USA Visa Waiver Program - VERY IMPORTANT CHANGES

This notice has been compiled by Fermilab Visa Office. Thanks to Cristina for forwarding it.

Effective 9th January 2009, foreign travellers to the U.S. intending to use the Visa Waiver Program ("VWP") will be unable to enter the U.S. unless they have been pre-authorized by the new online "Electronic System for Travel Authorization" (ESTA). Please visit http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/esta/ for information about the system.

Travellers may log into ESTA as far in advance of their travel as possible but it is recommended no less than 72 hours before departure. The ESTA application asks for biographic, passport and other personal data, information about their proposed travel and stay in the U.S., and answers to questions similar to those on the I-94 document every visitor to the U.S. must complete prior to arrival. On submission, an ESTA tracking number is assigned. Travellers must log into the system to see the status of their case. In most cases authorization to travel is issued almost immediately. In some cases, authorization might take two or three days. A very small percentage of cases might be denied, based on patterns of answers, personal circumstances, or for random quality control measures. If the ESTA application is denied and the traveller still wants to enter the U.S., a visa application must be made at an appropriate U.S. Consulate before departure. In such instances the usual visa application process applies, which sometimes can be lengthy. An ESTA authorization for travel to the U.S. will generally be valid for 2 years or until the applicant's passport expires, whichever comes first. During this time, a new ESTA authorization is required if the traveller (1) changes his or her name; (2) changes his or her gender; (3) changes country of citizenship; or (4) should change any other answer to ESTA questions.

This is a new system with which there is no experience. We strongly urge Users who travel to the U.S. on the VWP to become familiar with ESTA and to accommodate this new process in their U.S. travel plans. If you anticipate arriving in the U.S. on or after 9th January 2009, we urge you to apply through ESTA for pre-authorization as soon as possible. Arrangements to travel to the U.S. should be finalized as early as possible and the ESTA application should be submitted as early as possible to allow time for a conventional visa application in the event of an ESTA denial so minimizing the possibility of travel delays.

-- ChunLikTan - 11 Oct 2008

Topic revision: r1 - 11 Oct 2008 - 22:20:06 - ChunLikTan
 
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