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ESTA and changes to the Visa Waiver Programme from 12th January 2009
Travelling to the USA in 2009 – Important Changes to the Visa Waiver Programme effective from 12th January 2009.
From January 2009 a new system is being introduced by the U. S Department for Homeland Security for entry into the U. S. A to eventually replace the current Visa Waiver scheme called The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, or ESTA for short.
When travelling to the US, you must have the correct passport to travel on the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), or have obtained the correct visa valid for your stay. From January 12th 2009 anyone travelling under the VWP must also have applied for an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ESTA). You can also apply to the scheme if your date of travel is before January 12th 2009.
In addition, you are required to provide passport data for the US Government prior to travel. This may be collected by the airline, either online or at time of check-in.
It should be noted that Travel Documents and Travel Authorisation are the responsibility of the passenger.
Applying for Electronic Travel Authorisation (ESTA)
If you are travelling to the US under the Visa Waiver Programme you must also have applied for Electronic Travel Authorisation (ESTA). You can receive Travel Authorisation by completing the online form at https://esta. cbp. dhs. gov/esta and a decision will normally be made within seconds. The Travel Authorisation is then valid for multiple entries to the US for two years, unless any answers to the YES/NO questions on the form change or a new passport is required.
Before beginning your application make sure you have your passport and flight details to hand. If you do not have your accommodation address at the time of application, don’t worry you can still proceed with the application and go back to add it when you have the information.
An approved ESTA travel authorization is valid for up to two years or until the traveller’ s passport expires, whichever comes first and is valid for multiple entries into the U. S.
It should be noted that authorisation is not a guarantee of admission to the United States. ESTA approval only authorizes a traveller to board a carrier for travel to the U. S. under the VWP – the final decision is still made by the immigration official.
How to obtain a US Visa if not eligible for the Visa Waiver/ESTA Programme
Travellers requiring a US visa are advised to contact the US Embassy. If you are intending to travel to the US and require a US visa, you must make an interview appointment directly with the Embassy. Applying for a US visa can be a lengthy process, which can take several weeks, so ensure you leave plenty of time before you travel.
Further information on the visa process can be obtained from: www. usembassy. org. uk
Author: Dawn and Alan Murray
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