America/Canada Discussion Forum

Discussions regarding holidays in America and Canada

Subject to certain conditions, travellers from some countries, including the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, may travel visa free to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

Citizens of those countries should ....

.... have either a machine readable or a biometric passport
.... be travelling for business, pleasure or transit only
.... be staying in the US for 90 days or less
.... have been granted authorisation under ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation)
.... hold a return or onward ticket.

Some travellers may be ineligible to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program, including ...

..... anyone who has been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction
..... those with criminal records (the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does not apply to US visa law)
..... those with certain serious communicable illnesses
..... those who have previously been refused admission into the US
..... those who previously been deported from the US
..... those who have previously overstayed on the VWP

The US Embassy advises that anyone in any of those categories must apply for a visa and that if they attempt to travel without a visa, they may be refused entry into the country.

(Minor traffic offences such as speeding do not affect eligibility to travel under the Visa Waiver Program).

To determine your eligibility to travel visa free to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, please click here to use the US Embassy's Visa Waiver Wizard.

If you have any questions about the Visa Waiver Program, or the visa application process, etc., please feel free to post here in this topic.

David :wave

The US Department of Homeland Security is tightening entry requirements, by introducing a new electronic pre-travel authorisation system for citizens of the existing Visa Waiver Program participating countries. The new system will eventually lead to the phasing out of the paper Form 1-94W.

This new system, called ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), started accepting voluntary registrations in August 2008, but registration is now mandatory with effect from 12 January 2009. Registration would require to be 3 days (or more) before travel. It could in fact be done several months before travel, perhaps even at the time of planning or booking a trip. The Department of Homeland Security will encourage early registration. Registration can be done in person, or by a third party, such as a travel agent. Initially, ESTA registrations and authorisations will be a free of charge, but a fee at some point in the future has not been ruled out.

Information required includes full name, date of birth, passport information, flight number and destination address (which can be changed later) in the United States. Various questions will be asked about eligibility to travel under the VWP, in relation to any communicable diseases, arrests and convictions for certain crimes, any previous history of visa revocation or denial, and any overstay or deportation.

When an ESTA application has been successfully submitted online, it will be searched against various law enforcement databases, to determine eligibility to travel under the Visa Waiver Program. It is expected that in most cases, authorisation will be almost immediate. Approved ESTA authorisations remain valid for 2 years, and cover multiple entries into the US during that period. Denied applicants will be referred to the US Embassy in order to obtain a visa.

ESTA approval only authorises applicants to travel to the United States under the VWP. Like the existing arrangements under the VWP, it is not a guarantee of entry or admissibility to the United States at a port of entry. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at airports of entry will still make the final admissibility determinations.

To visit the ESTA website and complete an online registration, please click here.

If you have any questions about ESTA, please feel free to post here in this topic.

David :wave
US Congress has passed legislation which allows a charge to be made for ESTA. As from 9 September 2010, the fee will be $14 ( approx £9 ) per application or renewal. To avoid this new fee, you can apply or renew ESTA free of charge now, even if your future travel plans are not yet finalised or even if your existing ESTA is not actually close to expiry.

Please remember that ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) is now mandatory. For free online application and registration, you should only use the weblink in my post above.

Other links, application and registration services are available, but these may not be free. For example, Google picks out certain keywords in this topic, such as ESTA, and adds related advertisements to the topic. One of those adverts currently appearing is for a company which will process your online application for you, but charge you £20 for the privilege.

There is no need to pay anything, as ESTA is currently free providing that you use only the official US Department of Homeland Security ESTA website !!!

David :wave
US Congress has passed legislation which allows a charge to be made for ESTA. As from 9 September 2010, the fee will be $14 ( approx £9 ) per application or renewal. To avoid this new fee, you can apply or renew ESTA free of charge now, even if your future travel plans are not yet finalised or even if your existing ESTA is not actually close to expiry.
Due to an as yet unexplained technical glitch, neither pages nor posts in the existing long running topic can currently be opened or accessed. From copies of my previous posts, I have meantime created this topic outlining the various APIS, VWP and ESTA requirements.

However, whilst the previous topic also contained that information, it additionally held lots of invaluable feedback from members about their personal experiences of the visa application process, the immigration/entry process, etc.

Sadly, it is looking as though we may not be able to recover that information, for which we can only apologise. If anyone would like to take time to repeat details of their experiences, I am sure it would be of enormous benefit to any fellow holidaymakers who may have concerns about their eligibility to travel to the US, whether or not to apply for a visa, how painful or painless the process is, etc.

Many thanks
David :wave
Hello, well thought i would make a start in telling anyone who is interested our experience in applying for a visa, as the above information has disappeared......

My Husband first applied for a visa in 2004 & was refused, told to stay in the same job for a few years & come back reapply again! needless to say we were gutted, were booked on flights to LA and had to cancel, couldnt believe it! We were so upset, we didnt realise about the whole visa situation untill after we had booked so we lost quite abit of money cancelling etc.

We decided to try again in 2008 4 years later, so we went down to the us embassy in London & in he went, this time he was actually only in there around an hour & a half i think, which was alot better then the 4 hours we had to wait in 2004! When he came out of the embassy he had a letter which said he couldnt have a visa but he had been recommended for a waiver of inelegibility from the DHS in America, so basically on there approval we could go, they did say however you could wait up to 8 weeks or longer untill you hear the outcome.....

Well 17 weeks later we finally recieve an email your visa is ready to be issued.......woo hoo!! Was so happy!! We could finally have our holiday! couldnt believe it had taken so long, the embassy staff did say though in an email, you can email after a certain amount of weeks i think it may be 8 weeks, they say you are advised nearer the time of your intended date of travel, so they do like to leave it quite close for some reason!?

