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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Advance registration before you travel

If you are travelling to another country, you may be asked by your airline to provide your passenger information in advance. This is a separate requirement to getting a visa and in most cases you can submit your details online. Find out what you need to do before you travel.

Advance passenger information

For security reasons, the US, most EU States and other countries now require airlines to provide details about their passengers before they travel. This is known as Advance Passenger Information (API).

The API requirements vary from country to country. Your airline will let you know what they need from you. Usually, they will ask you to provide these details when you book your flight or check in. Contact your airline if you have any questions about API requirements.

Providing your API should not be confused with applying for a visa. You will still need to follow the entry rules for every country you visit, as well as any customs and passport control regulations.

Registering your API

Your airline will usually ask you to supply the passenger details found on the ‘machine-readable’ page of your passport. This is the page containing your photograph.

You may be asked for your:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • gender
  • passport number
  • country that issued your passport
  • date of passport expiration

You may occasionally be asked for additional information, like the address of your first night’s stay.

Your information will be taken either at the time of booking or by an automated passport reader during check-in. In most cases, you may not be allowed to travel if you do not provide your API in the time required.

Travelling to the US

From 12 January 2009, under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) British travellers need to register their details online with the US government, when flying there.

Once you have registered, your details will be valid for two years, or as long as your passport remains unexpired (whichever is shorter).

The API shouldn't be confused with:

  • applying for a visa
  • additional information needed by US passport control authorities, like your country of residence or the address of where you'll be staying in the US

You can find out more about the US Visa Waiver Program by visiting the FCO website.

British travellers who have not registered on ESTA before their trip are likely to be detained and sent home

Registering with ESTA

Registration on the US Electronic Travel System (ESTA) is mandatory. The US Department for Homeland Security suggests that registration take place no less than 72 hours before travelling. However, you can submit your details any time before travelling to the US.

Who to contact about travelling to the US

If you have any questions, you are strongly advised to contact the US Embassy in London before your travel.  The Visa Information line is 0904 245 0100 (calls are charged at £1.20 per minute). 

Travelling to other countries (apart from the US)

As the list of countries asking for advance passenger information grows, it is not possible to list the complete details of all their requirements here.

If you are unsure about what you need, you can:

  • check with the country’s consulate or embassy
  • visit the FCO travel advice website
  • contact your airline before you travel – ideally at the time of booking

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