Nigella Lawson refused entry to US; asked to apply for Visa

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On Sunday 30th March, the celebrity chef Nigella Lawson boarded a plane for a holiday in the US. However, the US immigration authorities informed British Airways that Ms Lawson would not be allowed entry to the US and she was subsequently asked to leave the plane.

It is reported that US immigration intended to deny her entry to the US to Ms Lawson because of a public admission that she had taken cocaine. Ms Lawson admitted cocaine use while giving evidence in the trial of two former employees last year.

Since then, the US embassy in London has said that Ms Lawson should be able to gain entry to the US, for business or pleasure, if she applies for a visa at the US Embassy in London. UK nationals usually just apply online under the US visa waiver scheme (a relatively easy process) to travel to the US on business or on holiday though they do need work visas to work in the US on a long term basis.

US reserves right to refuse entry

However, the US reserves the right to bar UK citizens from entry into the US in certain circumstances. For example if the UK citizen has taken illegal drugs in the past. Among other reasons for denying entry are
  • Crimes of moral turpitude – This may be relevant for those who have committed serious criminal offences
  • Previously having stayed in the US after their visa has expired
  • Ties to terrorist or criminal organisations
  • Poor health

Miss Lawson is one of the best known television cooks in the UK known for her good looks and high calorie recipes. She is the daughter of the UK's former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel (now Lord) Lawson. Her recipe books sell well in the UK but also in the United States. She has sold £50m of books worldwide and is a well-known broadcaster in many English speaking countries.


If Ms Lawson was barred from entering the US permanently, this would undoubtedly affect her career. She has recently appeared in a cookery talent show called 'The Taste' in the UK and has travelled to the US to promote the US version of the show.

The US embassy in the UK released a statement saying 'There are several ways of legally travelling into the United States. Ms. Lawson has been invited to come to the Embassy and apply for a visa for travel to the U.S. We understand she has professional requirements for U.S. travel. These matters are generally handled routinely and expeditiously, so stand by'.

Although she is no longer able to travel to the US under the US visa waiver scheme, Ms Lawson can apply for a B-1/B-2 visit visa for the US for business or pleasure.

O-1 visa

If she wishes to gain entry to the US for work on a longer term basis as a chef and performer, one of the visas that she is likely to qualify for is the O-1 visa for Aliens of Extraordinary Ability.

This visa is for performers and other with a very high level of accomplishment in their chosen fields. The initial O-1 visa is granted for up to three years and can be extended.

Nigella Lawson admitted taking cocaine on several occasions during a criminal trial held in London in December 2013.


Ms Lawson's personal assistants, two Italian sisters, Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, were accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds from Ms Lawson and her former husband, the advertising agency millionaire Charles Saatchi.

During the trial, the sisters alleged that Ms Lawson was a habitual drug user who took cocaine and cannabis on a daily basis. Ms Lawson denied this but admitted having taken cocaine on a handful of occasions, one of which was when her first husband, the journalist John Diamond was terminally ill.

If you would like to apply for a visa can help. is a specialist visa consultancy with 25 years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Please feel free to contact us for further details.