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Travelling to USA - new electronic visa waiver

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Thursday 15 January 2009 12.31pm
***** WARNING *****
from Martins' money saver on GMTV:
WARNING! You must 'apply' online BEFORE travelling to the USA

The days of filling out a green I-94 piece of paper - commonly thought of as the Visa Waiver form - on a plane for entry into the US have ended. You now need to fill in an online request (called the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation form, or ESTA for short) to enter the States, at least three days before travelling; otherwise you'll be turned away at US immigration.

The application form is available right now on the ESTA website. It's completely free, so beware of other sites implying there's a fee to pay. Sadly, and rather outrageously, you can only apply online; so those without the internet have to go to a library or ask someone with access for help.

Even if you're only considering going to the States at some point in the future, it's worth filling in the application before buying tickets...just on the off chance you're rejected and can't get your flight/hotel money back.

The application lasts two years (or until your passport expires), and only takes five minutes to complete, so after that you're covered in case you forget, plus the three day rule could be a problem for emergency travel. Once the ESTA is out of date you simply reapply.
Friday 16 January 2009 12.25am
The 3 days in advance bit is wrong according to Derwood Staeben.

"You can fill it in from an internet cafe in the airport if you want to, although obviously we do advise people to do so as far ahead of their journey as possible," he said.
Friday 16 January 2009 9.53am
Moriarty, I was just think the other day that I haven't seen you post recently. Do hope you are well.
Friday 16 January 2009 11.12am
yes but in the same article he also says

[Quote]"We are implementing this in a reasonable way" he said
"People who don't do it can expect to be delayed, denied boarding or turned away - that is technically true - but we're working with the travelling public on this."[/quote]

I would imagine that in the future you'll have to fill it in in advance but for the first few days (weeks, months?) they will give some leniancy to those who claim ignorance of the system.
Friday 16 January 2009 8.35pm
Jon mate - if you apply, don't mention that incident with the sheep - it may slow down you application.
Saturday 17 January 2009 12.43pm
Yes, I came up against this when I flew from Rio to Miami on Tuesday...didnt know anything about it and the bloke said it was de rigeur from Monday...I was afraid they wouldnt let me on the plane, but they took pity. However, it's now important to know, and to do it 72 hours in advance. It seems they ARE being indulgent at the beginning.,
Sunday 18 January 2009 11.28am
From the US Customs and Border Protection website's FAQs about ESTA:

Q: How far in advance of a trip is it necessary to apply for travel authorization through ESTA™?
A: ESTA™ applications may be submitted at any time prior to traveling to the United States under the VWP, and in most cases, ESTA™ will provide an almost immediate determination of eligibility for travel under the VWP.

I suspect the three days recommended by the Foreign Office is to allow you sufficient time to sort it out if the ESTA is refused.
Wednesday 21 January 2009 8.50pm
I am frequent traveler to the US and in fact there (here) right now. I flew out on the day ESTA became mandatory and TSA agents at immigration did not appear to turning travelers away who had not completed the form online. Interestingly, you still need to complete the green paper visa waiver form as well as ESTA online. When I questioned the TSA agent when the paper form would be phased out he told me in a couple of years.

A successful ESTA submission does not automatically grant you entry to the US either as you can still be denied entry on arrival by a TSA agent. If your ESTA application is denied online then you will need to apply for a visa in person at the US Embassy and that costs, takes time and requires an in-person interview.
Tuesday 27 January 2009 12.21am
popism wrote:
Interestingly, you still need to complete the green paper visa waiver form as well as ESTA online.

I flew BA to New York last Thursday and also had to complete the green form on the aircraft. I was so disapppointed.

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