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Archive for ESTA

Registration Required for Visa-Free Travel to U.S.

By Linda Tancs

Tourists from countries participating in the visa waiver program may be unaware of a little program passed by Congress in 2007  (arising from the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007) known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), previously reported on this blog.  However, that little program could take a big bite out of your travel plans if you fail to comply with its requirements.  Simply put, ESTA requires that travelers from those 30+ countries participating in the visa waiver program obtain an electronic authorization of their right to enter the U.S.  The authorization is obtained by completing an online application.  If approved for travel, the authorization will be granted in a matter of seconds.  Otherwise, prospective visitors may get a “pending” message, in which event the site must be re-checked for authorization within 72 hours.  Those denied authorization must contact the State Department for advice on obtaining a visa.  The effects of noncompliance with the program, as of 20 January this year, could include denial of boarding or denial of entry into the U.S. at point of entry.  And if the Travel Promotion Act becomes law, there’s likely to be a $10 fee attached to your application.  You should also note that the right of authorization is independent of any other requirements for entry, such as a valid passport and length of stay limitations.  Any questions?  Read the Department of Homeland Security’s FAQs.

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 The author has not received any compensation for writing this content and has no material connection to the brands, topics, products and/or services that are mentioned herein.

Entry Requirements to U.S. are Revised

By Linda Tancs

Of course, not all travelers to the U.S. need visas. Currently, 35 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. What is new, however, is that nationals of these countries must now apply for authorization to enter the U.S. at least 72 hours before flight departure. Prior to this year, the authorization program (known as ESTA) was voluntary. The application for authorization can be found here.
Visitors should also note that certain passport requirements are in effect as well. For instance, passports issued on or after October 26, 2006 should be e-passports, characterized by a circular symbol on the bottom of the front cover, or else you’ll require a visa. If you’re lacking an e-passport, then, in some cases, you can still travel without a visa if your passport was issued prior to October 26, 2005 and contains a machine-readable zone or a digital photo. A machine-readable passport has two lines of text as letters, numbers and the(<<<) symbol at the bottom of the personal information page, along with your picture. Check your passport today!

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