United States Visa Waiver Changes from 12th January 2009

U.S once again changed their travel visa requirements. Singaporeans and other Visa Waiver Nations who use to be able to travel to U.S.A without a travel visa would need to apply for online waiver authorization prior travelling.

Got this email via my frequent flyer program.

Department of Homeland Security Introduces Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for Visa Waiver Program Travelers

Effective January 12, 2009, for travel to or connecting through the U.S., the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will require all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) nationals to obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to boarding. This new authorization is known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA.

Nationals of the following countries are currently eligible to travel under the VWP:

Australia Ireland Portugal
Austria Italy San Marino
Belgium Japan Singapore
Brunei Liechtenstein Slovenia
Denmark Luxembourg Spain
Finland Monaco Sweden
France The Netherlands Switzerland
Germany New Zealand United Kingdom
Iceland Norway

Exempt from the ESTA requirement are:

  • * VWP nationals who are U.S. residents
  • * VWP nationals who hold a visa for a specific trip to the U.S.

The DHS is now accepting voluntary ESTA applications through the ESTA Web site https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. Currently, the site is available in English only, but additional languages will be available in October 2008.

VWP travelers are not required to have specific plans to travel to the United States before they apply for an ESTA authorization, but it is recommended that an ESTA approval be obtained as soon as a VWP traveler begins to plan a trip to visit the United States, and no later than 72 hours before departure to the United States.

There is no cost for the application and once the application is submitted online, in most cases, ESTA will respond with an almost immediate determination of eligibility for travel. If approval is not granted prior to check-in, boarding may be denied. Passengers may experience delayed processing, or denied admission at a U.S. port of entry. At this time it is not fully known what role carriers will play in ensuring the customer has obtained ESTA approval.

  • Approval will be valid for two years or until the passport expires, whichever is earlier
  • Once ESTA approval has been granted, it is not necessary for the VWP national to obtain approval before each trip within the two years (unless a new passport is obtained)
  • An ESTA is not required for Guam or Saipan
  • An ESTA may be denied due to: overstays, previous criminal history, issues associated with a prior visa
  • Receipt of ESTA is not valid for travel

More information may be found in http://www.CBP.GOV/ESTA.

ESTA applications are available at the ESTA Website https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov.

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