Most flights off-Island, even if the final destination is a country in Europe or Asia, will be routed through the United States. So, it is important to understand the travel requirements of the United States, including whether or not you are eligible to apply for ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) under the U.S. Waiver Programme in order to enter the country. We have provided some handy tips to help you avoid confusion at the airport.
Travel can be stressful, so it is important to plan ahead to avoid any last minute confusion at the airport. Before booking your flight, you should carefully study the travel requirements of the country (or countries) you will be entering. Also, be sure to check that your passport is valid and will not expire during your time away.
Most travel outside of the Cayman Islands will take you through the United States. The United States has very strict and well enforced travel requirements and foreign nationals can only enter the United States with a valid U.S. Visa or under its U.S. Visa Waiver Programme. Before booking your travel abroad, we recommend that you read the below information carefully, even if you will only be in the United States in transit to another country. Please note this information does not apply to Permanent Residents (green card holders) or citizens of the United States with valid passports.
Currently, the United States allows only 38 countries to enter its borders under the U.S. Visa Waiver Programme. So, if you have a valid European Union, Swiss, Australian or Japanese passport, for example, you may apply to enter the United States under their Visa Waiver Programme online.
Visit the official U.S. Immigration site to see the complete list of countries that are eligible for the U.S. Visa Waiver Programme and to also apply for a waiver, referred to as ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation). Applying for ESTA is a simple, straight forward online process and it is advisable to apply for this authorisation at least one week or more in advance of travel to the United States.
If you are not a citizen of a country that is eligible to enter the United States under its U.S. Visa Waiver Programme, you will need to apply for a U.S. Visa through a U.S. Consulate. *Canadian passport holders typically do not need a visa when flying to the United States, although certain exceptions do apply. If you are Canadian and have never entered the United States before, please visit the Canadian government website or call the Canadian Consular in Grand Cayman on 1 (345) 949 9400 to ensure you are eligible to travel to the United States.
The closest U.S. consulate to the Cayman Islands is in Kingston, Jamaica and Nassau, Bahamas. Caymanians (who do not have a British passport) and other nationalities who are not eligible to travel to the United States under their Visa Waiver Programme, often choose to travel to Jamaica to apply for a U.S. Visa. You will first need to make an appointment at the U.S. Consulate in Jamaica before applying for a U.S. visa. It is important to note that Jamaica and the Bahamas have their own travel requirements, so you must check if you can enter those countries without a visa before booking a flight. For example, Caymanian passport holders who do not have a British passport must apply for a Jamaican Visa before entering the country.
While there are no consulates located in the Cayman Islands— we are a British Overseas Territory not a sovereign nation— many countries do have a Consular located in Grand Cayman who are able to readily assist their nationals with passport renewals. They also provide travel advice and visa assistance to visitors. So, if you are traveling to a country other than the United States and the above information does not apply to you, please visit our Foreign Consulars page to find someone who can assist you.
A really interesting and useful website which gives travel warnings on dozens of places around the world and is constantly being updated (plus they suggest how you can buy travel insurance) might be worth a visit before you plan your next trip overseas.