Going to the USA? Then Don’t Forget ESTA.
What is ESTA?
The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) is a web-based system used to determine the right of visitors to travel to the United States. What ESTA isn’t, is authorisation to enter the United States. The final decision to authorise entry rests with Customs and Border Protection at the point of entry.
Is ESTA compulsory?
Yes. As of 12 January 2009, ESTA must be sought by all citizens of countries that have signed up to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). As Britain is such a country, the online ESTA form will have to be completed and approved before you travel to the United States.
Why has ESTA been introduced?
The US Department of Homeland Security – set up in the wake of the 9/11 attacks – implemented ESTA to help stop undesirable citizens of VWP countries from entering America. Currently, the US welcomes around 50 million people a year from these countries. ESTA is not intended to restrict commerce or tourism, but to filter out those people considered to be a security risk to the US homeland.
How do I apply?
The only way to apply is online. Follow the link to the ESTA website and complete their application form. As long as you have your passport details to hand it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.
The 3 ESTA responses:
Your application will generate one of three responses:
Authorisation Approved: You are cleared to travel to the United States;
Travel Not Authorised: You are not cleared to travel to the US and should apply for a paper travel visa at a US Embassy or Consulate;
Authorisation Pending: Your application requires more time before a decision can be made.
How long does ESTA take?
Once an ESTA form has been submitted, the application is then queried against US law enforcement databases. However, this only takes a few seconds, with the vast majority of applications determined within 4 seconds (99.6% approved in this time according to the US Embassy in London).
How long is ESTA valid?
The ESTA is valid for up to two years (less if your passport expires within two years) and allows for multiple entries of up to 90 days each into the United States. If you receive a new passport during the two-year entry period, you must reapply for ESTA approval.
Note: When entering the USA, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of entry.
When Should I apply for ESTA?
Although your ESTA application can be approved in seconds, it’s recommended that you apply at least 72 hours before departure. In fact, you may want to apply as soon as you decide on travel dates, just in case your travel authorisation is denied. This is because it can take up to six weeks to get an appointment at the US Embassy for a visa. You should also apply for ESTA before paying for your trip, just in case travel authorisation is denied.
In certain circumstances it may be worthwhile applying for ESTA even if you don’t have specific plans to travel to the US. If, for example, the nature of your work requires last-minute travel to America, as ESTA is valid for two years, you may want to apply for authorisation in anticipation of future travel. Even though the online form asks for your airline, flight number and hotel in the US, this information is optional and won’t stop the application being processed.
What if I need to travel immediately?
ESTA is not about restricting commerce or tourism – it is intended that last minute and emergency travellers will be accommodated.
What happens if I arrive in the USA without ESTA?
Travellers who have not registered will not be allowed to clear immigration and risk being detained and/or sent back home. In fact, travellers without ESTA approval may even be denied boarding at point of departure. The thing to do in this case is to quickly find an internet point, get on the ESTA website and hope your application is approved immediately.
What does ESTA cost?
ESTA is free of charge; all it costs is around five minutes of your time to complete the online application form. Note: apparently, some travel sites are charging a fee for sorting this out for you, so be aware and question any ESTA-related charges.
Do I still need to fill in the green immigration form?
Travellers from Visa Waver Program countries heading for the United States will be familiar with the small green card (form I-94) that was required to be filled in before hitting passport control. The ESTA replaces the need to fill in this form.
Spread the word – don’t go to the USA without ESTA
So if you’re off to the USA and you’ve read this article, you’ll know to sort out an ESTA before travelling. However, as the Foreign Office is concerned that thousands of travellers could be turned away at US immigration because of their ESTA ignorance, you can do your bit by forwarding this article on to anyone that you know is planning a trip across the pond.
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We would strongly advise visiting the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website for all the latest travel, health and Visa information if you are travelling to a destination outside the EU. It is especially important to check in plenty of time if you are visiting any country for which inocculations are recommended or required. You can also check with your GP regarding inoculations. Please note it is your responsibility to obtain visas, and to make sure you have a full British Citizenship Passport with at least six months validity from date of return.
We recommend the purchase of travel insurance. In life we never know what is going to happen. Trip insurance will cover you if you have to cancel due to injury, sickness, or death to you, a travelling companion, or family member. It does not cover unstable, pre-existing medical conditions. It will also cover you should something happen to you medically on your trip. If you cancel your vacation for a covered reason, or incur medical expenses while on your trip, you would need to pay these fees in advance and then file a claim for reimbursement.
As a general rule, all Tour Operators advise that up to 28 weeks of pregnancy you can travel as long as you have checked with your doctor. From one day over 28 weeks of pregnancy upon return and up to 32 weeks, you must obtain a doctors certificate stating how many weeks pregnant you are and your due date, It must also state that you are fit to travel. You should take this certificate with you to the airport as you mat be asked to produce it at Check-in. You must also check with your travel insurance company that you are covered under your policy. Over 32 weeks of pregnancy you cannot travel with any airline. All airlines advise that you check with them before booking if over 28 weeks pregnant.
Health & Safety now prevents the Cabin Steward from giving you any type of tablets for sea-sickness or anything else.
Tablets can be purchased from the Pursers Office or ship`s shop.
If these do not work, the ship`s doctor can administer an injection for a fee.
For safety and security reasons normally no visitors are allowed on board.
Princess Cruises have now introduced a scheme that in some ports, mostly North American, family and friends can come on board and see you off - there is a charge for this.
They are the only cruise line re-introducing this tradition from the by-gon-era.
It depends on the cruise line but embarkation normally begins approximately 4 hours prior to departure.
Today's cruise ships are mostly "one class." Everyone on board can use all of the ship's facilities.
Will I get bored or feel confined?
Not likely. Most ships are a good size and it usually takes a couple of days to fully explore how many options there are on board. In addition, you get the opportunity to explore new and exciting ports of call. Cruise ships are like floating resorts and have just as many options as a fine resort. You can be by yourself lying poolside on a deck chair or you can join a dance class or sports activity. You can see a movie or play backgammon. The options are endless.
Cunard still have areas and lounges on board their ships that are only available to guests in their "Grill Class"
Yes, all cruise itineraries are subject to change. Guest safety is the number one priority for the cruise lines. On rare occasions, weather conditions and other unforeseen circumstances require a change in itinerary. In these situations, the cruise line staff will do everything in their power to visit an alternate port of call.