Something for those of you crossing the pond…
The ESTA scheme has been around for a few years now and is old news to regular visitors to the USA.
However if it’s your first visit or you haven’t been to the US since before 2009 you need to complete this mandatory process a number of days before you travel. ESTA is an online form that replaced the paper visa waiver program forms that used to be handed out to passengers on flights before touching down.
Official advice suggests completing the process at least 72 hours before travel, in case of a delay in your application being processed, but it’s probably best to do so when you book your holiday – to avoid forgetting at a later date. The process can only be completed online, go to the ESTA webpage and follow the instructions. Every UK citizen travelling (including children) needs ESTA authorisation – each application costs $14. As with all online application processes take care to avoid bogus scam sites – they do exist.
Make sure you print the page or record the authorisation number for your application. The ESTA travel permit is valid for two years but is not a visa or a guarantee of entry to the USA, merely authorisation to try to enter the country. When your ESTA expires you must get a new one by repeating the application process. Don’t risk travelling without ESTA authorisation, or with an expired ESTA – in the unlikely event that you are allowed to board your flight, you are certain to be turned away by US Border Protection at your own cost!
Happy, safe, and well-organised travels!!!