Travel to the USA on the Visa Waiver Programme on and after 12 January 2009
If you are eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver programme you will no longer be able to complete the green I-94 form on board your aircraft. You will need to apply for authorisation using the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). Please see below for our top tips regarding the application process.
- ESTA is a mandatory requirement - if you do not hold either a valid ESTA authorisation or a current Visa for the USA you will be refused boarding
- ESTA applications should be made a minimum of 72 hours before departure
- Applications should be made online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov
- Always make a record of the 16 digit application/reference number – if you have a printer we recommend you print out this number and the expiry date (2 years after application date) when prompted, on application.
- Never try to travel to the USA on a passport that has ever been reported lost or stolen and then recovered.
- If your application is rejected you will need to apply in person for a US visa
- APIS information is still required and can be provided either at check-in or, if travelling with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, using our online 'Viewtrail' facility.
Additional information on the ESTA (Visa Waiver programme)
Applying for an ESTA is generally quick and simple, usually a response will be posted within 12 hours but it may take up to 72 hours.
In order for an ESTA to be granted you must be eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver programme. Holding an ESTA does not guarantee entry to the USA, it provides a clearance to travel, entry approval is granted by the Customs Border Protection Officer.
We strongly recommend that you make a note of the application / reference number as the system cannot recall your details without this. It is not mandatory to provide a print of the approval for either the airline or the Customs Border Protection office upon entry to the USA.
The ESTA is valid for a period of 2 years as long as your passport remains valid. You are recommended to update your ESTA each time you visit the US in order that the entry information on your ESTA matches the information that you submit through APIS (eg. address whilst in the USA, flight number). This will save time in entry to the US and result in fewer questions from the Customs Border Protection Officer.
If an ESTA is not granted you will be required to obtain a US Visa. ESTA and APIS are different requirements and are run by different government departments, you will be required to complete both.
ESTA applications can be made at any time ahead of travel, but should be made at least 72 hours before departure. It will still be possible to submit an application up to the point of on-line check in or check in at the airport, However should the ESTA not be granted, travel to the USA will not be permitted.
Applying for a US Visa
Please note that there is no longer a "Transit Without Visa" facility. All passengers clear immigration at the point of first entry to the USA on all international flights. If a client would need a visa to "stop" in the USA they would still need a visa to "transit". The US embassy has announced that as of 31 December 2002 anybody needing a visa to travel to or via the USA will no longer be able to apply through a visa agency like ourselves or directly by post to the embassy. Trailfinders visa service is no longer accepting applications. Passengers will instead have to make an appointment for a personal interview at the Embassy. Please call the Embassy information and appointment number 09042 450 100 (premium rate £1.20 per minute). In Ireland call 1580 456111 (£1.90 per minute). This will inevitably lead to severe delays, and applicants may have to wait a number of weeks before securing an appointment. You must consider this when making any booking involving the USA if you require a visa to travel or transit there.
ESTA APPLICATIONS SHOULD BE MADE AT LEAST 72 HOURS BEFORE DEPARTURE AND CAN BE DONE SO DIRECT FROM HERE