Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and Visa Waiver Program (VWP)   

About ESTA

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Authorization via ESTA does not determine whether a traveler is admissible to the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers determine admissibility upon travelers’ arrival. The ESTA application collects biographic information and answers to VWP eligibility questions. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, though it is recommended that travelers apply as soon as they begin preparing travel plans or prior to purchasing airline tickets.

About the Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) , administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in consultation with the State Department, permits citizens of 38 countrie to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa. In return, those 38 countries must permit U.S. citizens and nationals to travel to their countries for a similar length of time without a visa for business or tourism purposes

Enhancements to ESTA

Additional enhancements were added to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), as part of the continued implementation of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. These enhancements do not ban travel to the United States, or admission into the United States, and the great majority of VWP travelers will not be affected.

Enhancements are outlined below and include:

  • Electronic Passport Required for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Country Citizens Effective April 1

  • Visa Waiver Program Eligibility Change
 Electronic Passport Required for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Country Citizens Effective April 1

Effective April 1, 2016, all VWP country citizens  must possess an electronic passport (e-chip) to travel to the United States without a visa under the VWP. If not in possession of an electronic passport, a valid nonimmigrant visa is required to travel to the United States. Onward or return tickets are required.

Please note: An e-Passport, denoted by the symbol located on the passport cover, is an enhanced secure passport with an embedded electronic chip.  E-Passports are issued by the proper passport issuing authority and must meet international standards for securing and storing information corresponding to the passport and bearer.

 Visa Waiver Program Eligibility Change
  • Under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, travelers in the following categories may no longer be eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the VWP:

    • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or have been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria Libya, Somalia and Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).

    • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen

  • Beginning January 21, 2016, travelers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs) and who have previously indicated holding dual nationality with one of the four countries listed above on their ESTA applications will have their current ESTAs canceled.

These individuals may still be eligible to travel under the visa waiver program if they are deemed as an exception but will have to reapply for ESTA using the enhanced ESTA website .

Alternatively they will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at our embassies or consulates. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis.

The Secretary of Homeland Security may waive these restrictions if determined that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. Such waivers will be granted only on a case-by-case basis.

Current ESTA Holders

Current ESTA holders are encouraged to check their ESTA status  prior to travel.

  • Any traveler who receives notification that they are no longer eligible to travel under the VWP are still eligible to travel to the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • Alternatively they will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at our embassies or consulates. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis.
Resources

Visit Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)  for complete details.

Information on visa applications can be found at travel.state.gov .

Customs and Border Protection has issued a list of Frequently Asked Questions  about the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act.

 
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