Planning on travelling to the United States next year?
If you’re from one of the 27 countries listed under the United States visa waiver programme, you have a bit of homework to do before you travel.
New regulations go into force in January that will require you to find a computer, go online to http://esta.cbp.dhs.gov register with the US government at least three days before you plan to travel to that country.
Because we are an Overseas Territory to the United Kingdom, Caymanians will probably have to get online and register before travel, but no one is sure yet. Expats here from the other 26 countries under the waiver programme – and we hope you know who you are – will also have to register.
It’s called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization and will be used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the US under the waiver programme and whether that travel poses a risk to security or is against the law.
It was put into place to stop congressional grumblings that tourists holding passports from visa waiver countries can too easily enter the United States.
The online registration is supposed to take the place of the piece of paper foreign nationals had to fill out while on the airplane before arrival into the US.
At face value the ESTA seems reasonable enough. The US needs to be able to continue its practice of free trade and travel and it also has to make sure its country is protected.
The online registrations are good for two years and contain an option for last-minute travel.
There are a couple of flaws with the registration system, though. Not everyone in the world has access to computers.
And the United States is considering setting a fee for online registration. You can be sure if the US is considering a fee, it will eventually be implemented.
It’s been said that the money will be used to go toward promoting the United States.
We think the best way to promote the United States under this programme is to reconsider any fee implementation.
The new rule won’t come into law until January, but you will be able to register in advance beginning in August.
We suggest you do it as soon as it is possible.
You never know when you may have to evacuate the Islands for a hurricane. Too, if you need emergency medical attention in the US you will be admitted if you are already registered.
The programme is just another level of frustration you’ll have to go through to enter the US. For that we can thank terrorists and grumbling members of Congress.