Employers with personnel traveling internationally may want to take stock of changes that have occurred over the past 12 months to ensure employees are able to complete business trips with little or no interruption. Among the recent changes:
- The Department of Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program became mandatory on January 12, 2009. All Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers (applicable to citizens of Western European countries, Japan and Australia, among others) are required to obtain an ESTA approval prior to boarding a carrier to travel to the United States by air or sea (land ports from Canada and Mexico are exempt). Online resources include the steps to register for the ESTA program and a government FAQ sheet.
- United States citizens and lawful permanent residents (“green card” holders) can now take advantage of streamlined entry processes at 20 U.S. airports under the Global Entry initiative. Global Entry applicants must first enroll at any of the 20 locations by completing an interview and biometric data collection. Upon approval, Global Entry participants can use kiosks at any of the 20 airports to complete U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection upon returning to the United States from international travel. Global Entry users are typically processed in under five minutes. Under a reciprocal arrangement that links the U.S. program with the Privium program in Amsterdam, citizens of the Netherlands can also apply to participate in Global Entry. For a list of participating airports and more information on the program, visit the Global Entry website.
- On June 1, the DHS’ Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) went into effect at land and sea ports of entry, requiring U.S. and Canadian citizens to present an approved travel document to enter the United States. The approved documents include a passport, a passport card, a NEXUS, SENTRI or FAST trusted traveler program card, or a state or province-issued enhanced driver’s license. Travelers under age 16 need to present only a birth certificate or alternative proof of citizenship. All travelers, including children, must present either a passport or a NEXUS card when using kiosks at participating airports. For more information on the WHTI travel requirements, visit the U.S. Department of State website.