UK to USA Travel Formalities for transit

Some UK citizens seeking transit authorization through the United States using the ESTA (Electronic System Travel Authorization) program may feel some level of confusion as to how to proceed with this particular aspect of the application process. Due to the UK being a participant in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), UK nationals and citizens do not need a visa to travel to the USA, but as of January 12, 2009 will need to obtain an approved ESTA (Electronic System Travel Authorization). The ESTA is essentially a pre-clearance for the Visa Waiver Program, developed by the government of the United States as an E visa online application system that allows DHS to pre-screen all VWP travelers before they board an airplane or ship for the US. In order to know more about the ESTA, you can read What Is ESTA?

Who Needs Transit Authorization

Citizens and nationals from Visa Waiver Countries who need to travel through the US to another country, be it for tourism or business purposes, will need to obtain a transit authorization in advance. Travelers wishing to visit or transit through the USA must comply with the ESTA travel requirements. It is important that you dedicate some time to understanding the application process before proceeding, because if you are denied the ESTA travel authorization, you will need to apply for a B-1 Visitor Visa or B-2 Tourist Visa. It is also important that you apply well in advance of your intended traveled date, as the visa application process can take up to weeks or months to complete.

Individuals seeking to travel through the US to another country will need to apply for an ESTA visa waiver. One particular question that has caused some level of uncertainty for applicants who intend to return to the US and spend some time there is the item that ask, "Is your travel to the US occurring in transit to another country?" The answer in this case would be "Yes". When completing the ESTA application, be sure to write the words "In Transit" in the address field and insert your final destination into the address field under the section marked "Address While In the United States".


Due to heightened security concerns, the US government saw the need to implement the Travel Authorization (ESTA) as an online pre-screening system for all Visa Waiver Travelers seeking to enter the US by ship or airplane. A transit authorization is required if you will be passing through the US to another country, even if you will be returning to the US to spend some time before heading back home.

Ensure that you satisfy the ESTA authorization mandatory requirements before purchasing a ticket. Once you satisfy the requirements, you'll be issued your e-passport that must be presented to US immigration at the airport when you travel to US. Transit authorization is required for individuals who may be traveling on a cruise and will disembark to stay few hours in the US.

An approved ESTA is valid for two two years but if your passport expires first you will need to reapply. Maximum length of stay in the US on an ESTA at any given time is ninety days, and this is calculated from the day you successfully pass through immigration and enter the country, even if you're transiting. 

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