30 July 2008
Pilot travel permit to US to start Friday
The controversial "visa-free" travel permit to the US will begin its pilot program on Friday. Under the new electronic system designed for the Department of Homeland Security, all international visitors who do not need a visa will need to provide personal information for safekeeping on a centralised database.
27 countries participate in the visa waiver program with America, however as of 12 January 2009, all nationals from these countries will need an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) to enter the country. This will include travellers from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. This Friday, Homeland Security will be launching ESTA for a pilot-run, meaning travellers to the country can voluntarily offer their personal information for the database.
The ESTA will replace in-flight passenger cards, which visitors from these countries currently fill out en route to America, and will in most cases be granted instantaneously. The ESTA will also last for two years.
In line with the visa waiver agreement, the European Commission will monitor the program over the next few months to ensure it is not acting as an American visa program, reports EU Business.
The ESTA has been designed to mirror the Australian Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA visa), which is the most streamlined and advanced visa system in the world. International travellers can apply online for a travel visa to Australia for business or leisure and in most cases can have a visa granted in seconds. The ETA replaces all visa stamps, labels, and paperwork.
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people apply for an Australia visa.
Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.