If you are planning a trip to the USA you need to be a biometric passport holder – even if you have already been granted an electronic ESTA Visa Waiver without one. There are the new requirements for access to the USA.
This change to the ESTA visa requirements was made late last year under the US Terrorist -Travel Prevention Act 2015 following the terrorist attacks in Paris.
The ESTA visa waiver program allows nationals from 39 countries to visit the United States on short notice for up to 90 days per single trip, without having to apply for a visa. Citizens without an e-passport may still travel to the United States with a full visa, however the ESTA visa is much more cost and time efficient. It saves travellers a lot of time since it does not require embassy interviews and you can get it almost instantly, as opposed to the two to three month wait for the full visa. The ESTA also costs significantly less.
These heightened security measures came into effect in late 2015 but due to lack of publicity have caught many travellers off guard.
Many have applied and received an approved ESTA using an old-style passport only to find themselves at the airport and not allowed to board the plane.
We suggest you check your travel documents carefully to ensure they reflect the new measures and avoid jeopardizing your holidays or business trip.
Once you have your biometric passport (e-passport), you can complete your ESTA visa waiver application here.
Also we recommend that you apply for the ESTA at least 72 hours in advance to avoid any possible delays.
In the UK, for example, biometric passports were introduced in 2006. Which means that most citizens are already biometric passport holders however there are still many that are not.
The difference between the biometric passport and the old-style one is the embedded electronic chip which contains an electronic version of the holder’s photograph, as well as the information on the personal details page of the passport including date and place of birth, nationality and gender.
Biometric passports are easily identifiable just look for the special symbol on the front cover.
Anyone needing a passport more quickly needs to make an appointment at a passport office.