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Visa Waiver Program ( VWP) to United States

ESTA

Effective January 12, 2009, for travel to or connecting through the U.S., the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will require all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) nationals to obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to boarding. This new authorization is known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA.

Refer to the table below for Nationals eligible to travel under the VWP:

Exempted

Exempt from the ESTA requirement are:

  • * VWP nationals who are U.S. residents
  • * VWP nationals who hold a visa for a specific trip to the U.S.

Where
to apply

ESTA applications through the ESTA Web site
http://www.esta.cbp.dhs.gov
.

Special Note VWP travelers are not required to have specific plans to travel to the United States before they apply for an ESTA authorization, but it is recommended that an ESTA approval be obtained as soon as a VWP traveler begins to plan a trip to visit the United States, and no later than 72 hours before departure to the United States.

There is no cost for the application and once the application is submitted online, in most cases, ESTA will respond with an almost immediate determination of eligibility for travel.
If approval is not granted prior to check-in, boarding may be denied. Passengers may experience delayed processing, or denied admission at a U.S. port of entry. At this time it is not fully known what role carriers will play in ensuring the customer has obtained ESTA approval.

  • Approval will be valid for two years or until the passport expires, whichever is earlier
  • Once ESTA approval has been granted, it is not necessary for the VWP national to obtain approval before each trip within the two years (unless a new passport is obtained)
  • An ESTA is not required for Guam or Saipan
  • An ESTA may be denied due to: overstays, previous criminal history, issues associated with a prior visa
  • Receipt of ESTA is not valid for travel

    More information may be found in http://www.esta.cbp.dhs.gov
Special Note: Change of policy

With effect from 21 January 2016, the United States began implementing changes under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (the Act).

Changes to Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

• Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
• Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.


These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at U.S. embassies or consulates. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis.

Further, from 01 April 2016, for travel under VWP, all eligible travelers are required to have an electronic passport (e-passport) with an embedded electronic chip (e-chip). E-Passports are issued by the proper passport issuing authority and must meet international standards for securing and storing information corresponding to the passport and bearer.

Changes to Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs)

Under the Act, travelers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs) and who have previously indicated holding dual nationality with one of the four countries listed above on their ESTA applications will have their current ESTAs revoked.


Any traveler who receives notification that they are no longer eligible to travel under the VWP are still eligible to travel to the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate. Such travelers will be required to appear for an interview and obtain a visa in their passports at a U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling to the United States.
Current ESTA holders are encouraged to check their ESTA status prior to travel on CBP's website at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/.

An updated ESTA application with additional questions is scheduled to be released in late February 2016 to address exceptions for diplomatic- and military-related travel provided for in the Act.

For the most up-to-date and accurate information on visa applications, please refer to http://www.travel.state.gov




Nationals of the following countries are currently eligible to travel under the VWP:

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

* ESTA required from November 17, 2008.