When I traveled to Australia last year I registered online for an e-visa. The process was quick and easy and I obtained my authorization in less than 15 minutes and printed out the single page form on my own printer. Now the U.S.government has implemented a similar system, but instead of modernizing the application process for citizens of countries who must obtain a visa to visit the U.S., they are adding another level of approval for citizens of countries that enjoy visa-free travel to the U.S. Beginning January 12, 2009, citizens of countries that do not need a visa to visit the U.S. will be required to register their travel plans online and obtain approval prior to their departure date.
To facilitate the online approval requirement, the Department of Homeland Security has been testing a new system, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Since August, some 300,000 people from eligible countries have used the system, which determines whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk. Upon completion of an ESTA application the traveler is notified of his or her eligibility. To apply, go to ESTA’s website and follow the online instructions.
For the past two years, Congress has been working to revamp the entire Visa Waiver Program, which specifies the process by which a country may become approved for visa-free travel to the U.S. In order to be admitted to the program, countries must Continue reading