Press Release 2008
United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Implements New Pre-Travel Authorization for U.S.-Bound Travelers from Visa Waiver Countries
November 19, 2008; No. 39/08
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has added seven countries to its Visa Waiver Program (VWP), and launched a new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) requiring citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries to complete an online process before traveling to the United States. These changes do not affect the U.S. visa application process for citizens of Ethiopia, which is not part of the Visa Waiver Program, but may apply to foreign citizens living in Ethiopia. The ESTA requirement does not affect U.S. citizens traveling overseas.
Beginning January 12, 2009, all nationals or citizens of the following countries who plan to travel to the United States for temporary business or pleasure under the VWP will need to receive an electronic travel authorization through ESTA prior to boarding a U.S.-bound airplane or cruise ship: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
On November 17, 2008 the Czech Republic, South Korea, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Slovak Republic were formally added to the VWP. Eligible citizens or nationals of these newly admitted VWP countries may now travel to the United States under the VWP provided they have an e-passport and an approved authorization via ESTA. The requirement to register via ESTA for travelers from these countries begins immediately.
Currently, citizens of VWP countries complete a written I-94W form providing basic biographical, travel, and eligibility information while en-route to the U.S. On Aug. 1, 2008, DHS began accepting voluntary applications through the ESTA Web site at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/. Until January 12, 2009, when ESTA is mandatory for all VWP travelers, ESTA applicants will also still need to complete an I-94W form en-route, for presentation at a U.S. port of entry.
Visa Waiver travelers can access ESTA at the following link: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/esta/
When a traveler logs onto ESTA, the system will determine, almost immediately in many cases, if an individual is eligible for VWP travel, and if such travel poses any law enforcement or security risks. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, and once approved, will be valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first. Authorizations will also be valid for multiple entries into the U.S. To facilitate the authorization process, DHS recommends that ESTA applications be submitted as soon as an applicant begins planning U.S.-bound travel, and not less than 72 hours prior to travel.
For additional information, please visit the ESTA website above, which includes a link to Frequently Asked Questions.