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Passport and Visa information for holidays to the USA.
Q. What documents are required for entry into the U.S.?A.
Following a review of security procedures at all airports in the USA, the US Immigration Department has updated its policy on passengers entering the United States using the current Visa Waiver Programme, of which the UK is a participant.
All British passport holders will only be permitted to enter the United States if they hold a machine readable passport. The majority of 'new style' red British passports are machine readable, although those issued outside the UK or those not in the new style may not be. Should your passport not be machine readable it will be necessary to either obtain a new passport or to obtain a US visa.
Q. What is a machine readable passport?A.
A machine readable passport has the holder's personal details eg name, date of birth, nationality and passport number contained in two lines of text at the base of the photo page. This text may be read by machine. Almost all passports are now machine readable.
Q. Are all the 'new style' passports machine readable?A.
No. Although most of the 'new style' British passports issued in the UK since 1988 will be machine readable, those issued outside the UK may not be.
Q. How do I know if I have a machine readable passport?A.
There is a machine readable strip at the bottom of the data page. This means that the passport details can be read by a machine at Passport Control. If you are in doubt as to whether your passport is machine readable, you should contact the British Passport Office if a British passport holder, or your embassy in the United Kingdom for further information if you are not.
Q. My child is on my passport. I was advised that this was valid for travel until my child reaches 16, or the passport expires but with the new US regulations do I need a new passport for my child?A.
Yes. You should obtain a new passport for your child. As machine readable passports typically have bio data for only one traveller in the machine readable zone, children will therefore require their own individual passports in order to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program.
Q. If I do not have a machine-readable passport, will I need to obtain a US visa?A.
You must either obtain a new machine readable passport and use the Visa Waiver Program, or apply for a US visa using your current passport. If you decide to obtain a new passport, we strongly recommend that you review the information on visa free travel to ensure that you are indeed eligible to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program.
Q. How much does a new passport cost?A.
For the most up to date information please contact the British Passport Office on 0300 222 0000 or http://www.passport.gov.uk
Q. What should I do if I cannot, or choose not to apply for a machine readable passport?A.
You will need to obtain a US entry visa. Same day visa applications are not possible.In the UK:
Visa applicants are required to obtain visa application form DS-160 by down loading from the US embassy website www.usembassy.org.uk
or calling 09042-450-100(1.30 per minute). One set of forms is required for each adult, child and infant requiring a US visa.
Q. What other useful sources of further Visa Information are there?A. US State Department website
US Embassy in London website
(Visa Services section).
Q. I have a machine-readable passport that includes my child. Will my child be eligible to travel visa-free ?A.
No. In order for your child to travel on the Visa Waiver Programme your child will require his or her own machine-readable passport.
Q. Will the introduction of fingerscanning cause delays at U.S airports?A.
The process adds minimal time to the entry procedure - on average 15 seconds.
Q. What is a biometric passport?A.
A biometric passport contains an electronic microchip that holds information on the passport holder.
The US requires at least a facial image to be included. The UK is carrying out tests to include fingerprints and eye recognition data.
Q. Who qualifies to use the Visa Waiver Programme?A.
To qualify for the US Visa Waiver programme you must NOT:
- Be suffering from any communicable disease, physical or mental disorder or be a drug abuser or addict.
- Have been arrested or convicted for any offence or crime. This includes spent convictions or an arrest not resulting in a conviction.
- Have ever been involved in espionage or sabotage, terrorist activities, genocide or been involved in anyway with Nazi Germany or its allies between 1933 and 1945.
- Seeking work in the US, have been excluded or deported from the US, been previously removed from the US or attempted to procure a visa or entry into the US by fraud or misrepresentation.
- Been detained, retained or withheld custody of a child from a US citizen granted custody of the child.
- Been denied a US Visa or entry into the US or had a US visa cancelled.
- Have asserted immunity from prosecution.
Passports issued on or after October 26, 2006 must also include an integrated circuit chip capable of storing the biographic information from the data page, a digitised photograph and other biometric information. If your passport was issued on or after this date and does not have this information, you WILL require a visa.
Q. Why might I need a visa?A.
There are reasons why a British traveller will need a visa. These include one or more of the following: (Note: This is not a comprehensive list. If you are unsure, or if you think that your situation falls into any of the following categories, you should contact the US Embassy about whether you need to apply for a visa you must do this well in advance of any plans to travel to the US.)
- The personal information page of your passport does not describe you as a "British Citizen", but instead says "British Subject", "British National (Overseas)", "British Overseas Territories Citizen", "British Dependent Territories Citizen", "British Protected Person" or "British Overseas Citizen".
- You intend to stay longer than 90 days.
