Every year nearly 4 million of us Brits jet across the pond to sample all the United States have to offer. To ensure your trip gets off to a trouble free start, make sure you’re on top of the US Visa & Passport legislation, and don’t be one of the 80,000 people expected to fall foul of recent changes.
US Visa Waiver Program
The agreement between the UK & US means that all British citizens travelling to the United States for tourism, business or in transit can travel under the US Government’s Visa Waiver Program. This means you can freely travel within the US for up to 90 days, without having to apply for a US Visa.
If you’re not a British Citizen it may be that your country also has a Visa Waiver agreement but it’s worth checking if your nationality means you have to apply for a visa, and visit your US Embassy or Consulate. You can find out more here.
Before You Go
Even as a British Citizen planning to travel under the VWP, don’t think you can just turn up at the airport. To travel freely without a Visa all travellers must have provide details of their trip online via the US Government’s Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). Without providing these details in advance and completing an ESTA you will not be authorised to enter the US under the Visa Waiver Programme and will be denied entry.
You can access the ESTA here and must complete all the details such as your passport information and travel plans at least 72 hours before you fly.
Is Your Passport Eligible?
Earlier this year the US changed their immigration laws so that only travellers with a biometric, or chip passport will be allowed to enter. This is regardless of whether you are travelling on the Visa Waiver Programme and have filled out your details on ESTA. The change was brought about in April but has been little-publicised, leading to numerous stories of unaware British travellers being turned away at the departure gates.
Chip passports were first widely introduced in 2007 so it’s likely yours will be up to scratch, but it’s estimated that around 1.3 million of us are still in possession of an old-style passport. Checking if yours has a chip or not is easy; look out for the rectangle with a horizontal line and circle in the middle on the front cover. If it has this then you are good to go and can set about planning your American Adventure.
Have you booked to go to America? Do you understand the US Visa regulations? Get involved and leave a comment below!