This post was written in association with e-Visa
When I was traveling with very young kids, I was scrupulously organised. I would work through a packing and planning list methodically, starting quite far in advance of my trip. One of these ‘to do’ items was always ‘check visa/ESTA situation’. I would always allow plenty of time to obtain that China visa or in the case of Russia, about 2 months, including reference checks! Nowadays I’m a bit more relaxed, especially has many countries have eased their visa requirements. A recent trip to Java, Indonesia required no visa for a British citizen, as did a trip to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. During a trip to Sri Lanka this Christmas, I wish I had checked the process in advance. We queued for about 45 minutes at the passport queue, only to be told at that we needed to go first to the visa queue. Although British nationals arriving in Sri Lanka before 31 January 2020 on a visit of up to 30 days are exempt from paying visa fees, you still need to get your passport checked and signed off.
My New Year’s resolution is to re-introduce my travel planning list, which includes verifying well in advance for visa requirements. This past July we were headed to Hawaii and I had a major panic the day before our flight. To visit the USA, you are required to have an ESTA USA. (ESTA stands for, Electronic System for Travel Authorization). This is a mandatory travel authorization, allowing you to travel to the USA without a visa. The ESTA started as a safety measure. Essentially the US government can use the information to bar unwanted travellers before they board their flight or ship to the USA.
The ESTA is straightforward to organise with an online application form. After you have submitted the form online (takes about 5 mins per traveller), you will then need to pay a fee. As soon as payment is made, they will process the application.
An ESTA is typically valid for two years, covering multiple visits. As we had visited the USA 9 months prior, I assumed I was still covered. What I had forgotten was that during that time, I had obtained a new passport for my daughter. I called my husband in a huge panic, convinced we weren’t going to be let into Hawaii. I was so annoyed with myself for being so prepared in all other areas of the roadtrip, except for the part about the ESTA! Thankfully I checked the guidelines and managed to remedy the situation with time to spare. I applied immediately for a new ESTA and luckily it was approved quickly. In fact there is even ‘urgent’ box in the application form which results in an approved ESTA visa within an hour.
So moral of the story is, check your visa guidelines and while you’re at it, your passport expiration too! You don’t want to end up like my friend who was all set for a Christmas family holiday in Bali, only to be turned away at the airport as her daughter’s passport had less than six months left on it…