By Dimo R. Michailov, Esq.|January 23rd, 2010|Articles, Visa Waiver|

About the Electronic System for Travel Authorization

ESTA is an electronic travel authorization that all citizens of VWP countries must obtain prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (WVP). ESTA has been mandatory since Jan. 12, 2009 for all nationals of VWP countries traveling to the U.S under the VWP. The requirement does not affect U.S. citizens returning from overseas or citizens of VWP countries traveling on a valid U.S. visa.

ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, and once approved, generally will be valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first. Authorizations are valid for multiple entries into the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security recommends that ESTA applications be submitted as soon as an applicant begins making travel plans.

VWP travelers are required to log onto the ESTA Web site and complete an online application. The web-based system prompts applicants to answer basic biographic and eligibility questions typically requested on a paper I-94W form; ESTA is expected to completely replace the paper I-94W in the coming months. A third party, such as a relative, a friend, or a travel agent, may submit an application on behalf of a VWP traveler.

ESTA Registration Mandatory – New Enforcement Campaign

We have written in the past about the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which became mandatory more than one year ago, on January 12, 2009, for all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers into the U.S.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recently announced a 60-day campaign to enforce ESTA registration.  Pursuant to this campaign, DHS will use its authority to deny entry to all VWP travelers to U.S. who have not registered with ESTA.   Beginning January 20, CBP will initiate a 60-day transition to enforce ESTA compliance for air carriers; VWP travelers without an approved ESTA may not be allowed to board a U.S.-bound plane.