ESTA Forms and Passports - very confused!!

(13 Posts)
Perriwinkle Wed 27-Feb-13 19:32:53

So right, I know I have to get these ESTA forms for our holiday to Florida in August but having read the guidance notes on the site I am now deeply confused about the current status of our passports.

The site says:

What are the passport requirements for travel under the Visa Waiver Program?

Visa Waiver Program requirements are:
•The passport must have a machine-readable zone on the biographic page.
•Issued on or after October 26, 2005 – Each Visa Waiver Program passport issued on or after this date must have a digital photo.
•Issued on or after October 26, 2006 – Each Visa Waiver Program passport issued on or after this date must be an electronic passport with a digital chip containing biometric information about the passport owner.

So, my DS's passport was issued in 2012 so I'm assuming that because it's bang up to date that one's fine (although his fingerprints were never taken so I'm not sure about "biometrics"?) confused

Mine was issued on 4 October 2006 and is a biometric passport (as it has the little symbol on the front) but is much thicker on the photo page than DS's so I'm assuming that, although mine is different to his, this is simply because the technology has moved on and mine will be OK too - again I had no fingerprints taken for "biometrics" so confused again.

DH's was issued on 8 March 2005 and is not a biometric passport as there's no symbol on the front so I'm assuming he'll just have to get a new one even though it's valid for another 2 years.

Please could someone who has significantly more brain cells, and/or a good deal more common sense, than me kindly enlighten me?

And don't even get me started on whether or not we need to get an International Drivers Permit...confused

Biometrics aren't fingerprints... That much I do know. It's something to do with the photo.

alarkaspree Wed 27-Feb-13 19:38:17

You don't need an international drivers permit, as long as your driving license is in English.

I don't see any reason for there to be a problem with any of your passports. But if you want to check I suggest ringing the UK passport office, who I've always found helpful and free, and not the premium rate US immigration enquiry line.

You do need an international license now. It's a recent change I believe.

mummytime Wed 27-Feb-13 19:41:53

Nota dragon the latest is you don't need an international Driving permit, as Florida demanding one breaks the Geneva convention. However watch this space.

andadietcoke Wed 27-Feb-13 19:43:01

Yes to the int'l drivers license.

My passport was issued on 27/12/05 and doesn't have the symbol on the front and I've travelled to the states on it 5 times in the last 12 months, the most recent was coming back on 2nd Jan this year so unless these are new rules he'll be fine I think.

I dont think he does need a new passport as long as he has a machine readable bit on the page with his picture and info on. It doesnt say he needs a biometric passport (something to do with the picture rather than fingerprints) just that if he has ones issued on or after certain dates then it needs additional details on it.

Perriwinkle Wed 27-Feb-13 20:11:24

I think I'll have to ring the passport office. The last thing we want is to turn up having flown miles and miles for hours and hours to be told we can't enter the country!!

And on the International Drivers Permit, I've found this posted on "The Dibb" website:

The stock answer to this is at the moment is as follows:

The Florida Law that requires you to have an International Drivers Permit (IDP) still exists in the Statutes and therefore the LAW states you must have an IDP if you are driving in Florida with a valid UK Driving License.

From what has been said officially and unofficially the LAW seems to be breaking a road traffic treaty and therefore is NOT enforceable.

The Police in florida are NOT enforcing this law and as far as they are concerned they do not require you to have an IDP.

The Law is being changed so that you do not need an IDP, however it takes time to actually change a written law. The earliest the law will be changed is July 2013.

Car hire companies will hire you a car without an IDP.

Your car hire insurance will be valid without an IDP as the big car hire companies self insure. If you are using a smaller company or using your own vehicle insurance then please check with them first.

There has been no official statement from the holiday travel insurance companies on their position with IDP and possible claims. If you have an accident and make a claim on your travel insurance there is a possibility that the travel insurance company could try and wriggle out of paying the claim by using this IDP law. In most peoples opinions this wouldn't stand up in a court, but at the moment it is just people's opinion.

So Do You Need An IDP?
Well unfortunately only you can make that decision, the facts are as stated above (at time of writing)
My advice is if you are in anyway worried about this then get an IDP, It is a very small cost to pay for peace of mind. If you can't get to a post office you can apply online through the AA.

specialsubject Wed 27-Feb-13 20:30:45

I think all your passports are fine, if your husband's passport is machine readable. The point was that passports issued after a certain date needed to have the biometric data.

Biometrics means data such as space between eyes and other facial measurements. This is why you can no longer smile on a passport photo as it makes this data unreadable.

Perriwinkle Wed 27-Feb-13 20:39:53

I think we may be OK as I've just come across this info on a Visa ESTA USA FAQ site:

How do I know if my passport is machine-readable?

To check if your passport is machine-readable, look for two lines of text and two chevrons < < at the foot of the photo page. This will show that it is machine-readable.

My DH's passport has this so hopefully it'll be fine but I think I'll check with the Passport Office anyway just to be sure.

As long as the passports are machine readable they will be fine to use. Passport design is changed all the time.

Your son would not have had his fingerprints taken anyway for his UK passport; his is now biometric. At UK airports as well there is IRIS as well as the standard UK border control desks. IRIS is used as a facial recognition system.That is also what the biometrics information is used for.

I do not know the age of your son but if he is now 14 or over the US immigration official will take both his photo and fingerprints on arrival into the US. You and DH will both be fingerprinted and photographed upon arrival into the US.

With regards to the ESTA only use the official US government website; other websites other than this one are scammers. ESTAs are valid for 2 years from the date of issue and the charge is $14 US per application, all of you will need an ESTA to be completed.

IDP is not enforceable in FL; its a badly thought out piece of legislation and was rushed in because of their usual panic first then ask questions later modus operandi. The state has apologised because the Canadian authorities are up in arms over this as well (they have also been advising their citizens not to have this permit).

My DH's passport was issued in Jan 2005 and that is certainly machine readable. He has used that to enter the US without any problems. There's no symbol on the front of that one either.

Groovee Thu 28-Feb-13 16:34:33

As long as it's machine readable you can use it. I got dh to change his because it wasn't biometric and as we were the first Glasgow Flight to land after the terrorist attack on the airport, all men aged 16-42 with Biometric passports were pulled by immigration!!! What a palava that was.

Going to get a IDP just to be on the safe side!

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