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Travelling to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program Important Update

Important information if you are a United Kingdom passport holder or from one of the 35 eligible countries you are able to travel to the USA for a business or tourist visit of up to 90 days, without requiring a visa.

The US Department of Homeland Security has introduced an online system for advance authorisation to travel to the United States, the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA).

It is now a requirement that all travellers to the United States who are travelling under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) apply online for advance authorisation. Passengers will need to login to the website and register at least 72 hours prior to travel.

If application is successful it will be valid for multiple applications for 2 years or until the expiry date of the passport, whichever comes first or unless the authorisation is revoked.
Authorisation is not a guarantee of admissibility to the United States however, without authorisation travellers may be denied boarding to the United States or denied admission at a US port of entry.

Travellers can log on to the website and register now. They do not need to wait for flight bookings to be confirmed. For UK passport holders your passport must be valid for the duration of your visit to the United States.



Do I qualify for visa free travel?

With the introduction of visa free travel to citizens of 35 countries, it is now possible for many travellers, including British citizens, to enter the United States without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (WVP).


Citizens of the following countries: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom may travel visa free under the VISA WAIVER PROGRAM if they meet ALL of the following requirements:

Travelling for business, pleasure or transit only;
Staying in the United States for 90 days or less;
The traveller is a citizen of one of the countries named above, travelling on a valid, and individual machine readable passport.
Have not been arrested or convicted of any criminal activity
Overstayed on a previous visit to the USA
Have a communicable disease


From 26 June 2005 all visitors to the United States must have a Machine Readable passport or be in possession of a valid visa.

Sample of a Machine readable passport:

Note: A passport indicating that the bearer is a British Subject, British Dependent Territories Citizen, British Overseas Citizen, British National (Overseas) Citizen, or British Protected Person does not qualify for travel without a visa. A passport which states holder has Right of Abode or indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom does not qualify for visa free travel;

Important: Some travellers may not be eligible to enter the United States visa free under the VWP. These include people who have been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction, those with criminal records, (the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does not apply to U.S. visa law), certain serious communicable illnesses, those who have been refused admission into, or have been deported from, the United States, or have previously overstayed on the VWP. Such travellers must apply for special restricted visas. If they attempt to travel without a visa, they may be refused entry into the United States.

Passport Validity: Under the Visa Waiver Program, the passport must be valid for at least 90 days from the date on which the holder enters the United States. If not, the holder will be admitted until the expiration date on the passport. Note: Passport holders from Andorra, Brunei, and San Marino must be in possession of a passport valid for at least six months from the date of departure from the United States, even if travelling visa free under the Visa Waiver Program.

Holding a return or onward ticket: If you are travelling on an electronic ticket, retain a copy of the itinerary for presentation to U.S. immigration. Note: Travellers with onward tickets terminating in Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean Islands must be legal permanent residents of these areas;

Entering the United States aboard an air or sea carrier that has agreed to participate in the program. This includes aircraft of a U.S. corporation that has entered into an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to carry passengers under the Visa Waiver Program. Note: Other private or official aircraft or vessels do not meet this requirement; and
In possession of a completed form I-94W, obtainable from airline and shipping companies;

Or, if entering the United States by land from Canada or Mexico,

Is in possession of a completed form I-94W, issued by the immigration authorities at the port of entry, and a $6.00 fee, payable only in U.S. dollars.

British Passport Holders Note: British passports which contain the exception extension stamp extending the validity of the passport for two years are valid for travel to the United States. The stamp reads: "This passport is hereby exceptionally extended valid until (DATE)" and is preceded by either the words "Passport Office", if extended by a U.K. Post Office, or "Passport Office, London", if extended by the Passport Office in either Liverpool, Peterborough, Newport, Glasgow, Belfast or London.

Refused a Visa

While travellers who have been refused a visa under the provisions of Section 221(g) or 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act are not ineligible to travel visa under the Visa Waiver Program, they will be questioned by an immigration official at the U. S. port of entry regarding the refusal by the Embassy or Consulate.

The traveller should carry with him or her evidence of his or her intention to depart the United States at the end of the visit. This is generally satisfied by furnishing evidence of strong social and economic ties to the traveller’s place of permanent residence. There is no set form that this should take as each person's circumstances differ.

If the immigration officer is not satisfied that the traveller meets the qualifications for non-immigrant status, the traveller will be denied entry.

Transit under the Visa Waiver Program

Travellers who qualify for visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program are eligible to transit the United States. Application for entry is made on the arrival/departure form I-94W provided by the airline or shipping company. If transiting the United States to a destination in Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands, the traveller may re-enter the United States on the return journey using any mode of transport, as long as the total visit, including both periods of time spent in transit and in Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands, does not exceed 90 days. If transiting to a destination outside of Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands, the return journey must be on a participating carrier, but need not be within 90 days, as the traveller will be required to make a new application for admission and therefore, required to complete a new arrival/departure form, I-94W. Travellers transiting the United States to take up residence in Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean Islands must be legal permanent residents of these areas.

Important reminder: Visa-free travel does not include those who plan to study, work or remain more than 90 days. Such travellers need visas. If an officer of the USCIS believes that a visa-free traveller is going to study, work or stay longer than 90 days, the officer will refuse to admit the traveller.

I am entering the United States aboard a private plane, can I travel visa free?

If you are entering the United States aboard a private aircraft of a U.S. corporation that has entered into an agreement with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to carry passengers under the Visa Waiver Program, you will not require a visa, if you are otherwise qualified to travel visa free. If you are entering aboard any other private or official aircraft, you will require a visa.

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