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US Immigration Requires all International Visitors from the Visa Waiver Program Countries to Pre-register Online at Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) from January 12th 2009

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Begining tomorrow, January 12th, 2009, all nationals and citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries who plan to travel to the U.S. for temporary business or pleasure for 90 days or less under the VWP will be required by law to obtain an online travel authorization prior to initiating travel to the United States under the VWP.  For a list of the over 30 VWP countries see our earlier post.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an online system used to determine eligibility for visitors intending to travel to the United States under the VWP. It requires the same information as the I-94W form that VWP visitors fill out en route to the US.  Typically, the traveler must provide biographical data including name, birth date, and passport information, as well as answers to questions regarding eligibility to travel under the VWP.

The authorization is to be obtained online through the ESTA, which is a free Internet application available in 16 languages and administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The automated system is now accessibile online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov.

The electronic travel authorization is being implemented to enhance the security of the VWP and to assess whether such travel poses a law enforcement or security risk.

Airlines and border control officials are concerned that many passengers are not aware of the new United States immigration requirements for VWP countries and this could lead to chaos at the airports.  US Customs and Border Protection also confirmed that while there are more than four million visits to the United States each year, just over 240,000 have filled out the online Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) which replaces United States’ green visa waiver entry form. 

Kelly Klundt of the US Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Public Affairs has said that The Department of Homeland Security will take a reasonable approach to those travelers not in compliance with the travel authorisation requirement, but, travelers who do not obtain an ESTA should be aware that they may be refused boarding, or experience delayed processing, or be denied admission upon arrival in the United States.

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Written by MithrasLaw

January 12, 2009 at 1:28 am

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