The US Embassy in London and US Consulate General in Belfast observe holidays in both the US and UK: the US Embassy in London closes on bank holidays in England and Wales and federal holidays in the US; and the US Consulate General Belfast closes on holidays in Northern Ireland and the US.

If you wish to travel to the US, you are encouraged to allow sufficient time to apply for a visa or complete the ESTA application. Travel peak times coincide with holidays and closure dates. Demand for information relating to visits in the US and/or application numbers may also be higher in the months preceding to the peak season for tourist travel.

Closure Dates in December 2019 to November 2020

Closures for the following year (December 2019 to November 2020) are outlined in detail below. The US has 10 federal holidays; England and Wales have 8 bank holidays; and Northern Ireland has 10 bank holidays. Both the US and UK observe Christmas Day in December; New Year’s Day in January; and close on Memorial Day (US) and the Spring Bank Holiday (UK) in May. Generally, if a bank or public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday is observed the Monday following the date (UK/US) or the Friday preceding the date (US).

The US Embassy in London closes 15 days per year, with no closure dates in March and June; whilst the US Consulate General in Belfast closes 19 days per year, with no closure dates in June. The US Consulate General in Belfast observes two days for Easter and two days for Orangemen’s Day (Battle of the Boyne).

 

US Embassy in London Closure Days in 2019-2020

 

Month Day Holiday
December 25 (Wednesday) Christmas Day
  26 (Thursday) Boxing Day
January 1 (Wednesday) New Year’s Day
  20 (3rd Monday in January) Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
February 17 (3rd Monday in February) President’s Day/Washington’s Birthday
March No closures  
April 10 (Friday) Good Friday
  13 (Monday) Easter Monday
May 08 (Friday)

Note: The US Embassy & Consulates in the UK’s website states that this holiday will be on Tuesday, May 5. 

Early May Bank Holiday
  25 (Monday) Memorial Day/Spring Bank Holiday
June No closures  
July 03 (Friday, substitute for Saturday) Independence Day
August 31 (Last Monday in August) Summer Bank Holiday
September 07 (1st Monday in September) Labor Day
October 12 (Second Monday in October) Columbus Day
November 11 (Wednesday) Veterans Day
  26 (4th Thursday in November) Thanksgiving Day

 

US Consulate General in Belfast Closure Days

Month Day Holiday
December 25 (Wednesday) Christmas Day
  26 (Thursday) Boxing Day
January 1 (Wednesday) New Year’s Day
  20 (3rd Monday in January) Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
February 17 (3rd Monday in February) President’s Day/Washington’s Birthday
March 17 (Tuesday) St Patrick’s Day
April 10 (Friday) Good Friday
  13 (Monday) Easter Monday
  14 (Tuesday) Easter Tuesday
May 08 (Friday)

Note: The US Embassy & Consulates in the UK’s website states that this holiday will be on Tuesday, May 5. 

Early May Bank Holiday
  25 (Monday) Memorial Day/Spring Bank Holiday
June No closures  
July 03 (Friday, substitute for Saturday) Independence Day
  13 (Monday, substitute for Sunday) Orangemen’s Day
  14 (Tuesday) Orangemen’s Day
August 31 (Last Monday in August) Summer Bank Holiday
September 07 (1st Monday in September) Labor Day
October 12 (Second Monday in October) Columbus Day
November 11 (Wednesday) Veterans Day
  26 (4th Thursday in November) Thanksgiving Day

 

Impact on ESTA/Visa Processing Times and Visa Appointments

ESTA

If you are a citizen or eligible national of a Visa Waiver Program country you can enter the US without a visa, provided you are travelling for business or pleasure for 90 days or less. Although eligible individuals do not have to obtain a visa from the US Embassy or Consulate, they will still have to obtain an approved travel authorization before their travel by completing the ESTA application before departing to the US. ESTA is generally valid for two years or when the passport expires, whichever falls first, as long as your circumstances do not change.

The Official Website of the department of Homeland Security reminds travelers to apply for ESTA no less than 72 hours before travelling, and that real-time approvals are no longer available. A recent website malfunction following an update to the application in November 2019 may have caused travelers eligible to travel on the ESTA scheme to delay or cancel their trips to the United States. Moreover, an update to the application in August 2019 archived all applications with pending payments, and applicants were required to reapply after the update was complete.

Notably, applicants have recently reported being instantly approved, only to have that approval revoked before the 72 hour window closes. We therefore suggest that no travel plans are set in stone until travel authorization is provided, be it through the VWP or by visa.

If you are not granted permission for travel after submitting an application for authorization, it may not be detrimental. In the event you have allowed enough time to contact a lawyer and make a strong application for a B temporary visa, your travel plans may not be thwarted. For example, if you were to apply for travel authorization 3 or more months in advance, it should allow enough time to prepare an application, attend interview and receive a visa in time for your intended travel.

Visa Applicants

If you plan to visit the US temporarily and require a visa, you are also encouraged to leave ample time to apply for a visa before your intended travel date. The US Embassy and Consulates website advises travelers not to make non-refundable travel arrangements until securing a visa. Waiting times for visa appointments vary according to demand and it is unhelpful that the Department of State website tends to be wildly inaccurate. The travel.state.gov website currently quotes 10 calendar days, whereas the reality looks more like 30.

 

 

Published: 2nd December 2019