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Check ESTA for US travel

Only eligible British Citizens can travel visa free

[March 27th 2009]

Passports and travel

A warning has been issued that not all British passport holders with ESTA approval will be able to gain visa free entry to the USA.

In a recent incident a British Subject was prevented from boarding a flight to the US, even though they obtained ESTA (the US Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) approval.

Under the terms of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to the United States only eligible British Citizens can travel visa free.

British Subjects, British Dependent Territories Citizens, British Overseas Citizens, British National Overseas Citizens and British Protected Persons must all possess valid visas if they want to travel to the US.

The warning about visa waiver eligibility has been issue by ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents). The association’s manager of trade relations, Susan Parsons, explains:

“We don’t want anyone who is looking forward to their stay in the United States to be disappointed, so we want travellers to be aware of this issue”.

“The problem is that the same ESTA software is used worldwide, and because Britain has the anomalies of several different categories of passport, the system doesn’t make the distinction or ask what kind of British passport an applicant may have,” Parsons continues.

“However, the US Embassy’s website has a very useful ‘Visa Waiver Wizard’, which helps guide you through the basic requirements for visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program. You just press the buttons that apply to you, and it tells you whether you need a visa or not,” she adds.

ESTA’s have been compulsory for travellers to the US since January 12th this year for business or leisure trips of less than 90 days.

Travellers can apply online on the US Department of Homeland Security website as soon as they start planning their journey and at least 72 hours before their flight.

An ESTA is valid for multiple entries for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first. But if approval is denied the passenger will need to apply for a visa.

Written by: Nick Purdom

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