On the one-year anniversary of implementing the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection reminds U.S. bound travelers from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries of the ESTA requirement. Beginning January 20, CBP will initiate a 60-day transition to enforced ESTA compliance for air carriers; VWP travelers without an approved ESTA may not be allowed to board a U.S. bound plane.
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 VWP. 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.
The ESTA Web site is available in 21 languages: Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish.