The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a reminder to travellers from all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries that they are now required to obtain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to travelling to the US.
“We have been collecting information from visa waiver travellers for decades, and establishing a programme to get that same information in advance is one enhancement that allowed us to extend the benefit of visa-free travel to eight new countries in 2008,” says Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
ESTA is a web-based system, initially launched in August 2008, that determines the preliminary eligibility of visitors to travel under the VWP prior to boarding a carrier to the US. The DHS says to date, more than 1.2 million ESTA applications have been received, and more than 99.6% of applicants have been approved, most within seconds.
The DHS received authorisation for VWP reforms through the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.