New procedures for visitors to the United States (ESTA)

News Release from Jewell & Associates - November 21, 2008

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced recently that, beginning January 12, 2009, eligible citizens or nationals from all Visa Waiver Program countries must obtain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States under the VWP.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables eligible citizens or 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. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and was recently expanded to include seven additional countries authorized to participate in the VWP.  There now are 34 VWP countries (the 7 new additions are starred):

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic*, Denmark, Estonia*, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary*, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea*, Latvia*, Liechtenstein, Lithuania*, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia*, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Citizens and nationals of these VWP countries, beginning January 12, 2009, will not be permitted to board a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP unless they have been cleared through ESTA.  Complete information on ESTA is available at, but following is a summary.

VWP travelers must log onto the ESTA web site in advance of a planned visit to the U.S.  Although DHS recommends that applications be submitted no less than 72 hours prior to travel, most applications are processed within seconds.  The web-based application consists of basic biographical and eligibility questions typically requested on a paper I-94W form. The possible ESTA responses to the application are:

  1. Authorization Approved: Travel authorized.  This authorization will be valid, unless revoked, for up to two years or until the traveler’s passport expires, whichever comes first.   The authorization will be 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 update that information through the ESTA web site.  Caveat:  ESTA travel authorization is 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.
  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.

© Jewell & Associates 2008