British travelers may need US visa

Changes in the administration and approval of U.K. passport renewals may require some British passport-holders to obtain a visa prior to traveling to the United States. 

The recent change was discussed last week by Premier Alden McLaughlin as part of difficulties experienced with overall changes made by the British Passport Office in the repatriation of passport printing to the U.K., a move that is expected to affect British Overseas Territories passports by next year.  

Months-long delays in the issuance of British passports have plagued U.K. nationals both at home and in the overseas territories, with some territorial residents who hold British passports stating that their travel plans have been put in jeopardy because of delays with passport renewals.  

To assist with the delays, the British Passport Office has instituted a one-year passport renewal for individuals who need to travel abroad. The renewal passports can be used by overseas territories residents who hold U.K. passports.  

However, Premier McLaughlin said Thursday that in cases where the holders of the one-year renewal passports had previously obtained visa waivers under the U.S. ESTA [Electronic System for Travel Authorization] program, a full visa would have to be applied for in order to travel to the U.S. “The U.S. will not accept these [one-year renewal] passports without a visa,” Mr. McLaughlin said.  

The visa application required by the U.S. can itself take months in the approval process. The local government was unsure how many local British passport-holders might be affected by the change in American policy. Overall, issues with both British and Caymanian passports continue to trouble the local government as well as several other overseas territories’ legislatures, Mr. McLaughlin said.  

“There is not much optimism about this issue being resolved anytime soon,” he said. Cayman and other overseas territories are planning to repatriate their passport printing to the U.K. later this year, as required by the British government. Those territories, including Cayman, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat, all plan on keeping the names of their own territory on the travel documents.  

The Falkland Islands was the only U.K. overseas territory represented at a pre-Joint Ministerial Council meeting held in Cayman last week to state that its travel documents would be changed to British passports, mainly to avoid costs associated with keeping the Falklands’ name on some 3,000 existing travel documents. Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, who attended the pre-conference in Cayman last week, urged territorial residents not to blame their local governments, which have no control over the passport changes.  

“There has been a unilateral decision taken by the U.K. not in consultation with the territories,” Mr. Picardo said.  

Mr. McLaughlin said the method of transmission for Cayman Islands passport information has not been entirely worked out. He said it was his understanding that data would be submitted to the Cayman Islands passport office, then forwarded to the U.K. for processing and printing, after which the passport documents would be sent back to Cayman for distribution.  

“The information is supposed to be transmitted by secure emails,” he said. “Whatever that means.”  

Pre-JMC-Meeting

Overseas territories leaders speak to the Cayman Islands press about U.K. passport issues last week. From left are British Virgin Islands Premier Orlando Smith, Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin, Falkland Islands MLA Roger Edwards, Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Montserrat Premier Reuben Meade.

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