15 January 2009
America's ESTA now compulsory for all Visa Waiver Program countries
As of Monday 12th 2009, America's Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) became compulsory for all countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
All nationals or citizens from countries participating in the program who wish to travel to America for business or travel purposes for 90 days or less must obtain approval through the ESTA. ESTA is a web-based program that collects security information from visa-free travellers and allows the American Government to screen travellers before they board a plane to America. It replaces the old-style paper forms previously filled out en route to America and lasts for two years per traveller. The Government requires travellers to complete the Authorisation at least 72 hours prior to travel.
As of Monday, the Department of Homeland Security also announced the official addition of seven countries included in the VWP. The new list contains 34 countries, including: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the addition of allies to the VWP would benefit both America and participating countries in the program.
"We are especially pleased to welcome these allies into the Visa Waiver Program," he said. "Expanding the number of countries whose citizens can travel to the U.S. without a visa increases business and social ties between our countries and at the same time deepens cooperation on required security measures."
The American Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in American visa and immigration services.
Article by Jessica Bird, American Visa Bureau.