Entry into the United States
Visa Waiver Programme (VWP)
Most passport holders can get an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) through the Visa Waiver Programme, which allows travel to 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’ll generally qualify to enter the USA using the VWP if your British or Irish passport:
- describes your nationality as a ‘British Citizen’ or 'Irish Citizen'
- is an ePassport with this internationally recognised symbol on the front cover (the United States requires that travelers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program have an e-Passport if their passport was issued on or after October 26, 2006). Ireland commenced issuing ePassports on 16 October, 2006.
- have received authorisation from the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA)
- haven’t been arrested for certain crimes, even if a criminal conviction didn’t result
- aren’t a dual national of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria
- haven’t travelled to Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen since March 2011
- can show that you have enough funds available on arrival to support yourself during your stay, even if you’re staying with family and friends
Certain exemptions apply on a case-by-case basis to those who have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia or Yemen since March 2011. For more information see the website of the US Customs and Border Protection Agency or contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.
You should complete an online pre-registration form on the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) website, before you travel. The US Customs and Border Patrol recommends that you do this at least 72 hours before departure. Applying for and securing 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). For more information, and to apply online, visit the official ESTA website.
If you’re arriving by land or on a ferry from Vancouver or Victoria in Canada, you don’t need to complete an ESTA before you arrive at the border.
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.
If your current British passport is not an ePassport you can contact Her Majesty’s Passport office for a replacement to allow you to use the VWP. Otherwise, you’ll need to apply for a visa to enter the United States on your current passport.
British Passport holder guidance
Irish Passport holder guidance