Visa & ESTA Information

Visit USA does not answer queries about Visas or ESTA but we hope you will find the following information and links useful.

This new service includes a free online appointment booking service for nonimmigrant visa applicants. Nonimmigrant visa applicants can pay the MRV application fee and schedule a nonimmigrant visa appointment online, or through the new Call Center. This service is provided through a link from US Embassy London's website at or directly at a separate web address These two websites and the Call Center are the only official sources of general visa information from the U.S. Embassy and the only authorized methods to schedule a personal visa interview.

For further information, please see the U.S. Embassy website at

The following summary is provided by Visit USA as a service to UK-USA travellers and is for guidance only. It gives only outline information and, by definition, it is not totally comprehensive. Entry regulations are subject to change and Visit USA is therefore unable to accept responsibility for this information nor provide any further advice by phone or e-mail.

US Visa Waiver Program

Under the US Visa Waiver Program, many British Citizens holding a UK passport do not require a US visa providing:
  1. Duration of stay is not more than 90 days and traveller holds a valid ticket for onward or return travel.
  2. Passport is valid for at least 90 days from date of entry into the United States.
  3. Travel is for business, tourism or transit only.
  4. Traveller is not a journalist on assignment nor an individual seeking gainful employment.
  5. Traveller has never been arrested (even if the arrest did not lead to a conviction) and has not been convicted of a crime.
  6. Traveller has not been refused entry into or deported from the United States and has not previously violated the terms of admission under the visa waiver program.
  7. Traveller is in possession of an individual machine readable passport.
  8. USA entry procedures have changed and UK travellers to the USA under the Visa Waiver Scheme must now complete the I-94W form online using the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) system - for more details, please visit our ESTA page
Visit the US Embassy site for more on the Visa Waiver Program information.

USA Entry Procedures – Background Information

  1. Biometric Information
    All new UK passports are required to include an integrated circuit chip capable of storing biometric information from the data page in the passport, a digitized photograph and any other biometric information that may become standard in travel documents. Nb. This requirement will only apply to new passports issued after 26th October 2006 and will only apply to current passports with expiry dates after that date, when they are due for renewal.
  2. Finger Scanning & Facial Recognition
    All Visa Waiver Passengers will be finger scanned and their pictures taken upon arrival in the USA. This will take place during the inspection with US Customs & Border Protection who will use an inkless digital finger scanner to electronically capture either, the left & right index fingers of the traveller or a full scan of all fingers. A digital photograph of the traveller will also be taken. The process usually takes an average of 15 seconds and should not inconvenience or delay arrival into the USA.
  3. Machine Readable Passport
    British citizen passport holders intending to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program are required to present an individual machine-readable passport (MRP) upon entry into the USA at Customs & Border Protection. Those travelling without an MRP will need to apply for a valid USA entry Visa. This applies to both adults and children, each of whom must have a personal MRP to enter the United States under the VWP.

    The MRP has been issued in the UK since 1988 and as a standard UK Passport is issued for ten years, and then most UK travellers will now be using the small, red, MRP and already meets this requirement. However there are two main exceptions:
    • Passports issued by British Embassies overseas, whether the old style blue or the newer maroon versions may not be machine readable and any traveller holding such a passport, who would otherwise qualify for the Visa Waiver Programme, needs to either renew their passport for a MRP version or to obtain a US Visa.
    • Children must have their own MRP to travel to the USA but as all children, from infants in arms to sixteen years, have been required to hold their own UK passport since Oct 15th 1998, then many young travellers already meet this requirement. However, children born prior to 1998 who are still included in the passport of either of their parents will not be allowed to enter the USA without their own MRP.
  4. First Night’s Accommodation
    An I-94W form must be completed by all foreign nationals and presented to US Customs & Border Protection Authorities at the first point of entry into the United States – however see also Note 9 (ESTA) above.. Arriving visitors have to provide an accurate address of the place that they intend to stay on their first night in America and it is not acceptable to show ‘touring’ if on a fly-drive holiday, or ‘staying with relatives’.

    Additionally, this same information will also need to be in the airline booking system when the aircraft departs the UK and will be sent, ahead of arrival, to US Customs & Border Protection officials at the destination airport. The airline will collect the data (called APIS) at time of booking. The address recorded in the airline booking system and the address shown on the I-94W completed by the visitor en-route, must be identical and may be checked by US Customs & Border officers upon arrival to ensure that the information matches.
  5. Indefinite Visas
    "Indefinite” B-1 / B-2 visas issued more than 10 years ago are no longer valid.
  6. British Subjects
    British subjects (ie. not Citizens) are not eligible to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program and require visas to travel to the United States.
  7. US Visas
    US Visas cost £60. B-1 / B-2 visas can be issued with a maximum validity of 10 years. Depending on demand, appointments for visa interviews may take some time to arrange and travellers should call the US Embassy’s Live Operator Information Service on 09042 450100 (Calls charged from £1.20 per minute depending on phone used) for an appointment as far ahead as possible of the planned departure date.
  8. Passengers in Transit
    British citizens travelling on UK passports may be eligible to transit the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. However if they do not qualify for visa free travel then they will require transit visas.
  9. Minors Travelling With Adults Other Than Their Parents
     Minors and children travelling with adults other than their parents will be required to provide an authorisation to travel from one of the parents to enter the USA. A recommended authorisation form is available from the US Embassy website at 
  10. Baggage Security Checks
    Screening of passenger’s baggage includes opening luggage on departure from the USA after check in and therefore leaving bags unlocked will avoid the potential need for them to be opened forcibly. However travellers may be provided with free, padlock-like seals that screeners can snip open if a search is necessary but, if unavailable, travellers are advised to use cable or zip ties as an alternative to baggage locks. If a checked bag is searched, a statement to that effect will be inserted in the bag to notify the owner and the bag will be re-sealed. Travellers are advised to check with their baggage insurance provider to ensure that such measures do not affect their policy.

    The following packing tips are advisable but for other tips, check out
    • Do not pack food or beverages in checked bags
    • Pack footwear on top of other contents
    • Put personal belongings in clear plastic bags to reduce chances of a TSA screener having to handle them and spread books out - do not stack books
    • Do not place film in checked bags, because screening equipment will damage it
    • Leave gifts unwrapped should screening require them to be opened
    • Put scissors, pocket-knives and other sharp items in checked bags; never carry on.

Visa and security requirements can be subject to frequent and sudden change. It is therefore important that travel representatives and the travelling public check the Embassy’s public information regularly and well in advance of their planned travel date. Go to for current information.


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