All international visitors who are seeking to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are now subject to enhanced security requirements.
All international travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries who wish to travel to the U.S. under VWP are now required to apply online for travel authorization via online ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization before entering the United States.
Passport holders from VWP participating countries are still eligible to travel without a US visa but will now have to submit an online ESTA forms in advance of travel to the United States.
The ESTA visa-free system is an automated system that determines the eligibility of international visitors to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.
The ESTA application collects the same information collected on Form I-94W (formerly paper-based and filled on arrival by participating VWP citizens) and may be submitted at any time prior to your travel to the US, though it is recommended travelers apply when they begin preparing travel plans.
An approved ESTA is not a visa as it does not meet the legal or regulatory requirements to serve in lieu of an American visa when a visa is required under United States law.
However, an approved ESTA application does authorize an international traveler to board a plane or cruise ship for travel to the United States without a visa, but does not guarantee that you are admissible to the United States.
In all cases, upon arrival in the United States, a Customs and Border Protection officer at a port of entry will be the one to determine if you are inadmissible under the Visa Waiver Program or for any reason under United States law.
Generally, each approved ESTA application is valid for two years from the date of authorization, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first, unless revoked and allows for multiple visits to the United States within that period without having to apply for another ESTA approval. Travelers whose passports will expire in less than two years will receive an ESTA valid until the passport’s expiration date.
If travelers obtain a new passport, a new travel authorization application in ESTA using the new passport must be submitted. Each new application submitted will be charged a processing fee.
An approved ESTA application also enables eligible citizens or nationals of designated VWP countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for a combined maximum stay in the USA and its surrounding countries of90 days or less without first obtaining a visa, regardless of how long a traveler actually intends to stay in the USA.
The ESTA eliminates the requirement that Visa Waiver Program travelers complete an I-94W prior to being admitted to the United States. As most carriers are now capable of receiving and validating messages pertaining to the traveler’s ESTA status as part of the traveler’s boarding status, travelers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program who have an approved ESTA travel authorization will no longer be required to complete a paper-based I-94W on arrival and be given a green I-94W departure coupon in their passport.