The US requires travel authorization for any non-US citizens to enter the country, so if you are thinking about visiting the US from the UK in the near future, you must prepare all of the necessary documents to grant you entry.
The type of travel authorization that you require will depend on your purpose for your trip to the US. If you are a British citizen (or a citizen of any other country listed as a visa waiver program country), you are able to apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), provided that you meet the criteria.
The criteria includes that your visit to the US will not last for 90 days or more. The ESTA is also only applicable if the reason for travel is for business, tourism, medical or transit. If you were planning on visiting the US for a period of longer than 90 days, or you had other reasons for travel such as studying or working, you would need to apply for the relevant US visa.
Obtaining an ESTA
The process for applying for an ESTA is very quick and straightforward, it simply requires you to complete an online ESTA USA application form, which takes around 20 minutes to complete. It is advised that you apply for the ESTA at least 72 hours before you plan to travel to the US, to allow enough time for the processing of the application. However, sometimes it will just take hours or even minutes for the application to be processed.
You will require a valid biometric passport, which your ESTA will be electronically linked to if it is approved. Therefore, you will not have a physical document for your ESTA, although you can keep your email confirmation in case of any issues. You will also require a valid email address for the correspondence to go to and an electronic payment card to pay the application fee.
Documents required for US Visa
If you need to apply for a US visa, then there are more requirements and documents that you will need to provide. To apply for a US visa, you will need to fill in the DS-160 form, make the application payment and arrange an appointment at the US embassy or consulate. You will then attend an interview, where you will be required to provide certain documents, including any old passports, your current passport (with at least six months validity), photograph, proof of application payment and a printout of the interview appointment letter.
In addition to this, it may be necessary to provide documents such as bank statements or a college acceptance offer letter, if you are applying for a student visa. You should check which specific documents are required for the type of visa you are applying for, to make sure that your visa is not refused based on not having the correct documents.
Getting an appointment with the US embassy may take a while, so if you need to apply for a US visa, you should apply with plenty of time left before you intend to travel to the US.
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