The Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, and the US Consular Agency in Grand Cayman, reminds all nationals and citizens from Visa Waiver Programme countries that, from 12 January they will have to get prior electronic travel authorisation when traveling to the US under the VWP.
This new electronic authorisation, through the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, applies only to people using the VWP. It does not apply to the Cayman-US visa-waiver, administered by the Cayman Islands Passport and Corporate Services Office. The VWP, by contrast, falls under the US Department of Homeland Security.
Also, an approved ESTA is not a visa. It does not meet legal or regulatory requirements to serve in lieu of a visa, when a visa is required under US law. The visa process generally requires an appointment, a personal appearance at a US Embassy/Consulate, and an interview with a consular officer, states a press release.
Visas are issued by the US Department of State, whereas ESTA authorisation is issued by the US Department of Homeland Security.
The following persons do not have to apply for electronic travel authorisation:
• Caymanians travelling from the Cayman Islands directly to the US and back, with a Cayman Islands passport and a valid LOCAL visa-waiver (issued by the Cayman Islands Passport and Corporate Services Office).
• Persons travelling on a Cayman Islands or other passport, with a valid US visa issued by the US Embassy in Kingston, or any other US Embassy.
• If you hold both a Cayman Islands and a British passport, and one of the passports has a US visa affixed, then you should travel to the US on that passport. This way you will not have to apply for the electronic travel authorisation.
This authorisation may be obtained online for free, through the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation. It is administered by the Department of Homeland Security through a US government website, https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov.
VWP travellers should be aware of unauthorised third-party 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 US Government. Using one of these, or any other, private service to apply for travel authorisation via ESTA will not expedite the granting of approval.
Citizens of the following countries are eligible to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Programme, 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 US 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 US under the VWP, provided they have an e-passport and approved authorisation via the ESTA.
On 30 December 2008, the US expanded the VWP to include Malta. Eligible citizens or nationals from Malta may now travel to the US under the VWP, provided they have an e-passport and approved authorisation via the ESTA
The ESTA application website is available in 21 languages and includes a help section to guide VWP travellers through the application process. More information about ESTA may be found at http://www.cbp.gov/esta.
The VWP enables eligible citizens or nationals of certain countries to travel to the US for tourism or business, for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. More information regarding the VWP is available at http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/business_pleasure/vwp/vwp.xml.