The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) became mandatory for all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travellers to the United States on January 12, 2009. Prior to travelling to the U.S. for business or pleasure, Visa Waiver travellers will be required to obtain approval by filling out an online application to be assessed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Upon DHS approval, an ESTA authorization is valid for multiple entries to the U.S. for a period of up to two years, or until the traveller's passport expires, whichever comes first. There are currently 35 countries in the Visa Waiver Program.
When an employee is planning travel into or through the U.S., it is imperative to determine if the employee will require ESTA authorization well in advance of the expected date of travel. Registration under the program must be completed no later than 72 hours before travel.