ESTA for British Citizens

ESTA for British Citizens

ESTA Eligibility

British citizens can apply for an ESTA
Great Britain joined the Visa Waiver Programme in 1988
Great Britain is an active member of the Visa Waiver Programme

Other ESTA Requirements

➤ ESTA is for visits of less than 90 days
➤ Travellers arriving by air or sea require an ESTA
Valid electronic and machine readable passport is required
➤ ESTA is for tourism, business, transit, medical, or transit purposes
➤ A separate ESTA application is required per infant, child, teen or adult traveller


Section Reference


Can British citizens apply for an ESTA?

British citizens can apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) visa waiver to travel to the United States. The ESTA allows citizens of Great Britain to visit the U.S. for tourism, business, transit, medical and short study purposes without a visa for up to 90 days per visit. Great Britain was added to the Visa Waiver Programme in 1988. However, security measures, intended to address terrorism threats, have necessitated the pre-screening of travellers prior their arrival to the United States.

What is ESTA?

The ESTA was established in 2009 for the purposes of streamlining the processing of visa waiver applicants and to provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the capability to pre-screen travellers against numerous no-fly, criminal, and terrorist list databases. Thus, since 2009 British citizens have been required to obtain an approved ESTA application to enter the United States. However, in the instance a British citizen is denied or ineligible for ESTA, or wishes to visit the United States for more than 90 days or for other travel purposes than those allowed under ESTA, then the British passport holder would need to apply for the relevant U.S. visa.

What’s the difference between an ESTA and a U.S. visa?

An approved ESTA application does not provide a British citizen the same level of rights as a U.S. visa holder. A U.S. visa applicant will need to file a more comprehensive application form, called the DS-160 and attend an interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy. Furthermore, depending on the type of visa, applicants may need to prepare additional documents to prove the genuineness of their U.S. travel plans and purposes before entering the country.

How can British citizens apply for an ESTA?

British citizens must apply online for ESTA. An ESTA is required prior to boarding the air or sea vessel to the United States, and should be applied for at least 72 hours before departure. A valid, un-expired electronic passport must be used for the ESTA application.

What are the ESTA requirements for British citizens?

The ESTA requirements are that the applicant has an electronic, full British citizen passport with a machine readable section. Furthermore, the purpose of travel to the United States must be for permitted business, tourism or transit visits of under 90 days and the applicant must arrive by air or sea. Applicants can review the detailed ESTA requirements as well as visit the ESTA FAQ for more information before starting on their application.

Are British Nationals eligible for an ESTA?

Travellers with a British Subject, British Dependent Territories Citizen, British Overseas Citizen, British National (Overseas) Citizen, or British Protected Person passport do not qualify to travel under the Visa Waiver Programme nor the ESTA. Similarly, a passport which grants an individual the "Right of Abode" or "Indefinite Leave to Remain" in the United Kingdom does not qualify the traveller under the Visa Waiver Programme nor the ESTA. Thus, these travellers will need to apply for a U.S. visa.

How long does an ESTA application take to complete?

The ESTA application time on average takes about 13 minutes to complete. However, this varies depending on the availability of your passport and itinerary details when you apply.

How can I pay for an ESTA application?

ESTA applications must be paid for online. An application will not be processed if payment is not completed. There are several ways of paying for an ESTA application by using a credit or debit card, such as Visa® Debit, Visa® Credit, MasterCard® Debit, MasterCard® Credit, American Express®, Discover®, Diner’s Club, Maestro® or JCB® cards.

How long does an ESTA last?

An ESTA is issued for a period of two years, or until the date of passport expiry, whichever date occurs first. An ESTA cannot be renewed.

What if a British citizen is denied an ESTA?

British citizens who are denied an ESTA will need to apply for a U.S. visa to enter the United States for business, tourism or transit purposes. If you feel you have made a mistake on an ESTA, there are ways you can certain correct errors.

Can I apply for an ESTA with multiple citizenships?

Yes, you can apply for an ESTA if you have multiple passports or citizenships. The passport you use for your ESTA application will need to be the passport you use for travelling to the United States. Applicants are advised to consider their options on which passport to use when applying for an ESTA with multiple citizenships.

Can I apply for an ESTA with a criminal record?

British citizen applicants with a criminal record can apply or an ESTA, however, they should make themselves aware of the ESTA eligibility questions prior to submitting an application.

Will I need to apply for an ESTA for minors such as babies or children?

Yes, every traveller regardless of age will need to have an approved ESTA to board an air or sea carrier to the United States. Parents and legal guardians are advised to read about the requirements of entering the United States when travelling with minors.

Do I need an ESTA if entering the U.S. by land via Canada or Mexico?

No, you will not need an ESTA if entering the United States by land. Obtaining an ESTA will expedite your arrival entry to the United States at the land border, however it is not a requirement. Instead, you will be required to complete an I-94 form, which has the same types of questions as an ESTA application.

How can I check the status of my ESTA application?

British citizen ESTA applicants can check their status at any time after application submission. Applicants are advised to familiarize themselves with the different ESTA application status’ to ensure they understand the stages of their application.

ESTA Application Advisory
  • Applications should be submitted at least 72 hours prior to departure to the U.S.
  • Denied ESTA applicants can still apply for a B2 Tourist Visa or B1 Business Visa
  • An approved ESTA can be revoked at any time and does not guarantee admission to the U.S.

Learn More About ESTA

ESTA Benefits
  • Can be used for multiple entries
  • Online desktop or mobile application 
  • Two years' validity or date of passport expiry, whichever is sooner
  • Decisions on ESTA applications are usually provided instantaneously

Apply for ESTA