Thousands of Brits could be BARRED from entering America even if their passports are valid after introduction of strict new entry rules

  • The change in America's entry requirements was put into play on April 1 
  • Travellers visiting the country must have a biometric or e-passport to enter 
  • E-passports, which were introduced in 2006, have a symbol on the front
  • Passports issued between June and October 2006 may not be biometric
  • Had trouble travelling to the US? Email georgia.diebelius@mailonline.co.uk

Strict new immigration rules for the US mean that thousands of British citizens would not be granted entry even though they have a valid passport - and some have already found themselves barred.

On April 1 the US announced that all travellers visiting the country must have a biometric or e-passport to enter, but many Britons don't have one.

Despite being announced by the US government, many distraught holidaymakers have been forced to stay in the UK after arriving at the check-in desk to find out they would be unable to fly.

Anyone wishing to travel to the US on a non-electronic passport is required to apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate, a process which usually takes between 24 and 72 hours.

The change in America's entry requirements was put into play on April 1 and states that all travellers visiting the country must have a biometric or e-passport to enter (file photo)

The change in America's entry requirements was put into play on April 1 and states that all travellers visiting the country must have a biometric or e-passport to enter (file photo)

US ENTRY: THE NEW RULES 

Holidaymakers looking to travel under the Visa Waiver Program must possess passports with specified security features.

These features are that the document must be an electronic passport with a digital chip containing biometric information about the passport owner and must also have a machine-readable area of the biographic page.

The measures were announced by the US Department of Homeland Security on April 1.

It said: 'E-passports are issued by the proper passport issuing authority and must meet international standards for securing and storing information corresponding to the passport and traveller.'

Travellers without an e-passport will no longer qualify for entry to the US under the Visa Waiver Program.

Those who wish to travel to the country on a non-electronic passport must apply for a visa from the nearest US Embassy or Consulate.

Source: Department of Homeland Security

Currently Brits do not require a visa to travel to the US, just a passport with six months' validity.

E-passports were introduced in the UK in October 2006, which means that anyone who had a new passport issued to them between June and October of that year may have difficulty visiting the US, as it may not be biometric.

These types of passport are identifiable by a universal symbol on the front which indicates that the document has an identity-proving chip inside.

US citizens travelling from America to the UK do not need an e-passport, however their document must be valid for a minimum of six months. 

Since 2006 54million biometric passports have been issued, according to the UK Passport Office, but stories are now emerging of holiday heartache from people who've yet to update and struggled to get into the US.

Vic Ryan from Nottinghamshire aired his disappointment on Facebook after he arrived with his family at the airport to be told he would not be allowed to travel to Florida as his passport did not have a chip.

The post, which has been shared more than 50,000 times, said: 'I [arrived] at the check-in desk to be advised that I would not be allowed to travel as I did not have a biometric passport whilst the rest of our family had them, despite calls to the USA from the lady on check in they would not permit travel.'

Ryan alleges that despite the change coming into force on April 1, both he and Thomson were not aware of it until they were confronted with the issues on the day.

Vic Ryan from Nottinghamshire aired his disappointment on Facebook after he arrived with his family at the airport to be told he would not be allowed to travel to Florida as his passport did not have a chip

Vic Ryan from Nottinghamshire aired his disappointment on Facebook after he arrived with his family at the airport to be told he would not be allowed to travel to Florida as his passport did not have a chip

The traveller claims that the airline 'is still not advising people who have booked with them of the change' and they're informing people that it is their responsibility to check that all documents are valid.

At the check-in desk, Ryan claims that staff told him that it would be £150 per person to change the flight to another day. So the rest of his party set off to America in hopes he would soon join them and 'rescue a totally ruined holiday'.

Ryan, who flew out three days later to join his family, added: 'It isn't mentioned on the Gov website, it isn't mentioned on Thomson's website either. My passport was in date and had more than 6 months on it and I had filled out the Esta's which were all approved.'

Despite being announced by the US government, many distraught holidaymakers have been forced to stay in the UK after arriving at the check-in desk to find out they would be unable to fly (file photo)

Despite being announced by the US government, many distraught holidaymakers have been forced to stay in the UK after arriving at the check-in desk to find out they would be unable to fly (file photo)

WHAT IS A BIOMETRIC PASSPORT? 

British biometric e-passports were first issued in October 2006.

The electronic documents differ from the older model due to added security features including a chip holding the carrier's facial details, which was introduced in a bid to combat fraud and forgery.

An electronic chip inside the passport contains the digitally coded measurements of the holder’s features like the distances between eyes, nose, mouth and ears.

The information is taken from the applicant's passport photo and can be used to identify them. 

Biometric passports can be identified by a rectangular marker at the bottom
The old-style passport

Biometric passports can be identified by a rectangular marker at the bottom (left). The old-style passport is pictured on the right

A spokesman for Thomson told MailOnline Travel: 'We're sorry to hear that a small number of customers have been unclear on the passport and visa guidelines for entry into the United States of America. 

'Under the US government guidelines anyone travelling after April 1 2016 requires an electronic passport.

'In line with these guidelines, customers are asked to read about and obtain relevant documentation that meets the entry requirements. We also advise customers it's their responsibility to check the passport, visa and health requirements for their holiday destination on the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office website. 

'However, given this is a recent change and to help customers, we will review if we can highlight the requirement of an electronic passport on relevant customer communications.'

MailOnline Travel has contacted the Department for Homeland Security for comment. 

VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR TRAVEL TO THE US

Those travelling without Visa Waiver Programme

Travellers planning a business-related trip to the US on a temporary basis will need to apply for a business visitor visa (B-1) and those heading to America for tourism purposes will need a visitor visa (B-2).

How do I apply for a visa?

Travellers between the ages of 14 and 79-years-old are required to apply for a visa in person through a pre-arranged interview.

Those seeking a visa must first complete an online DS-160 and print a confirmation page. Secondly travellers must pay an MRV application free and schedule and interview.

Those travelling with Visa Waiver Programme

ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, it is not a visa, but is part of a system to increase security for travellers entering the US from countries included in the Visa Waiver Programme, such as the UK.

Who needs an ESTA?

Any UK national travelling to the US as a tourist or on business for 90 days or less must have an ESTA or they will not even be able to board a flight. Even if you are just passing through America in transit, you are still required to have a valid ESTA. 

Babies, who don’t necessarily have a plane ticket, are still expected to have an ESTA.

How do I apply for an ESTA?

You can only apply for the ESTA online, it is available at www.cbp.gov/esta and involves filling out a form including personal details from passport number to address to travel details and any criminal convictions. 

Source: US Embassy and Consulates in the United Kingdom

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