Donald Trump added Cuba to the American list of “state sponsors of terrorism” (SST) in one of his last acts as US president. This means any British holidaymaker who has been to Cuba in the past 11 years will be disqualified from using the “Esta” scheme, used by most UK travellers visiting the States, due to its straightforward nature.
Now UK holidaymakers must instead pay £137 for a visa – and wait months to attend an appointment at the US embassy in London or the consulate-general in Belfast. The US State Department told The Independent: “Any visit to an SST on or after March 1, 2011, even if the country was designated yesterday, renders the applicant ineligible for Esta.”
The interview process is said to be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic that created a backlog of appointments. The US embassy in London states: “Please note that due to an increasing backlog of visa appointment requests, you may experience a significant delay between paying your visa fee and scheduling an interview appointment.
The embassy adds: “By paying the visa fee, you acknowledge that it may take several months to schedule an interview appointment.”
The classification for Cuba is applied to nations that have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism”. An accusation the government in Havana strenuously rejects, and Cuba’s deputy foreign minister, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, has described as “illegitimate, unsustainable and immoral.”
Trump made the decision to put Cuba on the same list as Iran, Syria and North Korea on January 11, 2021, barely a week before he was replaced by President Biden.
The designation has been left in place by his successor Biden.
Travel requirements page for the United States on the UK Government website states: “You should be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen on or after 1 March 2011, you are normally not eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and will need to apply for a US visa. You should also be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Cuba, you may not be eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and may need to apply for a US visa. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need.”
The US has a list of entry requirements and restrictions currently in place and the UK Government website states that those travelling to the US should frequently check the requirements as they can change.
Current advice from the UK Government states: “These may change with little warning. Monitor this advice for the latest updates and stay in contact with your travel provider. If you plan to pass through another country to return to the UK, check the travel advice for the country you’re transiting.”
Additionally, you must be fully vaccinated to enter the United States, the UK Government website states: “Only those with an exception or US Citizens, US Nationals, and US Lawful Permanent Residents will be able to enter the US unvaccinated. More details are on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Embassy websites, which includes a list of exceptions from the vaccination requirements for certain categories of non-citizens and non-immigrants.”