Eligibility to Travel on ESTA to the United States

What is ESTA or the Visa Waiver Program?

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), also known as travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Nationals of certain countries are eligible to travel to the United States (US) for business or pleasure purposes for up to 90 days. This includes nationals of the United Kingdom (UK).

Who Cannot Travel under the VWP?

There are certain individuals who are inadmissible to travel to the US under the VWP and potentially also inadmissible on any other US visa. The most common issues tend to concern (but are not limited to) those individuals:

  • With a criminal record

  • Who have previously been denied a US visa

  • Who have overstayed the permissible amount of time in the US

Travel to and Dual Nationality of Certain Countries

In January 2016, the US began implementing changes under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 . Under the Act, travellers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the US under the VWP:

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have travelled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).

  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

Those individuals may still be eligible for travel under the relevant US visa. Under the new law, the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive these restrictions if he determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. Such waivers will be granted only on a case-by-case basis.

Do I now Require an Electronic Passport (ePassport) for ESTA?

All travellers wishing to enter the US under the the Visa Waiver Program now need to hold a passport with an integrated chip (an ePassport). 

What is Global Entry?

Global Entry, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveller Program, allows for expedited clearance of pre-approved, low-risk travellers. UK citizens could register for Global Entry since 3rd December 2015.

To register for Global Entry, UK citizens will apply through the UK.GOV website and pay a £42 processing fee. If the applicant passes, they will receive a “UK Access Code,” which applicants will enter when applying for Global Entry through CBP’s Global Online Enrollment System (GOES). The non-refundable application fee for a five-year Global Entry membership is $100 and applications must be made online. Once the application is approved, a CBP officer will conduct a scheduled interview with the applicant and then make a final eligibility determination.

Our firm has expertise in applying for B-1/B-2 waivers of inadmissibility for any of the above grounds. In particular, for those individuals who have been arrested for a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT). It is important that if you have been arrested, even if you were not charged, or the charges were dropped, that you consult with an immigration attorney.

If you have any questions regarding eligibility travelling under ESTA, or regarding any other US immigration matters, please do not hesitate to contact our firm on:

 +44 (0)203 102 7966 or info@baimmigrationlaw.com