Certain business travelers from Europe, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Japan need to take note of a new registration requirement to enter the United States starting January 12. The Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program will become mandatory on January 12, 2009. At that time, all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers will be required to obtain an ESTA approval prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea (land ports from Canada and Mexico are exempt). ESTA is an automated system used to verify the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP. (VWP allows citizens and nationals of selected countries, including Australia, Japan, Singapore and most Western European countries, to travel to the United States for business or tourism for a period of up to 90 days without the need for a visa.)

ESTA authorizations will be generally valid for two years and will enable multiple entries into the United States. While an ESTA authorization is not a guarantee of admission to the United States, it will serve to prevent some VWP applicants from being refused admission and returned to his/her home country following inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) after arriving in the United States on an international flight. To register for the program, visit the ESTA website. For more information, see the ESTA information page and the government FAQ sheet.