Visa-waived nationals undergoing increased screening before travel to US

11 Nov 14

UNITED STATES

Travelers who do not require a visa to travel to the U.S. must answer additional questions on the electronic questionnaire completed before travel, according to a Nov. 3 announcement by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The change is intended to increase security in the Visa Waiver Program.

Citizens of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program are allowed to visit the U.S. for business or tourism for up to 90 days without a visa, but they must fill out an online application through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) at least 72 hours before travel. ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visa-waived foreign travelers.

Visa-waived nationals who currently hold a valid ESTA approval do not need to reapply or update their application immediately.

The new data fields are:

  • Contact information including email, phone and points of contact.
  • Employment information.
  • City of birth.
  • Names of parents.
  • Other names and aliases and other citizenships.
  • National identification number, if applicable.

A DHS official confirmed with BAL that travelers with a current and valid ESTA do not need to reapply. When their ESTA expires or their passport expires (whichever occurs first), they will have to apply for a new ESTA with the new data fields for future visa-waived travel.

BAL Analysis: Business travelers from visa-waived countries holding a valid ESTA can continue to travel on their existing ESTA until either their passport or ESTA expires. They should be aware that they will have to provide the new information when reapplying. New applicants planning to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program should apply for their pre-travel approval through ESTA as early as possible.

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