2020 is the year of the presidential elections in the United States. On 3 November, the country will vote on whether the current president Donald Trump will remain in charge, or whether Democratic nominee Joe Biden will take over the most influential position in the world. One sector for which the consequences of the elections will be great is tourism, and by extension, visas.
The United States has perhaps the most comprehensive visa system in the world. The North American country has more than 185 different types of visas. These can roughly be divided into two types: immigrant visas and non-immigrant visas. The first type concerns visas for people who want to stay in the US for a longer period of time or who want to emigrate to the country permanently. The visas for non-immigrants are, as the name suggests, visas for travellers wishing to go to the USA temporarily. These may be for tourism or business travel, and everything in between. It is therefore not surprising that each year, a great deal of attention is paid to the announcements of changes to the US visa system. After all, millions of travellers from all over the world travel to the country each year.
The presidency of Donald Trump
During his presidential campaign in 2016, Donald Trump had already promised to crack down on immigration. With the slogan “America First”, Trump promised that he would prioritise domestic issues before even looking at foreign issues. And Trump has kept his promise in various ways. Firstly, there was the controversial decision to introduce a travel ban on travellers from a number of Islamic countries. Other countries have also suffered as a result of Trump's strict policy. For example, the number of travellers from Nigeria to the USA fell by no less than 21% as a result of President Trump's new rules.
Democrats or Republicans
Now, the whole world is looking forward to the upcoming presidential elections. After four years, countries know what to expect in terms of visas and immigration if Trump and his Republican Party remain in power. It is likely that the countries for which Trump's policies had a negative influence are hoping that the Democratic Party will win the elections. Compared to Trump and the Republicans, the Democrats are more open when it comes to immigration. Prominent Democratic Party members have often criticised what they believe is Trump's “inhumane” treatment of migrants.
British and Irish travellers: what will change?
The USA is a popular travel destination for British and Irish travellers. Whether it concerns tourism or business travel, numerous trips from Britain and Ireland to the USA are made each year. In theory, British and Irish citizens need not worry too much about the results of the American elections in 2020. After all, travellers from these countries do not need a visa to travel to the USA. Both the UK and Ireland fall under the so-called “Visa Waiver Program”. This is a special programme for countries with which the United States has close ties.
Travellers from these countries do not need a visa to travel to the US. Instead, they can use an ESTA for a flight to the US. The abbreviation ESTA stands for Electronic Travel Authorization. It is a digital travel authorisation to travel to the US, similar to a visa. Compared to a visa, however, applying for an ESTA is a lot easier and, more importantly, a lot cheaper. All that is needed is to fill in the online ESTA form, which can be done in a matter of minutes. The ESTA confirmation is sent to the traveller by e-mail after approval, often on the same day. However, it does not have to be printed out. Once the ESTA has been issued, the traveller is registered in the digital databases of the US immigration service. Simply by presenting the passport, airlines can thus check whether a traveller is in possession of a valid travel authorisation.
ESTA Rules and Requirements
However, the ESTA is not an unconditional travel authorisation: like the visa, it has its own rules and conditions. It is important to read these criteria carefully before applying for the ESTA. Many travellers have run into problems because they did not read the ESTA requirements properly. For example, you are not eligible for an ESTA if you have been to a number of specific countries from 2011 onward, such as Iran or North Korea. The trip must also have a clear tourist or business purpose. In other words, it must be a holiday or business trip, or a transit. Under no circumstances can you enter into employment with an American employer. In addition, an ESTA allows a traveller to stay in the United States for a maximum of 90 days. For longer stays, a visa is required.