- You have a passport that is not machine readable.
- You intend to travel to the US for a reason other than business, pleasure or transit.
- You have been arrested, even if not convicted.
- You have a criminal record.
- You have a serious, communicable disease (including HIV).
- You are HIV Positive.
- You have been refused entry to the US on a previous occasion.
- You have been deported from the US.
- You have previously overstayed the 90 days permitted under the Visa Waiver Programme (ie travel without a visa).
- You are a child included on your parent's passport.
In all of these cases, you need to apply for a visa, or seek further information from the US Embassy Visa Information Service on 09042 450100 or www.usembassy.org.uk
Q. What is the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA)?A.
It is mandatory for anyone travelling to or transferring through the US under the Visa Waiver Program, to obtain approval to travel no later than 72 hours prior to travel by completing an online process ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) scheme. The cost of an ESTA is currently approx $14 per person and can be obtained by visiting https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov or the Visit USA Website at www.visitusa.org.uk where further information on the scheme and up to date fee can also be found. Once completed & approved, the ESTA application is valid for two years and allows multiple visits without the need to reapply. Travellers can apply for an ESTA even if they have no firm plans to travel to the US.
Failure to obtain an ESTA could result in the passenger being denied boarding by the airline.
The ESTA is very similar to the automated visa that you purchase to enter Australia and is completely paperless.
Q. What is Secure Flight and what does it do?A.
Secure Flight is a behind the scenes programme that streamlines the watch list matching process for passengers on all flights travelling in and out of the USA. It will improve the travel experience for all passengers, including those who have experienced difficulties in the past because they have been mistakenly matched to a person on the watchlist.
Q. What information will be collected by Secure Flight?A.
Secure Flight requires all airlines operating flights to/from the US to provide a passenger's name as it appears on their passport, along with date of birth, gender, and redress number (if applicable). The TSA requires passengers to provide this mandatory Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD) no later than 3 days prior to departure. You can supply this data online after your flights have been confirmed by going to your airlines website.
Q. What is a Redress Number?A.
Any person who believes they have been mistakenly matched to a name on the watch list and have subsequently experienced difficulties when flying to/from the US can apply for Redress through the Department of Homeland Security Traveller Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP). A unique Redress Number will be returned. Secure Flight uses this Redress Number to prevent future misidentifications for any passenger who may have a name that is similar to an individual on the watch list. If a passenger holds a Redress Number then they can, if they wish, provide this to their airline when booking a flight to/from the US.
For more information on the Redress Process, visit www.dhs.gov/trip
Q. How to update your Secure Flight information.A.
To update your information you will need to go online to your relevant airlines website. IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING WITH VIRGIN ATLANTIC THESE DETAILS HAVE AUTOMATICALLY BEEN PROVIDED.
You will then be asked for your flight locator number. You will also be asked for your first name and surname. Once you have given this information it will take you to the Secure Flight section where it will ask you to complete further information.
If you are having trouble entering your details you must call directly through to the airline you are travelling with.
We have below contact details for you depending on your airline:
- Delta -
0800 414 767
- America Airlines -
0207 365 0777
- British Airways -
0845 773 3377
- Continental -
0845 607 6760
- United Airlines -
0845 844 4777
- US Airways -
0845 600 3300
- Hawaiian -
01963 441 112
Q. I recently got a letter from you about ESTA - is Secure Flight the same?A.
This is not the same as ESTA - these details are different from the ESTA and you will need to complete both sets of information.
Q. Will it cost me to fill in Secure Flight details?A.
The Secure Flight information is currently free and does not charge to complete the information.
Q. I'm flying into America with Virgin Atlantic but have an internal flight, do I still have to fill Secure Flight info?A.
Yes, although Virgin Atlantic has your details you will also need to do this for your internal flight. If you are travelling on two separate airlines both will need your details.
Q. Do I need to fill the Secure Flight details for children and babies?A.
Yes - everyone in the party must complete the form and have all the information added no matter on the age. Everyone in the party travelling to the USA will need to complete all details.
Q. Can I just let the check-in people know my Secure Flight information on the day of my flight?A.
No - you must complete all the information at least 72 hours before your flight.
Q. I'm only connecting through the USA and won't need to go through immigration, do I need to fill Secure Flight details?A.
Yes - you will still need to complete all the information even if you are only transiting through the USA. As you will be landing into the States all information MUST be completed.
Q. I've already got my ESTA so this Secure Flight doesn't apply to me, does it?A.
It does apply to you even if you’ve already completed your ESTA information. This is completely separate and is additional information.
Q. What happens if I don't fill Secure Flight details?A.
If you do not complete the Secure Flight information, you will not be allowed to board your flight.