How the Recent Brexit is Affecting Your Travel to the USA

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.