Electronic System Travel Authorization Now Mandatory - 01/26/10

The Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program became mandatory this month.

ESTA is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Such passengers are advised to apply for an ESTA no later than 72 hours prior to departure. They can apply for an ESTA even if they do not have a ticket booked to the U.S. Applications and details are available on the ESTA Web site.

The VWP enables qualifying citizens of participating countries to apply for admission to the U.S. for 90 days or less as non-immigrant visitors for business or pleasure without obtaining a U.S. non-immigrant visa.

Participating countries include many European Union countries, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, etc. While the ESTA requirement itself went in to place in January 2009, it will now be enforced.