US issues travel information

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced that beginning 12 January, all nationals and citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries will be required by law to obtain a travel authorisation prior to initiating travel to the US under the VWP.

This authorisation may be obtained online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, a free Internet application administered by DHS through a US government website, https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. DHS does not charge a fee for completion of an ESTA application.

Citizens of the following countries are eligible to travel to the US under the VWP, and will need approved authorisation via ESTA as of 12 January: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

On 17 November, the United States expanded the VWP to include the following countries: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia. Eligible citizens or nationals from these new VWP countries may now travel to the United States under the VWP provided they have an e-passport and an approved authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

An approved ESTA is not a visa and does not meet the legal or regulatory requirements to serve in lieu of a visa when a visa is required under US law. People traveling on valid visas are not required to apply for an ESTA. The visa process generally requires an appointment, a personal appearance at a US Embassy/Consulate, and an interview with a consular officer. Visas are issued by the US Department of State, whereas ESTA authorization is issued by the US Department of Homeland Security.

VWP travellers should be aware that unauthorised third-parties advertise websites that charge for information about ESTA and for submitting ESTA applications to DHS on behalf of the traveller.

These businesses and websites are not endorsed by, associated with, or affiliated in any way with DHS or the United States government. Use of a private service to apply for travel authorisation via ESTA will not expedite the granting of approval.

The ESTA application Web site is available in 16 languages and includes a help section that provides additional information for VWP travellers to guide them through the application process. Additional information about ESTA may be found at http://www.cbp.gov/esta .

The Visa Waiver Program is administered by DHS and enables eligible citizens or nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Additional information regarding the VWP is available at http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/business_pleasure/vwp/vwp.xml.

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