- January 13th 2009
Travelers from 35 Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries now have to get approval through the Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before traveling to the US. The web-based ESTA system was launched in August 2008 to determine the eligibility of those from VWP countries to enter the US. More than 1.2 million ESTA applications have been received so far, with more than 99 per cent of these approved. In most cases approval takes seconds and the permit lasts for up to two years or until the passport expires.
“We have been collecting information from visa waiver travelers for decades, and establishing a program to get that same information in advance is one enhancement that allowed us to extend the valuable benefit of visa-free travel to eight new countries in 2008,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “In addition to building business and cultural ties with our partners overseas, this is a commonsense step into the 21st century that will improve our efficiency in screening and welcoming international travelers at our ports of entry.”
DHS says it will take a ‘reasonable approach to travelers who have not obtained an approved travel authorization via ESTA, though such travelers may be denied boarding or admission to the US or may experience delayed processing. Find more information in ESTA here. Read more »