Integrity Legal

30th June 2009

There are some countries whose nationals have the right to travel to the United States of America without first obtaining a visa. The US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) was designed to allow certain foreign nationals visa-free travel to the United States. The visa waiver program should not be confused with an I-601 waiver of the grounds of inadmissibility.

Since September 11, 2001 the the Department of Homeland Security, United States Customs Department, United State Immigration and Citizenship Service (USCIS), the Transportation Safety Authority, and other United States Federal agencies have been formulating ways to better maintain security with regard to international travel. It was determined that the Visa Waiver program might be used by possibly hostile parties as a method for entering the United States in order to conduct harmful activity. As a result of this policy decision, the US authorities have attempted to implement a precreening process for thse entering the United States via the Waiver Program. This process is known by its acronym: ESTA.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) was made operational under Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended by Section 711 of the “Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007,” Pub. L. No. 110-53. The Act compelled the Department of Homeland Security to institute a systematic method to verify the fitness of travelers to the USA and make sure such travelers pose no imminent threat to American safety.

The ESTA is a no-cost, fully computerized program used to ascertain the qualifications of those traveling to the United States of America through the use of the American Visa Waiver Program. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization gathers similar information as that required on Form I-94W. An ESTA application can be tendered at any point before traveling to the United States of America. That being said, the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) and the Department of Homeland Security advise that travelers submit an ESTA application when they begin setting a travel itinerary.

As of January 12, 2009, those who are citizens of any country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program must obtain travel approval from ESTA before they will be allowed to enter the USA under VWP.

Some people are under the misconception that ESTA is a visa.  An ESTA approval is not a visa. Instead it is a prescreening for entry into the United States visa free.

For those who have trouble with the English language, the website has been translated into Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, and Swedish.

(Please note: this is intended for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney/client relationship is created between author and reader).


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3 Responses to “US Visa Waiver & ESTA: Electronic System for Travel Authorization”

  1. D Macken says:

    Hello,

    I was wondering what are the laws behind applying for the Visa Waiver Program for a second time?
    I am currently in the US on my 90 days and I was wondering if I can legally leave the country and immediately apply for the program again and then re-enter?
    Also, I am from the Republic of Ireland, so I was wondering am I better off returning to my home country and applying or can I just go to Canada or Mexico and apply there and then return?

  2. admin says:

    Contact a local Immigration attorney and ask how best to resolve the issue. As we are located in Bangkok, Thailand and are unfamiliar with the details of your case we would advise retaining local counsel to assist

  3. Thanks! Glad we didn’t miss anything :D
    Keep it up…!!!

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