ESTA now compulsory for US travel

Guest Writer

25 Jan 10 ( On the one-year anniversary of implementing the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reminds U.S.-bound travelers from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries of the ESTA requirement.

ESTA is an electronic travel authorization that all citizens of VWP countries must obtain prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP. ESTA has been mandatory since Jan. 12, 2009 for all nationals of VWP countries traveling to the United States under the VWP. The requirement does not affect U.S. citizens returning from overseas or citizens of VWP countries traveling on a valid U.S. visa.

ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, and once approved, generally will be valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first. Authorizations are valid for multiple entries into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security recommends that ESTA applications be submitted as soon as an applicant begins making travel plans.

VWP travelers are required to log onto the ESTA Web site at and complete an on-line application. The web-based system prompts applicants to answer basic biographic and eligibility questions typically requested on a paper I-94W form; ESTA is expected to completely replace the paper I-94W in the coming months. A third party, such as a relative, a friend, or a travel agent, may submit an application on behalf of a VWP traveler.

The ESTA web site is available in 21 languages: Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish.

Beginning January 20, 2010 CBP initiated a 60-day transition to enforced ESTA compliance for air carriers; VWP travelers without an approved ESTA may not be allowed to board a U.S.-bound plane.

There are print-ready PDFs of several ESTA advertisements available for your use. DHS/CBP has several advertisement options that can be used in specific markets across the United States or abroad. All ads are branded only with the ESTA program and can be easily adjusted to include your organization’s individual brand. If you are interested in utilizing these advertisements, please contact Laurel Smith at, or at 202.344.1582.

ESTA Frequently Asked Questions:

ESTA Fact Sheets (in language):

For more information about ESTA, please visit

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