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Visa Waiver Travelers Need to Apply for Electronic Travel Authorization Before Journeying to U.S.


Effective January 12, 2009, all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers will be required to use the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA™) to obtain an electronic travel authorization before boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP.

To use the system, log onto the ESTA™ Web site at and complete an online application in English.  The Web-based system will prompt those using the system to answer basic biographical and eligibility questions typically requested on a paper I-94W form.  Although the application must be completed in English, the ESTA™ website is available in Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Slovenian, Spanish, and Swedish.

Applications may be submitted at any time before traveling.  The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) recommends, however, that applications be submitted at least 72 hours before traveling.  In most cases, the DHS promises, you will receive one of the following responses “within seconds”:
  1. Authorization Approved: Travel is authorized.
  2. Travel Not Authorized: The traveler must obtain a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before traveling to the U.S.
  3. Authorization Pending: The traveler will need to check the ESTA™ Web site for updates within 72 hours to receive a final response.
An approved travel authorization via ESTA™ is:
  • Required for all VWP travelers before boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP beginning January 12, 2009;
  • Presently required for all VWP travelers from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia;
  • Valid, unless revoked, for up to two years or until the traveler’s passport expires, whichever comes first;
  • Valid for multiple entries into the U.S.  As future trips are planned, or if an applicant’s destination addresses or itineraries change after authorization has been obtained, the applicant may update that information through the ESTA™ Web site; and
  • ESTA™ approval only authorizes a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the U.S. under the VWP.  It is not a guarantee of admissibility to the U.S. at a port of entry.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued an Advisory Statement on ESTA™, available at  An FAQ on ESTA™ has also been released, which can be viewed at  If you have any additional questions, please contact one of the Firm’s attorneys.

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