04 December 2006

US look set to mirror Australia's ETA

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The United States are looking at streamlining the Visa Waiver Program in a way that could see it follow Australia's successful Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) visa.

Following President Bush's announcement last week that the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) could be opened up to more European nations, the Department of Homeland Security has revealed more details as to how an extended VWP would work.

They include a visa pre-entry authorisation system that officials are dubbing "visa lite", mirrored on Australia's ETA. Australia introduced the ETA in September 1996 and it remains the most advanced and streamlined travel authorisation system in the world.

Australia’s ETA is now available to passport holders from 34 countries, locations and regions and over 24 million travelers have used the system to travel to Australia, accounting for almost 83 per cent of all tourist and short-term business visas granted worldwide.

The ETA system can be accessed by more than 300,000 travel agents worldwide, more than 75 airlines and through the Internet.

Homeland Security officials said that any electronic travel authority system would be backed up by better information-sharing by new member nations on lost and stolen passports and criminal and terrorist watch lists and higher standards for their document and airport security.

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