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Changes in USA Visa Waiver Programme

From 21 January 2016 most people who have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria since March 2011, or are dual nationals of these countries, will no longer qualify for entry under the VWP and existing ESTAs could be revoked. You will instead need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. If in doubt please contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate. Also, from 1 April 2016, all travellers wishing to enter the US under the VWP will need to hold a passport with an integrated chip (an ePassport). 

Entry requirements - Visa Waiver Programme (VWP)

The VWP allows most British Citizen passport holders to visit the US for up to 90 days. The types of journey permissible under the VWP include tourism, certain types of business visit and transit to another country. 

You do not qualify for entry to the USA under the VWP, and will need to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate, if: 

You have a British passport that describes your nationality as something other than ‘British Citizen’; 

Your passport has been extended by 12 months under exceptional measures put in place in mid 2014; 

Your passport doesn’t include certain security features; 

  • You have been arrested for certain crimes, even if it didn’t result in a criminal conviction; 
  • You are a dual national of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria; 
  • You have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria since March 2011. 

Certain exemptions apply on a case-by-case basis to those who have travelled to these countries: on official duty on behalf of an international, regional, or sub-national organisation, a humanitarian NGO; journalists who have travelled for reporting purposes; UK military and government personnel, and those who have travelled for legitimate business purposes to Iraq, or Iran (after 14 July 2015). You should apply to the nearest US Embassy or Consulate for a waiver. 

Additionally, from 1 April 2016, all travellers wishing to enter the US under the VWP will need to hold a passport with an integrated chip (an ePassport). British passports issued since October 2006 are ePassports and carry this internationally recognised symbol on the front cover. 

Those travelling under the VWP arriving by air or sea should provide details online at least 72 hours before travel. This is known as an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation or ESTA. If you do not have an ESTA you’ll be refused travel to the USA. For more information, and to apply online, visit the official ESTA website. 

Approved ESTAs for entry into to the US for those who have previously travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria, or for those who hold dual nationality of these countries, could be revoked from 21 January 2016 following a change to the VWP qualifying rules. You are advised to check with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate before travelling to determine if you need to apply for a visa. 

Changes to on-line information on the ESTA website about the new rules are not expected to be made until the end of February 2016. Therefore, if you have doubts about whether you’re eligible to enter the US under the VWP, or if you have any questions about visa matters generally, you should contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate for advice. 

The overall level of FCO advice for the USA has not changed and there are no travel restrictions in place. 

Please note the full FCO travel advice for USA can be accessed via this link: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/usa