Whether it’s a quick getaway or a month-long road trip, many British travellers have the United States as a top destination on their bucket list. In fact, travellers from the United Kingdom were the third-most-popular foreign arrivals in the USA, and the number keeps growing year after year.
The United States offers plenty of interesting things to see and do, from a classic stroll around New York City’s best tourist attractions to a hike around the Grand Canyon, biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, road tripping along Route 66, or even checking out Mount Rushmore.
However, travellers should also keep in mind that they may need to apply for a USA ESTA before their trip. This blog post will go over all the details, including what the ESTA is, who needs an ESTA, and much more.
What is the ESTA?
The ESTA (which is officially known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is a travel authorisation system that was created by the United States government to streamline entry for visa-exempt travellers.
This means that travelers from certain countries do not need to have a traditional visa and, instead, may apply for the ESTA.
The process of applying for an ESTA is very quick and simple, and is typically done in less than 15 minutes. Travellers simply go to the online application, fill out the form, pay the small processing fee, and that’s it. The approved ESTA is sent to the applicant’s email address and is usually processed in an instant.
Who needs an ESTA?
Citizens of more than 40 countries around the world are eligible to obtain an ESTA.
This includes all 27 member states of the European Union (i.e. Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, among others) as well as Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.
Likewise, it’s important to note that both adults and kids must have a valid ESTA before they can travel to the United States. If the child has their own passport, they will need to have an ESTA. Thankfully, parents or guardians may fill out the application form for their child(ren).
However, kids who do not have their own passports (i.e. they are included on one of their parents’ passports) are not eligible for the ESTA and, therefore, will have to visit a United States embassy or consulate for further information and to apply.
Benefits of the US ESTA
Just like any other travel document, the United States ESTA comes with many perks and benefits.
Perhaps the most crucial is that it allows the holder to enter the United States of America for the purposes of tourism, business, or transit into another country.
The ESTA is a multiple-entry travel authorization that allows its holder to stay in the United States for up to 90 days. This means that travelers may split their visit into a few different trips, such as a week-long vacation in the spring before spending two months in the US over summer break (don’t forget to visit at least one beach in the Florida Keys).
Finally, the ESTA is valid for 2 years after being issued and does not have to be used as soon as it is granted.
One caveat is that the ESTA expires along with the traveler’s UK-issued passport. If you have a passport that is nearing its expiration date, it is a good idea to renew it first before applying for the ESTA to get the most out of it.
How to apply for the US ESTA
Last but certainly not least, it’s time to apply for the ESTA.
The process is done entirely online, and the application form can be accessed by any device that has a smartphone.
Travellers will need to provide information about themselves (first name and surname, date of birth, parents’ names), their passport data (serial number, nationality, date of issue, and expiration), and contact information.
The second section will ask yes or no questions (also known as eligibility questions) about the traveller’s health history, criminal background, and general trip itinerary.
Once the application is complete, travelers are encouraged to double-check their answers and make sure that they are correct and free of typos. Afterward, applicants will need to pay the processing fee in order to submit their ESTA application for consideration.
Other entry requirements to enter the USA
Besides having a valid ESTA, there are a few other entry requirements for UK citizens who plan to travel to the United States.
After the pandemic, many countries have required travelers to either be fully vaccinated and/or to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. While the United States eliminated its testing requirement in April, the government still requires foreign citizens to be fully vaccinated before arrival.
The United States accepts any vaccine that is approved by the US FDA or World Health Organization (WHO), including AstraZeneca, Sinopharm (BIBP), Covishield, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Moderna, Pfizer, and Sinovac.
Once travellers have met all of the requirements, they are ready to travel to the USA.