As Americans, we are lucky to be able to travel to many different countries without needing to get a visa.  However, you need to be careful and do your homework as this is not always the case.  Just recently, I was shocked to hear that a friend of mine, who is a US citizen, was denied entry into the United Kingdom and deported back to the US.  Normally, US citizens do not need a visa to travel to the UK.  However, he did not realize that if the purpose of your trip to the UK is for business and you are staying more than two weeks, you need to obtain a work visa.

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Thames - "Surprise: No Visa No Entry" - Two Traveling Texans

My friend, Steve, works for a UK company and his boss is based in London.  His boss was going on a three week vacation, so he asked Steve to come to London and fill in for him.  Nothing seemed unusual, Steve flew to Heathrow airport and proceeded to immigration.

The immigration officer asked the purpose of his trip and then how long he was going to be in the UK.  Steve told him it was for business and he would be there for three weeks.  Red lights went off in the immigrations officer’s head and he asked why it was necessary for Steve to be there for three weeks.  Steve responded he was filling in for his boss who was going to be on holiday.  The immigration officer pressed further – wasn’t there someone else in the UK office that could do that?  Well Steve didn’t know how to say it nicely but if anyone in London would have been able to fill in, he would not have come.  The immigration officer was not convinced and Steve was taken to a holding room.

When he was in the holding room, he met other travelers who also had surprising stories.   One student had been detained because she was planning on doing volunteer work and didn’t have a volunteer visa.  Another woman was detained because the immigration officer had heard her husband call her honey and then figured out that they were married but she did not have a marriage visa.  They held about five people held in a 40 x 30 foot room.  As time went by, Steve was left with no choice but to eat the unappetizing sandwiches that were provided.

St. Pauls - "Surprise: No Visa No Entry" - Two Traveling Texans

After more than 10 hours, he was escorted back to a Virgin plane to fly back to New York.  Luckily, he still got a business class seat (his original ticket was booked in business).   Unfortunately, he spent most of his weekend traveling and would end up right back where he started.  Since this incident, he did obtain a business visa and returned to London without any issues.  However, the moral of this story is very clear – make sure you research entry requirements for the country you are visiting even if you are a US citizen.  You do not want this to happen to you!

A big thank you to Steve for letting us share his story! Have you had any issues going through immigration? We would love to hear about it in the comments.


Expert Tips:

  • If the reason for your trip is anything other than pure vacation, you may need a visa even for countries that don’t require tourist visas.
  • Research entry requirements prior to your trip to avoid issues in the immigration line.
  • If you are a US Citizen in need of a visa and have tight deadline, can help.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  This means we will receive a small commission for some purchases made using links in our blog with no additional cost to you.  Please be assured we would not promote any product unless we believe that our readers will also benefit.  The commission does not influence the editorial content of this site. 

Surprise: No Visa No Entry
A travel blog about the importance of researching if you need a visa before traveling because if you don't you may be sent home.
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2 thoughts on “Surprise: No Visa No Entry

  • I’m glad someone is finally writing about this and spreading the words of warning! Funny enough I’m that student Steve met in that wonderful detaining room. It’s certainly a mistake I’ll never make again.

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