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USA Visas


Everybody travelling to the USA must be in possession of either an ESTA or a valid USA Visa.

An ESTA must be applied for no later than 72 hours prior to departure and once approved is valid for multiple entries into the USA for 2 years from the date of issue or until passport expiry date if less than 2 years validity left.


On July 26, 2013 the U.S. Embassy in London and the Consulate General in Belfast transitioned to a new visa information and appointment booking system, which includes an online appointment booking service for non immigrant visa applicants. This new system is being implemented worldwide. This service is provided through a link from U.S. Embassy London’s website at or directly at the separate web address

Travellers requiring visa information, or information on scheduling a nonimmigrant visa interview should call 09042-450-100 (Calls to this line are charged at £1.23/min plus network extras). The Operator Assisted Information Service will schedule non-immigrant visa appointments up to and including July 26. Travellers requiring appointments for August and beyond will be required to wait until the new appointment booking services comes into operation on July 26.

Nationals of the 37 Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries, including British citizens, should check their eligibility to enter the United States visa free under the VWP and if entering the United States by air or sea carrier, obtain travel authorization under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to travel. If qualified, visas are not required. Further information concerning the VWP and ESTA is available from the Embassy website at

When to apply?

The online version should be completed at least 72 hours before departure – applications can be made after that but they run the risk that approval may not be received ahead of travel.

What happens to ESTA applications?

Once the online application has been completed and, assuming it is satisfactory, the system will normally quickly respond with an approval. Travellers should make a note of the ESTA approval number in case they need to access their application later such as to register their full USA address & flight details. Some applications may take up to 72 hours to approve whilst data is checked.

Who can complete ESTA?

Each family member travelling is required to complete an ESTA application and third party entry of data into ESTA is permitted whether a relative or not. However the third party must be completely certain as to the accuracy of such entries. Any inaccuracies will be taken up with the applicant – NOT the third party and the applicant remains totally responsible for their own records.


Travellers who have previously travelled to the USA will know that additional information, relating to their journey, is already required. As ESTA & APIS data cover two different requirements and are run by two different government departments, both systems have to run separately. At some point the two may be merged so that duplicate information does not have to be provided, but currently there is no planned date for such a change.

Repeat Visits?

Updating ESTA data for repeat visits within the two-year ESTA duration is recommended but may not be mandatory. That is, upon entry into the USA, the Customs Border Protection officer will also have the traveller’s APIS data on screen at the same time as the ESTA data and this may lead to a query why the two sets of data do not match. Updating ESTA with new arrival and the first night’s stay data will save time at the point of entry as it will mean fewer questions.

I do not yet know the US destination address or flight details.

ESTA applications can still be made without a full address and flights. In the short term, flight details are not required and a generic address only will suffice. For example, city and state. Applicants should register full address & flight details once known.

ESTA Refusals?

Experience to date confirms that ESTA has not created additional refusals to travel over current levels – currently ESTA refusals are less than xx %. Any applicant receiving a refusal and still wishing to travel to the USA, will need to apply to the US Embassy for a Visa.

Further information here

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