Beginning January 12, 2009, all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers will be required to obtain a travel authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP. Under the VWP visitors from participating countries may travel to the U.S. for business or pleasure for 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa.

ESTA is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of VWP visitors. It requires the same information as the paper I-94W form that VWP travelers currently complete en route to the U.S. ESTA adds another layer of security that allows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine, in advance of travel, whether an individual is eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP and whether such travel poses a law enforcement or security risk.

To apply for travel authorization, travelers must visit https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/, answer all required questions, and submit their application for travel authorization. There are three types of responses to an ESTA application: Authorization Approved; Authorization Pending; and Travel Not Authorized. Those applicants who receive an approval are authorized to travel to the United States under the VWP. Applicants who receive an Authorization Pending response will need to check the web site for updates within 72 hours to receive a final response. Applicants whose ESTA applications are denied will be referred to www.travel.state.gov for information on how to apply for a visa to travel to the United States.