Follow the heartbeat of North America through towering forests, undulating fields, high-plain deserts, pulsating metropolises and offbeat oases. Whether you plan to dive headlong into the exhilarating whirlwind of New york city or ski down the slopes of the Great White North, this is a continent whose boundless menu of activities and sights allow you to calibrate your itinerary to whatever level of adventure you choose. Venture on a Canadian wilderness trek, buckle up for the legendary road trip along Route 66, take a helicopter tour over Grand Canyon or wonder the wetlands of Florida Everglades.
With such a vast continent, weather varies greatly, Canada experiences some of the coldest winters on earth with temperatures reaching –30, however everywhere gets hot, normally dry summers, with temperatures around 30`C in southern states.
Time to travel:
Depending on type of holiday, anytime of year
Flight time from UK:
6 hours (New York) 12 hours (LA)
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.