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United States Visa
The Visa Waiver Program: British Passport holders are entitled to travel to the United States of America under the Visa Waiver Programme (WVP). The basic rules for the VWP are that the traveller:
  • Must hold a valid machine readable or e-passport (contains an electronic chip) with a digitised photo
  • Be travelling for business, tourism or transit purposes only
  • Be staying in the USA for up to 90 days maximum
  • Is entering the USA by air or sea:
  • Holds a return or onward ticket with a participating carrier
  • Further restrictions apply in relation to convictions, communicable diseases, deportation and those who have previously overstayed on the VWP

With effect from 12th January 2009 all those travelling on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to the USA are required to obtain an electronic travel authorisation prior to boarding. The ESTA system has been operating since August 2008 as an option and from January 2009 registration will be mandatory for all participating in the VWP.

Some important points:

  • An ESTA is only required for those who do not already hold a visitor's visa for the USA and are eligible to travel on the VWP.
  • An ESTA registration lasts for multiple entries over 2 years or the life of the passport, whichever is less.
  • If passport details change, i.e. for a name change or passport renewal, a new ESTA must be completed. If a passport which was previously reported as lost or stolen is subsequently located, this cannot be used for an ESTA registration as your application will be denied. A traveller who holds two valid passports may apply for an ESTA in both.
  • The US Embassy has confirmed all ESTA registrations should ideally be completed no later than 72 hours prior to travel. The approval process returns a "pending" result and it may take up to 72 hours for a decision to be made and advised.
  • An ESTA approval is not a guarantee of entry into the US, only an authorisation for a traveller to board a carrier for travel to the US by air or sea under the rules of the VWP.
You can register for ESTA online.

*Information updated on 31 March 2012 and correct at time of publishing. You are strongly advised to check with the embassy concerned for the latest regulations and no warranties are given as to the accuracy of this information.

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