This page aims to explain everything required for someone travelling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program in what is hopefully an easy to understand manner.
Rather than duplicate information such as list of countries and quoting external sources on this page it aims to link to external official authoritative sources so that readers can easily access the most up to date information.
Who this applies to
The focus of this page are citizens of the United Kingdom but it is also equally applies to citizens of any countries that -
- are participating in the Visa Waiver Program, and
- are members of the Six Month Club.
Visa Waiver Program Requirements
Summary of Requirements
To be able to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program you require (1)
a biometric/e-passport that is (2)
valid for the duration of your stay along with (3)
a valid ESTA approval and (4)
you must not have visited or have dual citizenship with certain 'high-risk' countries.
Recent Changes to Requirements and Eligibility
- As of April 1st, 2016 everyone travelling to the US under the VWP must have an e-passport. These passports have a symbol on the front that resembles a chip (or perhaps a camera): . Though this has caught some people by surprise, this new requirement has actually simplified the VWP requirements a little and reduced the possibility of confusion.
- As of January 21st, 2016 anyone who have visited certain countries since March 1st, 2011 or have a dual citizenship with certain countries will have any current ESTAs revoked as they are no longer eligible to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. This DIBB post covers the original press release.
Full List of Requirements
- Valid passport: The passport must be valid for the duration of your stay. Citizens of countries that are members of the Six Month Club are exempt from the normal requirement of the passport having to be valid at least six months beyond the intended stay. The UK is a member.
- E-Passport: The passport must be an e-passport. This new requirement means the two following requirements are always met. The UK started introducing e-passports in March 2006 but there was a period of gradual introduction so until October 2006 new passports issued may still have been the non-biometric type, so make sure you have the e-passport symbol at the front of your passport.
- Machine readable: The passport must be machine readable. All biometric/e-passports are machine readable.
- Digital Photograph: The passport must have a digital photograph unless it is a biometric/e-passport.
- ESTA approval: You must obtain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for travelling to the US on a passport that meets all above requirements. An ESTA is valid for a single passport for two years from the date of approval. You need to obtain a new approval after the two years or if you renew your passport before then. You should use the official ESTA website to check the status of your existing ESTA if you have one. You cannot transfer an ESTA to another (e.g. renewed) passport.
- Not visited certain countries: If you have visited certain 'high-risk' countries on or after March 1st, 2011 you may not be eligible to travel to the US under the VWP regardless of meeting all other criteria. There are some exceptions, so check them out if you fall into this category but be prepared you may have to obtain a full visa.
- No dual citizenship with certain countries: If you have a dual citizenship with certain 'high-risk' countries you may also not be eligible to travel to the US under the VWP despite meeting all other criteria. There are some exceptions so check them out if you fall into this category but be prepared you may have to obtain a full visa.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Visa Waiver Program?
The VWP allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the US and stay for 90 days without having to obtain a visa.
What is the 'Six Month Club'?
This is a program that waives the normal requirement that the passport being travelled on must be valid for at least six months beyond the intended stay in the US. In short, citizens of countries that are members of the Six Month Club only need their passports to be valid for the duration of their stay in the US.
Does my passport need to be valid for six months after my stay?
Citizens of the UK and the other members of the Six Month Club are exempt from this requirement and only need a passport valid for the duration of the intended stay.
Does my passport meet the recent e-passport requirements?
It does if it is an e-passport. Check for the e-passport symbol at the front of your passport.
Is my passport a biometric e-passport?
If your passport has the e-passport symbol (resembles a chip and/or a camera) at the front of the passport then it is an e-passport and meets the latest requirements to be able to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. Passport issue date does not matter
as long as it is valid for the duration of the stay: if the symbol is on the front of the passport it meets the criteria.
My passport has the e-passport symbol but I cannot feel the chip - is it an e-passport?
Yes, as long as you have the symbol on the front it is an e-passport and meets the recent requirement changes to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. You can feel chip in early e-passports but in later one you cannot (it is hidden in the main biographic page). The UK has so far issued three revisions since introducing the biometric e-passport: The first one in March 2006, a second one in October 2010 and a third one in December 2015. They may look slightly different but as long as the e-passport symbol is present at the front it meets the new VWP requirements.