GUEST ARTICLE: Fresh online entry procedures for the United States could stop many travelers to the US in their tracks unless they act fast
In a move likely to surprise thousands of travelers eligible to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program, the United States government has introduced new mandatory online entry requirements effective from 12 January 2009.
credit: James Willamor
Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA)
Effective from 4 September 2010, a US$14 fee paid by credit or debit card is required. Make sure you visit the official secure US Government website
Under the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation scheme, all Australian passport holders visiting or transiting through the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must complete a short online questionnaire on the US Department of Homeland Security website in order to obtain preliminary ESTA approval to travel to the US. All up, the online procedure should take no more than 15 minutes to complete, and you’ll be told the result instantly.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade recommends affected travelers seek to obtain approval through ESTA at least 72 hours in advance of traveling to the US and to take a print out for record keeping purposes.
Non-compliance with new entry rules can result in you being refused entry, detained or deported on arrival in the US.
If you are travelling on your Australian passport, your passport does not need to be an ePassport for entry under the Visa Waiver Program, but it must be machine-readable. Australian passports that do not have two lines of 44 characters at the bottom of the personal particulars page are not machine-readable. To confirm whether your passport is machine-readable, please contact the Australian Passports Information Service on 131232 (within Australia).
Please note that ESTA approval does not guarantee entrance to the US. The final determination will remain in the hands of US Customs and Border Protection officers at the applicable airport or seaport.
For further information, please visit the Australian government’s Smartraveller website – Travel Bulletin – United States-New Entry Requirements
This article has been written by Pranav Bhatt. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Economics and Business at Sydney University. He has an interest in world travel, cricket, politics, technology and the media.
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