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Foreign travel advice

USA

Entry requirements

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. You don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.

US immigration officials will accept British passports extended by 12 months by British Embassies and Consulates under exceptional measures put in place in mid-2014, but you will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate before travelling.

Visa Waiver Programme (VWP)

The VWP allows most British Citizen passport holders to visit the US for up to 90 days. The types of journey allowed under the VWP include tourism, certain types of business visit and transit to another country.

You won’t qualify for entry to the USA under the VWP, and will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate, if:

  • you have a British passport that describes your nationality as something other than ‘British Citizen’
  • your passport has been extended by 12 months under exceptional measures put in place in mid 2014;
  • your passport doesn’t include certain security features
  • you’ve been arrested for certain crimes, even if it didn’t result in a criminal conviction
  • you’re a dual national of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria
  • you’ve travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria since March 2011

Certain exemptions apply on a case-by-case basis to those who have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria. For more information about these exemptions, see the website of the US Embassy.

Additionally, from 1 April 2016, all travellers wishing to enter the US under the VWP will need to hold a passport with an integrated chip (an ePassport). British passports issued since October 2006 are ePassports and carry this internationally recognised symbol on the front cover.

If you’re in any doubt about whether you qualify for the VWP, or if you’re concerned that an existing ESTA may have been cancelled due to the new rules, you should contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.

Those travelling under the VWP arriving by air or sea should provide details online at least 72 hours before travel. This is known as an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation or ESTA. For more information, and to apply online, visit the official ESTA website.

If you’re arriving by land, you don’t need to complete an ESTA before you arrive at the border. Getting an ESTA is a separate process to providing your airline with advance passenger information (details of your passport, country of residence, address of your first night’s accommodation in the US etc).

The VWP is intended to be used for occasional, short visits to the US. If a US immigration officer thinks you’re trying to ‘reset’ the clock by making a short trip out of the US and re-entering for another 90-day period, you can be denied entry. If you travel from the US to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean you can usually re-enter using the ESTA and admission stamp you were issued when you first arrived in the US, although the time you spend outside of the country is included in the 90 days allotted for your visit. Make sure you’re clear about the length of time the immigration officer has authorised you to remain in the US if you re-enter under the same ESTA.

When you arrive in the USA you will need to be able to show that you have enough funds available to support yourself during your stay, even if you’re staying with family and friends. Further details on the VWP and other aspects of US immigration rules are available from the Customs and Border Protection website.

Global Entry

The US Customs and Border Protection programme Global Entry gets pre-approved travellers through border control faster at some US airports. If you’re a British citizen you can now register to get a UK background check on GOV.UK. If you pass the background checks, you’ll be invited to apply for Global Entry.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETD) aren’t valid for entry into the United States under the Visa Waiver Programme. If you’re planning to enter the US using an ETD you must apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate before you travel, or hold a valid lawful permanent resident card (often referred to as a ‘green card’), which you must have with you on arrival.

Bringing medicines into the US

There are restrictions and prohibitions on the import of certain prescription drugs into the US. The US Department for Homeland Security website contains further information and advice on bringing pharmaceuticals and controlled substances into the US.

Travelling with children

If a child (under the age of 18) is travelling with only one parent or someone who isn’t a parent or legal guardian, you may be asked to provide certain documents at the border. For further information, see the US Customs and Border Protection website.

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