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Alaska Sailing - UK Citizen - Will I need ESTA for US & Canada


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When you check in to the ship in Vancouver you will go through US immigration in the terminal before boarding. This is done to avoid having US immigration people in the ports in Alaska and slowing down people getting off the ships.

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Simple answer is, YES.

While I agree it's definitely the best thing to do, you do NOT need your ESTA already to enter the US by land or at Canada Place/other Canadian ports with pre-clearance. I discovered this while driving my parents across the border (I knew they already had valid ESTAs as they had flown to the US only 18 months before, except it turned out they did not because they renewed their passports in the interim and had not reapplied!) Fortunately you can still do the 'fill in the I94W form and pay $6' in person at land borders, and it turns out this is also the case at Pre-clearance ports - the ferries between Victoria and Seattle were the 'test case' for CBP as they operate year-round but same principle applies to seasonal cruises.


So even though technically you're being pre-cleared for a Sea arrival and arriving by Sea or Air does indeed need an ESTA in-place, you can complete the forms on-site in Canadian ports with US CBP personnel doing pre-clearance - the whole point of ESTA is to give the US a chance to check you out in advance of your arrival, and they still get to do that as you will not actually arrive in the US for some time after departure.


I'm not sure if LeeW was already raising this point or just meant to reinforce that you do need an ESTA per Jody75 since CBP at the pier will check for it...


Still, like I said, it's definitely BEST to apply in advance for your ESTA as well - if you wait to do it at the pier you're adding more time to an already-lengthy boarding process, getting potentially extra scrutiny (why NOT apply in advance? A last-minute deal for a Vancouver resident non-Canadian might be deemed a perfectly reasonable excuse, not so much for a UK citizen planning months ahead of time...), plus there's always the chance of a CBP officer not actually knowing the rules (not an uncommon situation!) and rejecting you. Since CBP have total discretion to reject you anyway with or without an ESTA there's nothing you can do about it if they decide to give you the boot - so it's frankly not worth the few bucks in cost savings, do the online $14 version before you travel just as if you were flying in to the US instead of Canada.


'Why even tell people if you don't think it's a good idea then MC?' I have no doubt the saner folks are now thinking... because it's the actual state of things legally and accurate info is always best - plus, even if I personally think it's a dumbass move grownups have the right to make up their own minds about such things (*cough* like cruising without a passport or medical insurance *cough*)


</pedant mode>

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