Permit warning for US-bound travellers with ESTA changes

Stricter rules on travel ESTA permits for entry to the United States mean Britons heading across the Atlantic could be barred from boarding.

Passengers are being urged not to be caught out by a change in the fast-track scheme that allows tourists entry into the United States.

Authorities have revealed that last minute applications under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) will no longer be accepted, with a minimum three days required before the departure date.

Failure to adhere to this time limit could mean those who have booked late travel deals or forgotten to fill in their online application will be unable to travel. While the rules have always advised applying 72 hours in advance, it has often been the case that travellers have been able to file applications as late as at the airport.

Visa Waiver Programme

Around 3.8 million Britons visit the United States every year, with tourists and certain types of business travellers able to use ESTA under the country’s Visa Waiver Programme.

Applying for and securing an ESTA, which costs US$14 and allows trips lasting up to 90 days, is a separate process to providing an airline with advance passenger information.

A note from US Customs and Border Protection on the ESTA application website advises travellers of the stricter time limit. It said: “Apply for ESTA no later than 72 hours before departing for the United States.

“Real-time approvals will no longer be available and arriving at the airport without a previously approved ESTA will likely result in being denied boarding.”

US travel insurance

US-bound travellers also need to think carefully about their travel and medical insurance before they set off. They need to remember that policies including the US tend to be more expensive due to the cost of healthcare in the country.

Recent examples from the Association of British Insurers include a £233,000 medical bill for 15 days in hospital following a stroke and £185,000 for a 10-day hospital stay to treat a blood clot.