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Health and Visa

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

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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 Taiwan
Germany The Netherlands United Kingdom
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.

  • You must apply online for your ESTA - either directly with Homeland Security, or our partners VisaCentral.  More information is provided below on both these recommended options.

Apply for an ESTA Direct with US Homeland Security:

Apply for an ESTA with Homeland Security

You can apply for your ESTA directly with US Homeland security. This costs $14.

Useful information about your ESTA application:

How long does it take to get the ESTA?

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.

Do I need to print my ESTA?

Once an application is submitted and processed successfully, an email confirmation will not be generated. We'd advise you to print the confirmation web page, or jot down your application number for safe keeping and future reference.

Can I get an ESTA if my passport is due to expire?

You need to make sure your passport is valid for travel when you apply for your ESTA. 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.

Where can I find out more about my ESTA application?

For more information about your ESTA, read the 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

Apply for an ESTA Direct with our Flying Club Partner Visa Central:

VisaCentral logo

Alternatively, our partners VisaCentral can make the process of applying for your ESTA as easy as possible. They will assess your requirements and apply on your behalf, for an additional service charge of £16.

  • Live Assistance - VisaCentral has a customer service centre you can call to speak to a professional with all your ESTA questions.
  • Automated System Updates - VisaCentral will check for approval on the traveller’s behalf and notify the traveller when approval has been issued.
  • Email Confirmation - Travellers receive immediate confirmation and ESTA application reference number in an email, as well as the validity date of an approved ESTA, so the traveller will know when the ESTA is about to expire.
  • Passport Renewal Program - Travellers who submit an ESTA application with an invalid passport will receive notification.  VisaCentral will work with the traveller to renew the passport, and secure an ESTA for travel.
  • Earn Flying Club miles - Virgin Frequent Flyers who process their ESTA application with VisaCentral receive 2 Flying Club Miles for every £1 spent.


Opening hours:  Mon to Fri, 09.00 - 18.00

Telephone:  0844 381 4798

Apply for the Global Entry scheme and get faster entry into the USA

By joining the Global Entry scheme, the U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) programme, UK citizens will be able to speed through U.S passport control with the minimum of fuss.

This scheme allows expedited clearance for pre-approved British citizens arriving in the United States.

Benefits of the Global Entry program include:

  • Reduced waiting times
  • Eligibility for TSA Precheck✓® (faster security screening at participating US airports)
  • No requirement to complete a paper customs declaration form

The membership lasts for five years and all applicants will undergo thorough background checks (at a non-refundable cost of GBP 42 payable to the UK government), including a face to face interview and online enrolment with the U.S CBP (at a non-refundable cost of USD 100).

You must be a British citizen to use this service.

Find out more and apply for the Global Entry scheme (opens in a new window)

Born in the US but hold a non-US passport?

A change in US government policy now means that anyone born in the United States is considered to be a US citizen. As a result, if you were born in the US but don’t hold a US passport, you’ll need a 'loss of nationality letter' to enter the country.

Please note that we are not able to carry passengers in these circumstances unless they have this letter, which can be obtained from the US embassy.

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