New Visa Regulations for Travelling to the US

Posted on: 12 January 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

As of the 12th January, there are new visa regulations in place for UK travellers to the United States.


The US Visa Waiver Programme - VWP - allows most British Citizen passport holders to visit the US for up to 90 days.

The types of journeys that are permissible under the VWP include general travel/ tourism, certain types of business and when transitting to another country.

The US has announced new measures that require all those travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme to provide details online at least 72 hours prior to travel - known as an Electronic Travel System or ESTA. Authorisation becomes compulsory for all travellers from 12th January 2009.

For more information, and to apply online please visit the following website at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. An ESTA once obtained will be valid for a period of two years, or the validity of the travellers passport - whichever is shorter.

At present, US authorities do not propose to levy a charge for this service, although they have reserved the right to consider doing so in the future.

If you do not have internet access, a third party, such as a relative or travel agent, may apply for the ESTA for you.  However, you will still be responsible under the law for the questions answered on your behalf.

VWP travellers should be aware that unauthorised third parties have established websites which charge for information about ESTA and for submitting applications.  These are not endorsed by, associated with, or affiliated in any way with the United States Government.

UK travellers are advised to be wary of such sites and businesses, particularly those that seek fees for services offered.  Whereas the process, as outlined above is currently free. 

Obtaining an ESTA should not be confused with the separate requirement, which will continue to apply, for you to provide your airline or carrier with details of your passport, country of residence and address of your first night’s accomodation in the US.

More details are available on the VWP and other aspects of US immigration at the following websites:

If you have any doubts about whether you are eligible to enter the US under the VWP, or about visa matters generally, you are strongly advised to contact the US Embassy in London before your travel on 0904 245 0100.

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