From next week all passengers travelling to or transferring through the US under the Visa Waiver Programme must be approved through the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) scheme prior to travel.
ESTA was established in 2008 to improve Visa Waiver security (see online news November 13, 2008), and all airlines have now been advised by US Customs and Border Protection that the scheme becomes mandatory from January 20.
Silla Maizey, director of customer service, said: “It only takes 15 minutes to complete an ESTA and the vast majority of applicants will receive approval for travel within minutes, although it can take up to 72 hours. Under the new regulations, we will not be able to accept US-bound customers for their flight if they have not received ESTA approval or if they do not hold a valid visa or Green Card. Most of our customers are already familiar with ESTA as it has been in place for more than a year, although not fully implemented.”
Individuals can apply even if they have no firm plans to travel to the US, and once approved the application is valid for two years. For more information visit https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/.