Passport went of with the courier & about a week later it came back with the visa issued inside, it was only a 6 month one entry visa, so we will have to go back to the us embassy next time we wish to go on holiday to America.

On arrival in Orlando we were taken in to a room at the end passed all the immigration desks, another security guy came & went down with us, we sat in there & waited they were all really friendly. The one immigration officer came out & called my husband through & i asked if i should come or wait & he said its up to you, so i went with them. He just asked the same questions really, when we were going home/how long are we staying etc & stamped him in. He did say once you have visa everything is ok, i have to find you inadmissable on other grounds, which i allready knew.

So we have good & bad experience, 2004 we were very unorganised didnt really know much & i couldnt find any where with information like this website & it was kinda closer to one of my husbands last convictions now it has been over 10 years, i felt alot more prepared last year when we went to the embassy even though they didnt ask to see alot of the documents etc my husband had taken with him. Guess they just ask for what they need to see.....

Hope this helps anybody in the same situation & any questions ask away :)
Hi bubble123 ... thanks for taking the time to repeat your experiences. I am sure it will help others again, just as it did before.

David :wave
That all seems a bit odd....have the "Authorities" seen something they dodnt like.... :really

In a nutshell, people with records post asking do they need a visa hoping someone will tell them they dont

People post the rules saying they should

Others post and point out if they dont they wont get caught as the americans dont have access to our databases due to European data protection regulations.....

Repeat :yikes
Hello uknewsfan,

what do you mean have the authorities seen something they dont like? sorry i got a little confused.....
well I wondered whether people had noticed me and others saying the only way they know you have done something is when you tell them at the embassy :cry

Thats not to undermine the stress you and others have been through. Is been painful in many ways seeing your endevours, and great to share yor relief, but in reality all so unnecesary.

I wondered whether uncle sam had 'ad a word ;) but then I am a natural conspiracist :wave:
yeah i know what you mean, unfortunatley in 2004, when i first heard of needing a visa i searched the internet for information & there was some around but not like this website, not that i could find & didnt know what to do or what they knew etc, so booked the appointment, then got to thinking should of gone anyway as they had said no couldnt even try any more!!

At least now my husband has had one visa, it just means we gotta keep going back to london & it does seem like a hassle, its really worth it, but i wish we didnt have this process every time we want a holiday :)
There is absolutely no reason to suspect anything sinister about the unfortunate loss of access to the previous posts. :wink
David :wave
what do you mean david? :) im not understanding again..... lol

Given that previous posts of people's experiece of the visa process have been wiped, here is my experience.

Booked my holiday to Florida, paid in full etc then realised that due to a previous conviction that I would have to apply for a visa. Applied first for my Police Certificate - the website said that it would take 10 days for certificate to come through, however turned out that it was more like 10 weeks. Did not make my visa appointment until I received my certificate.

Eventually got police certificate and phoned to make an appointment. The first available appointment was in Belfast and 2 weeks prior to my holiday. So was totally stressed out thinking that I wouldn't get my visa before I was due to go, especially after I discovered this site and found posts from folks who had to wait 8 weeks plus.

Anyway gathered all the information required as set out on the embassy web site. Totally paniced that my employer would be informed etc and basically got myself in a right state.

Day of appointment, arrived early and had to go through security. Local guys at the embassy gate were great. The website says not to bring mobile phones etc, I had my phone with me and the security guys let you leave it with them. You then have to join a long line of other applicants. They seem to give out the same appointment time to numerous applicants. Got taken up to a counter and had to give over my application form. The only piece of supporting evidence that they asked for was 1 payslip. I then had to wait to go up to another desk where my fingerprints were scanned. You then wait for you interview which consisted of me being asked what the purpose of my visit to the USA was (holiday). Was then told that my visa was granted. Left my passport with them and 48 hours later my passport was returned to me with a 10 year multiple entry visa. Whole process for me was absolutly fine, spoke to someone on the flight home who had also been at the embassy and they said that they had similar experience to myself. They had heard that apparantly Belfast is a much smoother process then going to the embassy in London. Anyway have visa, packed case and off to Florida on Thursday - can't wait, first time there. :sun2
Thanks for re-posting, STRESSED-OUT. Hope you have a great holiday. :tup
David :wave

We are hoping to go to Orlando in Oct 2010

We are looking at what we need to go and sussing out the visa's

We both have biometric passports but the children who will be 17 & 15 when we travel don't.

What documents do you think we will have to get?
How long has your passport got left to run to be accepted?

Many thanks
What type of passports do your children have? If they did need documents would probably be cheaper to just get a new passport, as embassy interviews are expensive, well expensive enough! lol. What year were your childrens passports issued?

You will need to fill out your ESTA applications online, you can do that when you like they last for 2 years & its free to do if you go to the us embassy in londons website there is a link there to take you to the page. Once you do them you havnt got to think about them then.

Im not quite sure how long you need on your passport, i think it may differ from airline, but 6 months springs to mind. If you need new passports you can get up to 9 months added on to your new one anyway so if you had say 8 months remaining your new passport would be for 10 years & 8 months so you dont loose the months. I think the US say 3 months, but some airlines like you to have 6 months. :que
Hi SerendipityJo ... all travellers (adults and children) should have their own individual passports, either biometric or machine readable. Advice from US authorities is that passports should be valid for at least 6 months. That may not be enforced by US immigration, but it may be enforced by your airline or tour operator.

Details of VWP, APIS and ESTA formalities and registration can be found in posts at the top of this page.

David :wave
Has anyone had any problems with the ESTA? (ie. refusal)
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