I'm a UK citizen looking to travel to the US for the first time.
I have been reading about the entry requirements and I am seeing conflicting rules/advice from different places regarding whether or not I may be eligible to apply for an ESTA to travel under the Visa Waiver Program.
I was previously arrested in the UK around 15 years ago (in my early 20s) and released with "no further action" (NFA) as the outcome. The reason given for the arrest I believe was Affray (I was mixed up in the chaos when trying to break up a fight). I have no charges, convictions or criminal record.
I believe that I meet all other requirements to travel under the VWP using an ESTA.
Reasons to believe I may not be eligible to travel under the VWP using an ESTA:
- On the UK Government's website it is stated "You cannot apply for an ESTA visa waiver if you: have been arrested (even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction)"
- The website of the US Embassy & Consulate in the UK states: "We do not recommend that travelers who have been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction, [...], attempt to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program." (emphasis mine)
Reasons to believe I may be eligible to travel under the VWP using an ESTA:
- The US Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website lists the requirements for using the VWP, and I meet all of the criteria. It does not mention anything about arrests.
- The FAQs of the US Customs and Border Protection website indicates that the traveller will be asked eligibility questions only about arrests and convictions for certain crimes (my understanding is that my arrest here may not be applicable).
- Under the section "Who is eligible to submit an application?" in the FAQs of the ESTA area of the US Customers and Border protection website, I seem to again meet all of the requirements. Nowhere is an arrest record mentioned. Though, it could be that the person reviewing may still reject my application for an ESTA.
- My understanding is that the ESTA application asks (source here) only about arrests or convictions for crimes that resulted in serious damage to property, or serious harm to another person or a government authority. I do not believe that I would need to answer affirmatively in this case.
Aside from the aforementioned arrest, I'd likely be considered to be in good standing in most aspects of life. I hold a Bachelor's degree and work as a skilled professional in the UK (for an American company with a global presence and offices in the UK). I have a good credit rating, a mortgage, good relationships etc.
Given the conflicting information presented here, do you believe that I would qualify for travel to the US under the VWP with an ESTA? If you think so, or don't think so, can you provide any evidence to support?
I would like to proceed with honesty and in good faith and I have no intention of misrepresenting anything. I would really like to avoid applying for an ESTA, answering "no" to that specific question, and have my misunderstanding be construed as dishonesty and put myself in a bad position.