- Visa Waiver Program Travelers
- October 19, 2008
- Law Firm: Troutman Sanders LLP - Atlanta Office
Introducing the Electronic System for Travel Authorization
As reported in a prior Client Advisory, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) recently introduced the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”), an electronic system for screening passengers before they travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.
Beginning August 1, 2008, ESTA will be accessible via Internet for citizens and eligible nationals of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries to apply for advance authorization to travel to the United States under the VWP.
ESTA will initially be available in English only. Other languages will follow. Effective January 12, 2009, all VWP travelers will be required to obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP.
How the Electronic System for Travel Authorization Works
Log onto the ESTA Web site at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov and complete an on-line application in English. Travelers are encouraged to apply early. The web-based system will prompt you to answer basic biographical and eligibility questions typically requested on a paper I-94W form.
Applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, however, DHS recommends that applications be submitted at least 72 hours prior to travel. In most cases you will receive a response within seconds:
1. Authorization Approved: Travel authorized.
2. Travel Not Authorized: Traveler must obtain a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before traveling to the U.S.
3. Authorization Pending: Traveler will need to check the ESTA Web site for updates within 72 hours to receive a final response.
An approved travel authorization via ESTA is:
- Required for all VWP travelers prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP beginning January 12, 2009;
- Valid, unless revoked, for up to two years or until the traveler’s passport expires, whichever comes first;
- Valid for multiple entries into the U.S. As future trips are planned, or if an applicant’s destination addresses or itineraries change after their authorization has been approved, they may easily update that information through the ESTA Web site; and
- Not a guarantee of admissibility to the United States at a port of entry. ESTA approval only authorizes a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the U.S. under the VWP.
After January 12, 2009, VWP travelers who do not apply for and receive travel authorization via ESTA prior to travel may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing or be denied admission at a U.S. port of entry.
The VWP is administered by DHS and enables citizens and eligible nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.
Countries currently enrolled in the Visa Waiver Program include: