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US Visa and ESTA information

You must have an e-Passport to travel to the US
All passengers travelling to the US on the Visa Waiver / ESTA programme from 1 April 2016 must have an e-Passport which contains an electronic chip.

You should see a symbol on the front if you have an e-Passport.
If you don't have one you will not be permitted to travel.

What is an ESTA?
To make your visit to the United States, you must either travel under the country’s Visa Waiver programme (with an ‘ESTA’), or have a US visa (or be a US citizen, of course). 

An ESTA allows you to stay in the US under the Visa Waiver programme for up to 90 days and allows travel to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.

An ESTA is valid for two years, (or less if your passport expires in that time).

Countries applicable for the Visa Waiver Programme

If you're from one of the following countries you can travel under this programme unless

  • You're a national of a VWP country who has travelled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
  • You have dual nationality with a VWP country and either Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria. (Not including Libya, Somalia and Yemen)

If this applies to you you'll still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process via the US embassies or consulates (contact details below), but you'll no longer be able to enter the US under the Visa Waiver Programme (ESTA).

If you need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, the U.S. embassies and consulates will be on hand to process applications on an expedited basis.

If you already hold an Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTA) and you previously indicated that you have dual nationality with one of the four countries listed above on your ESTA application, your ESTA will no longer be valid.

Applicable countries

Andorra Hungary Norway
Australia Iceland Portugal
Austria Ireland Republic of Korea
Belgium Italy San Marino
Brunei Japan Singapore
Chile Latvia Slovakia
Czech Republic Liechtenstein Slovenia
Denmark Lithuania Spain
Estonia Luxembourg Sweden
Finland Malta Switzerland
France Monaco United Kingdom
Germany The Netherlands  
Greece New Zealand  

If you don’t come from one of these countries, you’ll need to apply for a visa via the US Embassy.

ESTA Application Requirements:
To obtain your ESTA:

  • You must apply at least 72 hours before you travel.
  • You must hold an individual machine-readable passport or ePassport (one containing a chip). If you don’t, you’ll need to get a visa instead.
  • Provide accurate information on your ESTA application.
  • Usually you will receive a response in seconds, but for very few passengers it could take up to 72 hours.
  • If your ESTA is denied, you will need to get a visa.
  • If you already have a visa for the US, you will not need an ESTA.

Apply for an ESTA Direct with US Homeland Security:

You can apply for your ESTA directly with US Homeland security, at a charge of $14. Useful information about your ESTA application: 

  • Applications are usually instantaneous - For those applications which are not immediately approved, travellers are required to continue to log in to the Government website to check for ESTA application approval.
  • Please take note of your application number - Once an application is submitted and processed successfully, an email confirmation will not be generated. So it is advised to print the confirmation web page, or jot down your application number for safe keeping and future reference.
  • Passport expiration check - If you apply for an ESTA when your passport has expired, or is about to expire, you may not receive notification from the Government that travel cannot be permitted. So please ensure your passport is valid when you apply for your ESTA.
  • For more information about your ESTA application please view US Gov's dedicated FAQs (opens in a new window).

US Embassy
Opening hours:  Mon to Fri, 08.30 - 17.30

Telephone:  0207 499 9000