USA HOLIDAYS have plenty to offer Britons but travellers are being warned of big changes to the entry process. The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) currently helps Britons travel to America visa-free. This is what you need to know.
USA: An ESTA is “an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel (Image: Getty Images)
USA holidays see around 3.8 million British nationals visiting America every year. It’s not enough to simply possess a passport if you wish to travel to the US, however. As well as a valid passport, Britons need to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) through the Visa Waiver Programme. This allows travel to the US for up to 90 days. According to the ESTA website, an ESTA is “an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk.”
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USA holidays: Britons wanted of big US ESTA visa applications changes – what you need to know
The programme is undergoing big changes next week which holidaymakers are being urged to take notice of, reveals the latest travel advice.
An update to the website means any pending payments will see applications archived.
The site explains: “The ESTA website will be updated on August 5, 2019.
“All ESTA applications that are in a pending payment status at the time of the update will be archived.
“Citizens of participating Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries travelling to the United States are strongly encouraged to apply for an ESTA at the time of booking their trip and no later than 72 hours prior to departure.”
USA holidays: An update to the ESTA site means any pending payments will see applications archived (Image: Getty Images)
It’s advisable to apply for ESTA authorisation as soon as you know you will be travelling to the United States. It remains valid for two years.
The ESTA became mandatory in 2009 and travellers with the authorisation need to complete a blue Customs declaration upon arrival in the US.
According to the ESTA site: “Approved ESTA applications are valid for a period of two years, or until the passport expires, whichever comes first, and multiple trips to the United States without the traveller having to re-apply for another ESTA.
“When travelling to the US with the approved ESTA, you may only stay for up to 90 days at a time – and there should be a reasonable amount of time between visits so that the CBP Officer does not think you are trying to live here. There is no set requirement for how long you must wait between visits.
“Travellers whose ESTA applications are approved, but whose passports will expire in less than two years, will receive an ESTA valid until the passport’s expiration date.”
USA: It’s advisable to apply for ESTA authorisation as soon as you know you will be travelling (Image: Getty Images)
Britons have to pay for the visa – $4 for the processing charge and an additional $10 for the authorisation charge, amounting to $14 (£11.54).
ESTA rules tightened in November 2018 when the US government announced stricter entry requirements.
Visitors who do not have a “biometric passport” or “ePassport” now have to obtain a full visa before travel, making the entry process much more long-winded.
Last year an unfortunate Briton found himself barred from the USA when he accidentally said he was a terrorist on his ESTA application.
Scotsman John Stevenson, 70, from Greenock, was planning to travel to New York to celebrate his recent milestone birthday with his wife Marion – but his dream holiday was ruined following a technological glitch.
John believes the error occurred when his session timed out while he for completing the ESTA application. He then re-tried, typed in his passport number and was pleased to see he was given the option to continue where he left off. He then completed the application.
The retired taxi driver was horrified when, a week later, he found he had been rejected. John contacted US Customs and Border Protection only to be told he was now showing up in the system as a known terrorist.
News Source: Daily Express UK.