Archive: Wed Nov 2016

ESTA Visa Brexit FAQ

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What cost travel for UK Nationals after Brexit?

The certainty that the UK will be leaving the European Union is one of the most significant political event to occur in many years. Rarely has there been so much discussion about a single article of a European treaty outside the legal community, but now everyone appears to be an Article 50 expert.

Brexit will have an impact on many areas of our lives, but of immediate area of concern for British passport holders is the future of Eurozone travel. From what the prime minister has said about immigration and freedom of movement so far, it seems likely borders will become more restrictive, and we may have to apply and pay a fee to cross them.

UK made over 30 million visits to EU in 2015

UK nationals take it for granted that they can freely hop on a flight, train or ferry to anywhere in the European Union or European Economic Area, from Iceland to Greece, Madeira to Latvia. The latest Office of National Statistics Travel Trends 2015 demonstrates how important this is as there were an astonishing 30+ million holiday trips to EU countries last year. However if the UK is going require more stringent checks on visitor of all kinds, then the reverse is true. Holiday makers must accept that Brexit will adversely affect their EU travel plans.

Proposal of a European Travel Information and Authorisation System

The same fear of illegal immigration and threats of terrorism are causing consternation worldwide. Three months before the UK’s June referendum, it is no coincidence that the EU launched a European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

The Commission says that ‘ETIAS would determine the eligibility of all visa-exempt third country nationals to travel to the Schengen Area, and whether such travel poses a security or migration risk. Information on travellers would be gathered prior to their trip’. Consultation and further information will be published in November 2016 but it has been reported that France and Germany both back a system based on the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization scheme.

US Electronic System for Travel Authorization scheme

ESTA is an automated system that helps check an individual’s eligibility to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). On payment of a fee, it essentially checks whether you are a law enforcement or security risk, and you are then cleared for travel – or not.

Information that you are obliged to share, including biometric data via fingerprinting and facial scans, is stored upwards of 12 years and safely kept for ‘security purposes’. People who already have a valid visa to travel to the States are not obliged to apply using ESTA.

Currently, although UK nationals must show a valid passport to enter the 26-country Schengen zone, they can then travel freely within it. But what happens after Brexit is anyone’s guess. If ETIAS goes ahead, and without a sensible travel agreement being negotiated, it seems likely that British passport holders will have to apply and pay for permission to enter and travel within this area. There are many details to be worked out, but it is certain that EU travel will never be as simple or as cheap as it has been.

How the Recent Brexit is Affecting Your Travel to the USA

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Are you travelling to the US soon? Despite the recent fall in the pound, the reasons to go this time of year are many; for instance, the dramatic autumnal leaves display in rural New England, traditional Halloween celebrations in Salem, or even just a pre-Christmas shopping session in New York. But whatever your reason, there are a number of potentially trip-spoiling administrative tasks to sort out before packing your bags. Below I outline some of the new rules and regulations you should take into account.

There were a number of reports in the UK press earlier this year which discussed the impact of a relatively obscure piece of US legislation. It was introduced by the US government as a response to the tragic San Bernadino shooting, and their growing fear around global security. Therefore visitors need to be aware of ‘improvements’ the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act 2015 made to the existing visa waiver programme (VWP).

Originally the VWP was created to allow and encourage freedom of travel, unlike the more stringent and complicated visa system. Provided you weren’t going there to study, work, or look for permanent residence, it enabled most people from many parts of the world to travel to the United States without a visa. So in reality what do these changes mean for eligible visa-free tourists?

The first major issue might be your passport. Many issues that British tourists faced were caused by old type passports. Although there are relatively few left in circulation, a number of people were left unhappy and out of pocket when they got to the airport and weren’t allowed to check in. If you still have a passport that was issued prior to 2007, it is urgently recommended that you get a new biometric ‘e-passport’. These are the only ones now accepted by the US authorities. 

In addition to being able to travel to the US, there are other good reason for getting your passport replaced. Although you can wait in line to get your passport checked by an immigration official if you wish, with an e-passport you can use the new automatic gates at passport control. Simply place your open passport on the glass panel, wait a few seconds, and the gate opens. Anything which reduces the stressful wait at airport immigration is a bonus!

Secondly you are now required to register your details online via the US Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) website. This is an automated system and determines your eligibility for travel. It is strongly recommended that you check your ESTA status prior to making any travel reservations or travelling to the United States. There is a fee payable for this mandatory service but it is valid for a couple of years. 

As airlines and tour operators have made clear, it is your responsibility to ensure you have the right documentation before you travel. Always double check with your operator if you are in any doubt, and don’t allow any travel hiccups to jeopardise your precious holiday time abroad.