Are you travelling to the US in the next few months? And has it been a while since you renewed your passport? Well you should check what type of passport you have or you could be denied entry, following changes introduced by the Americans at the start of April.
All UK citizens wishing to travel using the electronic visa waiver system, that’s where you apply online for permission to enter the US before your date of travel, will now be required to have a newer ‘biometric’ passport. From 26th October 2006 all passports issued in the UK have been biometric. But between 1st March and 26th October 2006 a mix of biometric and non-biometric passports were issued. As most passports last for ten years, it means there are hundreds of thousands of the old ones still in circulation.
You can tell if you have an ‘e passport’ – there’ll be a small symbol stamped on the front which looks like a rectangle with a circle inside it and a horizontal line either side.
So what can you do if you have the old style passport? Firstly, if you have time before your travel date, get a new one. You can renew a passport anytime, at a cost of £72.50, and your new one will be credited with up to 9 months of any remaining time. If time is short, you can get a new one by turning up in person at one of seven passport offices around the country. It’ll cost £128. Finally you could get a standard tourist visa from the American Embassy in London but this takes from 3 weeks and costs $160.
Remember, most countries require you to have a passport that’s valid at least 6 months from your time of entry, so it’s always worth checking the expiry date and not leaving your renewal until the last minute.