ESTA Application for Travel to USAIf you are planning to travel to the USA then you must:

  • either hold a full passport and a valid American Visa, or
  • be a citizen with a full passport from a country which participates in the Visa Waiver Program and also be authorised to travel by completing the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA)

You need to have completed and received approval for travel before you can board an aircraft to the USA. Therefore you should make your application well before the date you are due to travel. The approval to travel is valid for 2 years from the date it was issued.

If you are a citizen of the United Kingdom or one of the visa waiver program countries the process for obtaining your Electronic System for Travel Authorization, ESTA approval is straightforward and completed online. You will have to pay a fee to the U.S. Government but you do not need to use one of the many unofficial sites which make an additional charge.

1.  Check that you are a citizen from one of the countries listed below which participate in the Visa Waiver Program:

Andorra                  Greece                    Netherlands                   Sweden
Australia                Hungary                 New Zealand                  Switzerland
Austria                    Iceland                   Norway                           United Kingdom
Belgium                  Ireland                   Portugal
Brunei                     Italy                        Republic of Malta
Czech Republic     Japan                       San Marino
Denmark                Latvia                      Singapore
Estonia                   Liechtenstein         Slovakia
Finland                   Lithuania                Slovenia
France                    Luxembourg           South Korea
Germany                Monaco                   Spain

2. Check that you also comply with the following requirements:

  • You intend to stay in the United States for 90 days or less on business or leisure
  • You hold a valid passport lawfully obtained from one of the Visa Waiver Program countries listed above
  • You will arrive via a Visa Waiver Program signatory airline – major international carriers flying from the above countries are included but do check
  • Have a return or onward ticket to a country outside the U.S.
  • Your travel plans must not terminate in contiguous territory e.g. Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands e.g. Caribbean Islands unless you are a resident of one of those areas.
  • You are currently not in possession of a valid U.S. visitor’s visa

3. If you satisfy the above criteria then you can apply online for your Electronic System for Travel Authorization, ESTA approval. Before you begin the application process, make sure that you have the following documents and information available:

  • your valid passport
  • a valid credit card  – either MasterCard, VISA, American Express, or Discover
  • the name of the airline you are travelling with
  • the flight number you are travelling on
  • the address you are staying at while in the U.S.

4. To complete the online application go to ESTA Online Application

  • You will have to complete the application form and submit it
  • Make a note of your application number
  • Make a payment of $14.00 – if your application is refused you will only be charged $4.00
  • View your application status, sometimes you receive an immediate response, at busy times you may have to wait 24 – 48 hours for your application to be processed.
  • Once your application has been approved, you can print a copy and retain it with your passport (although this is not strictly required as your airline checks online that you have received approval to travel before you can check-in)

Arriving in the U.S.

Once you arrive in the U.S. you will still have to pass through Border Security and Custom checks, at busy times and airports this can take 1 – 2 hours as there may be long queues. The Border Security guard will check your passport, ask you some questions about your stay and you will also have to provide your finger prints and have an iris scan.

Only in rare cases will a citizen from the United Kingdom who has followed the above process be refused admission to the U.S. It is normally due to a previous criminal offence, being in possession of drugs or you are suspected of being involved in terrorist activity.

The above process and entry requirements to the U.S. may read as being difficult and stringent but rest assured the online application is straightforward and many thousands of UK citizens travel to the U.S. each year safely and without difficulty.

If you are concerned about travelling to the U.S. you can read the very detailed help facility on the U.S. Customs and Border Security website.

When travelling to the USA be it for a city break or a longer holiday it is essential that you take out comprehensive travel insurance, we highly recommend flexicover as they cover all ages and most pre-existing medical conditions at a reasonable price.