Sunday, 08 November 2009 11:03
By US Embassy
Visa Waiver Travel – New Procedures- Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced important requirements for nationals of countries in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP): pre-registration with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and a new additional requirement effective July 1, 2009, dealing with the use of E-Passports.
ESTA is a free, automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP. E-Passports are passports containing an electronic chip that holds the information from the printed portion of the passport, along with a digital photograph of the holder.What is ESTA?
Below are responses to a series of frequently asked questions to help you better understand ESTA and its implications for you.
Who do these requirements apply to?
These new requirements apply only to nationals of countries permitted to travel temporarily to the United States for business or pleasure without a visa, i.e. Visa Waiver Program countries. Other citizens wishing to travel to the U.S. for business or pleasure should continue to apply for an appropriate non-immigrant visa at the Unites States Embassy.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an automated system that assists in determining eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP, and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk. Upon completion of an ESTA application, a VWP traveler will be notified of his or her eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP. ESTA collects the same information as the paper I-94W form that VWP travelers currently fill out en route to the United States.How do I use ESTA?
Eligible passengers must register PRIOR to travel to the United States through the ESTA website – https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/
- which is available in 21 languages. Although applications may be accepted at any time prior to boarding the plane, VWP travelers are encouraged to apply for authorization as soon as they begin to plan their trip to the United States. As this only applies to travel without a visa, VWP nationals who hold valid U.S. visas do not need to need to use ESTA.
People holding passports from non-VWP countries continue to require visas and are not eligible to use ESTA.Is ESTA mandatory?
Yes. All VWP travelers who do not have a U.S. visa are required to obtain advance authorization via ESTA before traveling to the United States.What is an E-Passport?
An E-Passport contains a computer chip that houses all of the data printed in the passport, along with the biometric identifiers. All E-Passports issued by VWP countries and the United States have security features to prevent the unauthorized reading or “skimming” of data stored on the E-Passport chip. The chip does NOT contain your travel history or any information about you not found on the printed pages of your original passport.What if I need to travel before obtaining an E-Passport?
Effective July 1, 2009, all VWP travelers will need to have an E-Passport. Any VWP national or citizen with an emergency or temporary passport issued on or after October 26, 2006that is not an E-Passport will be required to apply for a U.S. visa at a U.S. embassy prior to travel, or apply for a waiver at a U.S. Port of Entry.What if I am a national of a non-VWP country and need to travel urgently?
Nationals and citizens of non-VWP countries may continue to present regular emergency and temporary passports that are not E-passports for admission into the United States. However, they will also need to show a valid U.S. visa.Do Non-VWP citizens need to use ESTA or E-Passports?
No. Non-VWP citizens wishing to travel to the U.S. for temporary business or pleasure should continue to apply for an appropriate non-immigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy. VWP citizens holding valid U.S. visas also do not need to use ESTA.Tell me more about the Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and enables eligible citizens or nationals of the following countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom. Although the nations of the Eastern Caribbean are not currently part of the VWP, many nationals of VWP countries who reside in or visit the Eastern Caribbean are eligible to travel on the VWP.
Where can I find out more about ESTA and the Visa Waiver Program?
The Department of Homeland Security runs the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA. You can find out more about both at DHS’s Customs and Border Protection website: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/esta/.
You can also find out general information about visas and requirements for traveling to the U.S. at our Embassy’s website: http://barbados.usembassy.gov/non-immigrant_visas.html
Any further questions about this, or other Consular and travel topics can be found at our website at http://barbados.usembassy.gov.