Getting a UK Visa

Happy New Year! I've received some emails lately from American readers who wish to transfer their acting career to the UK, and who have turned to this blog for ideas. I thought I'd include the most recent email (anonymously) as a Q and A, in the hope that the rest of you might find it useful.

Q: “Hello! It is so great to read about an American actress living and working in London. I am an actress living in NYC. I'm really hoping to make the transfer abroad, but I'm not sure how to start. I spent a year studying in England several years ago, and I've been thinking about moving back ever since. Now that I'm not a student I am a bit worried that I'll have trouble acquiring a visa, and I was wondering if you had any advice. How would you recommend beginning the process? Is it better to start while still in the US? Should I contact the UK Embassy in NY, or would you recommend that I take another approach? If you have a chance, I would love to hear what you have to say.”

A: I was in your position when I wanted to return to London after studying here during university. First ask yourself two things – how long do you intend to stay and what do want to do while you’re here? Then I’d visit the UK Visas website to see what kind of visa you might be able to get. If you intend to work, you’ll definitely need a visa. This is difficult to acquire. So in the first instance, I’d suggest coming to the UK on a visitor visa to scope out the scene and make some contacts. (
This is what I did and I thought it was a valuable first step. But if you have some way of getting a work visa - family members that are EU citizens, a UK job opportunity - then by all means do it. You'll save yourself some time!)

If you have an agent, perhaps he or she can help to arrange some meetings with agents in London. Since you’re a US citizen you won’t need to get your visitor visa in advance. You can just get one at the passport control desk when you arrive in the UK. However, be prepared! You will need to show the immigration officer 1) that you want to visit the UK for no more than 6 months, 2) your return ticket to the USA or other evidence that you intend to return to the states at the end of your visit and 3) bank statements to prove you have the means to support yourself. During this time you CANNOT WORK, but you can SEEK work i.e. meet with agents, go on auditions, take classes at The Actors’ Centre, Pineapple Studios, etc. For more info on a visitors visa visit this page. You might also visit the British Embassy New York for more visa advice.


Unknown said…
If you go on auditions, or non-acting job interviews even, how do you take the job? Do you have to get the work visa in between auditioning and working?
Thanks for this blog, it's so helpful!
Kosha Engler said…
Allison, if you get offered a job you must then have a visa to work outside the USA i.e. in the UK or anywhere else in Europe. Before you arrange a casting, you should be up front about your visa status. Then the employer can decide whether or not they want to deal with the visa issue. Before you've got a UK work visa, I'd focus on initial meetings with agents or casting directors, and unpaid work such as theatre or short student films, etc. Then once you've got the visa, go after paid work.

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