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
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
for more information pertaining to dual
and the prevention of international
child abduction. Please refer to our Customs
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
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
, 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.
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
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
See our information for Victims
. 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
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
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad. Medicare
benefits do not extend to medical care obtained outside the United States.
Please see our information on medical
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
, 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
, 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 [email protected]
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