Government travel advice: USA, British passports and the Visa Waiver Programme

Posted on May 9, 2016 by Guest Writer
US border sign

Following a string of high profile media stories about UK holidaymakers being denied entry to the USA due to issues with ePassports, the UK Government has updated its travel advice in relation to the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).

British Passports and the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP)

The VWP allows most people who hold a British Citizen passport to visit the US for up to 90 days (provided their passport is valid for the duration of the trip) as a tourist, for certain types of business trips and while in transit to another country.

Any travellers wanting to enter the US under the VWP need to hold an ePassport (also called a biometric passport) which carries an internationally recognised symbol on the front cover (see image on right).

UK Passports issued from June – October 2006 may not be biometric and people holding such a passport will be denied entry under the VWP.

Anyone with plans to travel the US without an ePassport should apply for a visa from the nearest US embassy or consulate. Further information is available on the US Embassy website.

Further requirements

Those travelling under the VWP need to fill in an online pre-screening application known as an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) at least 72 hours before they board a plane or ship bound for the US.

There are several other conditions which may prevent UK travellers from entering the US under the VWP and people wanting to enter the US will need to apply for a Visa if:

  • They possess a British passport that describes their nationality as anything other than ‘British Citizen’
  • They’ve been arrested, cautioned or convicted for certain crimes including any drugs related offences, violent crimes, fraud and even serial driving offences.
  • They have dual nationality with Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria
  • They’ve travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia or Yemen since March 2011 (there are exemptions to this condition, read here for more information)
  • They’re planning to enter the US using Emergency Travel Documents (ETD).

It is also a requirement for people travelling to the US to show that they have enough money available to support themselves throughout their stay.

Further information on entry requirements and the UK Government’s US travel advice is available to read here.