USA features intricate entry requirements for visa and passport, and visitors booking tickets to the country must ensure adherence to these norms before booking flights. The article discusses these as well as factors that determine one’s eligibility for entry into the USA.
Every year, countless people from different countries purchase air tickets for visiting various cities of the USA, both for business as well as leisure. In order to ensure a hassle-free and joyous time in the country, there are some intricate requirements related to entry in the US which must be adhered to. These requirements, which vary for the nationals of different nations, are laid out by the government of United States and have been expounded in great detail by relevant authorities and establishments such as US Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs, US Embassies in various countries, FCO (for British Nationals) etc. Here is a quick run down of various entry requirements for travel to USA with special reference to British Nationals planning to book ticket for flights to the country.
Travellers flying to the USA need to obtain a visa, except for those who are flying under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP). Under the VWP, citizens of certain countries are eligible to travel to the USA without obtaining a visa. British passport holders (British Citizens) are eligible to visit the US under the VWP. However, if you have a British passport that describes your nationality as something other than ‘British Citizen’ you will need to get a visa.
Britons travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme are allowed a stay of 90 days in the USA for tourism, specified business and transit purposes without a visa.
In order to avoid ambiguity of any sort, it is advisable that travellers check the visa requirements before booking their flights to the United States. The information for the same can be found at http://london.usembassy.gov/ (for British Nationals).
Visa Waiver Programme
The Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) is an initiative of government of the USA that allows citizens of participating countries (currently 38) to stay in the USA for a period of 90 days without obtaining a visa. The purpose of the trip must, however, be restricted to business and pleasure, or for transit. The eligibility under the VWP is also subject to certain other requirements as outlined by US Government which can be accessed here.
Eligibility under VWP at a Glance
To be eligible, traveller must
1) be the national of one of the participating countries.
2) be travelling on a valid, full validity, machine readable or e-passport with an electronic chip.
3) be travelling to the USA for business, pleasure or transit for less than 90 days.
4) not be ineligible to receive a visa under U.S. visa law. Plus, if entering the United States by air or sea traveller must
5) be holding a return or onward ticket.
6) be entering the United States aboard an air or sea carrier that has agreed to participate in the program.
7) have received authorization to travel under ESTA.
As a rule, travellers to the USA need to have a passport valid for travel for six months beyond the holder’s stay in the United States. However, as per the US embassy this requirement has been waived for certain countries which are able to extend the validity of passport for an additional six months after the passport’s expiration date thereby not affecting traveller’s (from these nations) eligibility to travel to USA. United Kingdom is included in such nations, hence British nationals taking flights to United States can travel with a passport valid for only the proposed duration of their stay, beyond which no additional period of validity is required.
Further, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (UK) states the US Embassy as confirming that “they will accept British passports extended by 12 months by British Embassies and Consulates”, but you will not be able to travel under the Visa Waiver Programme.
The British Citizens travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme must hold a passport which is valid for the duration of 90 days.
Those who hold a passport which displays anything other than ‘British Citizen’ will need a Visa to fly to the USA.
To enter the USA under VWP, travellers must obtain an approved authorization through the process of Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which entails furnishing specified details of traveller(s) before boarding their flights to USA.
For British Nationals, FCO states that
- All those travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme arriving by air or sea should provide details online
- The details have to be provided at least 72 hours before travel.
- If you don’t have an ESTA you’ll be refused travel to the USA which means you will be denied to board your flights.
For more information, and to apply online, visit the official ESTA website”.
There is a fee of $14 that travellers must pay for a travel authorization. The fee includes $4 for processing of application and $10 as Authorisation fee that is charged only if your application is approved and you receive authorization to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.
Advance Passenger Information System (APIS)
The Advance Passenger Information System is followed by many governments, including the USA. Under APIS, US authorities require some passport and travel information about the people flying into their country prior to the arrival of the visitors.
The information required by the APIS generally comprises of personal information like name, date of birth, gender, nationality etc and unique details like the passport number and expiration date etc. Usually the airlines and the travel agents that travellers book their flights tickets with facilitate the process; airlines usually let travellers provide their API details using their websites.
(Note: The article is based on information provided by the following sources: US Embassy in London, Department of Homeland Security, US Department of State, US Customs and Border Protection which can be accessed for more (and updated) information. Southall Travel disclaims any liability, whatsoever, that may result from use of above information.)
Disclaimer: The information in this article relating to visa/entry requirements is correct at the time of publishing. You must consult the relevant Embassy or Consulate for updated info on visa policies as requirements may change. You should check the up-to-date position in good time before booking/departure.