Visas and ESTAs: what you need to know

Among the most important things to have sorted when going on a family holiday outside the EU - along with making sure everyone has their passport - is your visa or ESTA

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Like passports, this needs doing well in advance, so to make sure you're prepared we've rounded up the essentials you need to know.



If you're going to the USA, you'll need an ESTA, which stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This is a visa-waiver, and is only available to people holding passports from specific countries, including the UK.

You can apply for an ESTA online, by inputting your passport details into the website, and paying the fee of $14 per person.

If you're flying through the USA on a connecting flight, make sure you have one!

Always make sure you're filling out your ESTA request using the official site, so you don't end up paying more.

When filling out the online form, remember you can only pay using MasterCard, Visa, Discover (JCB/Diners Club) and American Express so make sure you use one of these when attempting to pay. You'll be charged a smaller fee of $4 if you're rejected.

If you've been through the USA in the past two years, you probably have a pre-existing ESTA that hasn't expired. Check before you pay for a new one.

Remember – filling in the form doesn't guarantee you entry. And it's worth applying for your ESTA before you book anything else for your hols, just on the off-chance something goes wrong, and then you have a booking you can't recoup your losses on.

If you don't have a British passport, or a passport from another country that participates in the waiver, then you'll need to get a visa.


Living in the EU, sometimes it's easy to forget there's a whole world of visas and entry restrictions just outside of Europe's borders. Bear this in mind before you decide to book any hotels or airline tickets.

Visa restrictions vary from country to country, and depending on which passport you have they can be free, or cost up to hundreds of pounds and take months for approval.

Always check the country's official website or embassy for individual restrictions and prepare accordingly. Again, it's worth double checking that you're applying through the official channels, to avoid incurring higher costs and delays.

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Last updated: over 1 year ago