $20,000 range TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: UK penalties for driving under the influence of even minimal amounts of alcohol or drugs are stiff and often result in prison sentences. In contrast to the United States and continental Europe, where traffic moves on the right hand side of the road, traffic moves on the left in the UK. The maximum speed limit on highways/motorways in the UK is 70MPH. Motorways generally have a hard shoulder (breakdown lane) on the far left, defined by a solid white line. It is illegal to stop or park on a hard shoulder unless it is an emergency. In such cases, you should activate your hazard lights, get out of your vehicle and go onto an embankment for safety. Emergency call boxes (orange telephone booths with “SOS” printed on them) may be found at half-mile intervals along the motorway. White and blue poles placed every 100 yards along the motorway point in the direction of the nearest call box. Emergency call boxes dial directly to a motorway center. It is best to use these phones rather than a personal cell phone, because motorway center personnel will immediately know the location of a call received from an emergency call box. Roadside towing services may cost approximately ₤125. However, membership fees of automotive associations such as the RAC or AA (Automobile Association) often include free roadside towing service. Visitors uncomfortable with, or intimidated by, the prospect of driving on the left-hand side of the road may wish to avail themselves of extensive bus, rail and air transport networks that are comparatively inexpensive. Roads in the UK are generally excellent, but are narrow and often congested in urban areas. If you plan to drive while in the UK, you may wish to obtain a copy of the Highway Code, available online at http://www.highwaycode.gov.uk. Travelers intending to rent cars in the UK should make sure that they are adequately insured. U.S. auto insurance is not always valid outside the U.S., and travelers may wish to purchase supplemental insurance, which is generally available from most major rental agents. The city of London imposes a congestion charge of £8 (eight pounds sterling, or approximately U.S. $16.00) on all cars entering much of central London Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Information on the congestion charge can be found at http://www.cclondon.com. Public transport in the United Kingdom is excellent and extensive. However, poor track conditions may have contributed to train derailments resulting in some fatalities. Repairs are underway and the overall safety record is excellent. Information on disruptions to London transportation services can be found at http://www.tfl.gov.uk and information about the status of National Rail Services can be found at http://www.nationalrail.co.uk. Many U.S. citizens are injured and some are killed every year in pedestrian accidents in the United Kingdom, forgetting that traffic moves in the opposite direction than in the United States. Extra care and alertness should be taken when crossing streets. Driving in Gibraltar is on the right-hand side of the road, as in the U.S. and Continental Europe. Persons traveling overland between Gibraltar and Spain may experience long delays in clearing Spanish border controls. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. For specific information concerning United Kingdom driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, refer to the United Kingdom’s Department of Environment and Transport web site at http://www.dft.gov.uk, the Driving Standards Agency web site at http://www.dsa.gov.uk, or consult the U.S. Embassy in London’s web site at http://london.usembassy.gov. AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the United Kingdom’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the UK’s air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA’s website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa. SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The legal drinking age in the UK is generally lower than in the U.S. (http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/YourChildsHealth/DG_10026210) and social drinking in the wide range of pubs is often seen as a routine aspect of life in Britain. Parents, organizers of school trips and young travelers should be aware of the impact that this environment may have when combined with the sense of adventure that comes with being on vacation. Please see our International Travel Safety Information for Students, which is geared to help students plan a safe and enjoyable adventure. The UK has strict gun-control laws, and importing firearms is extremely complicated. Travelers should consider leaving all firearms in the U.S. Restrictions exist on the type and number of weapons that may be possessed by an individual. All handguns, i.e. pistols and revolvers, are prohibited with very few exceptions. Licensing of firearms in the UK is controlled by the Police. Applicants for a license must be prepared to show 'good reason' why they require each weapon. Applicants must also provide a copy of their U.S. gun license, a letter of good conduct from their local U.S. police station and a letter detailing any previous training, hunting or shooting experience. Background checks will also be carried out. Additional information on applying for a firearm certificate and/or shotgun certificate can be found on the Metropolitan Police Firearms Enquiry Teams website. A number of Americans are lured to the UK each year in the belief that they have won a lottery or have inherited from the estate from a long-lost relative. Americans may also be contacted by persons they have “met” over the Internet who now need funds urgently to pay for hospital treatment, hotel bills, taxes or airline security fees. Invariably, the person contacted is the victim of fraud. Any unsolicited invitations to travel to the UK to collect winnings or an inheritance should be viewed with skepticism. Also, there are no licenses or fees required when transiting a UK airport, nor is emergency medical treatment withheld pending payment of fees. Please see our information on International Financial Scams. CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating British law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the UK are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties. Many pocketknives and other blades, and mace or pepper spray canisters, although legal in the U.S., are illegal in the UK and will result in arrest and confiscation if detected. A UK Metropolitan Police guide to items that are prohibited as offensive weapons is available online at http://www.met.police.uk/youth/weapons.htm. A UK Customs Guide, detailing what items visitors are prohibited from bringing into the UK, is available online at http://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/channelsPortalWebApp/downloadFile?contentID=HMCE_CL_001734. Air travelers to and from the United Kingdom should be aware that penalties against alcohol-related and other in-flight crimes (“air rage”) are stiff and are being enforced with prison sentences. Please also see our information on customs regulations that pertain when returning to the US. CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website. REGISTRATION / EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans living or traveling in the United Kingdom are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the United Kingdom. By registering, Americans make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency, and to relay updated information on travel and security within the United Kingdom. The Embassy and Consulates regularly send security and other information via email to Americans who have registered. As noted above, recent communications from U.S. Embassy London to the local American citizen community, called Warden Messages, can be found on the embassy’s website. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The Consular Section also disseminates a newsletter every month. Those wishing to subscribe to the monthly consular newsletter in London should send a request by email to SCSLondon@state.gov. The U.S. Embassy is located at 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE; telephone: in country 020-7499-9000; from the U.S. 011-44-20-7499-9000 (24 hours); Consular Section fax: in country 020-7495-5012; from the U.S. 011-44-20-7495-5012, and on the Internet at http://london.usembassy.gov. The U.S. Consulate General in Edinburgh, Scotland, is located at 3 Regent Terrace, Edinburgh EH7 5BW; Telephone: in country 0131-556-8315, from the U.S. 011-44-131-556-8315. After hours: in country 01224-857097, from the U.S. 011-44-1224-857097. Fax: in country 0131-557-6023; from the U.S. 011-44-131-557-6023. Information on the Consulate General is included on the Embassy’s website at: http://london.usembassy.gov/scotland. The U.S. Consulate General in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is located at Danesfort House, 228 Stranmillis Road, Belfast BT9 5GR; Telephone: in country 028-9038-6100; from the U.S. 011-44-28-9038-6100. Fax: in country 028-9068-1301; from the U.S. 011-44-28-9068-1301. Information on the Consulate General is included on the Embassy’s website at: http://london.usembassy.gov/nireland. There is no U.S. consular representation in Gibraltar. Passport questions should be directed to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, located at Serrano 75, Madrid, Spain; telephone (34)(91) 587-2200, and fax (34)(91) 587-2303. The website address is: http://madrid.usembassy.gov. All other inquiries should be directed to the U.S. Embassy in London. * * * This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated October 10, 2006, to update the sections on Safety and Security, Crime, Victims of Crime, Medical Insurance, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Special Circumstances, Criminal Penalties, and Registration/ Embassy and Consulate Locations. United KingdomConsular Information Sheet


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