Changes to USA entry requirements

Foreign Office USA Travel Advice Update

As bespoke travel planners we will always update you with any changes to FCO advice for countries you are travelling to – if you are travelling to the USA or Canada in 2016 please contact us to check the latest changes to entry requirements.  Both entry permits can be obtained online, but new rules apply to Canada and below, you will need a passport with an integrated chip (electronic scanner) for entry to USA after 1 April 2016. Please send us photocopies of your passports so that we can enter the correct details on your flight booking. 

The FCO travel advice for the USA has been updated with an amendment to the Entry requirements section – on 18 December 2015, the US Congress passed a Bill updating the requirements for the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP); under the new rules, with effect from 1 April 2016 all travellers wishing entering the US under the VWP will need to hold a passport with an integrated chip.

Please find an extract of the advice below.

Entry requirements 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 permissible under the VWP include tourism, certain types of business visit and transit to another country. If you have a British passport that describes your nationality as something other than ‘British Citizen’, or if your passport has been extended by 12 months under exceptional measure put in place in mid 2014, you don’t qualify for entry to the US under the VWP and you’ll need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. You may not be eligible to enter the US under the VWP if you have a criminal record or have been arrested, even if it didn’t result in a conviction. Travel under the VWP is restricted to travellers with passports that include certain security features.

On 18 December 2015, the US Congress passed a Bill updating the requirements for the VWP. Under the new rules, with effect from 1 April 2016 all travellers wishing entering the US under the VWP will need to hold a passport with an integrated chip. If you have doubts about whether you’re eligible to enter the US under the VWP (either now or when the new rules come into effect on 1 April 2016), or if you have any questions about visa matters generally, you should contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate for advice. 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. If you do not have an ESTA you’ll be refused travel to the USA.

If you’re arriving by land, you do not 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). For more information, and to apply online, visit the official ESTA website. 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. The overall level of the advice has not changed. There are no travel restrictions in this advice.

To view the travel advice for the USA, please click here