Anyone planning to visit the USA will have heard of their famous ESTA – whether you come from a Visa Waiver Program Country or not (here in the UK, we do!).
Even more important than sunblock, underwear, camera, guidebook, glasses and yes, just as important as your passport, you need to apply for an ESTA. Because, without it you aint coming in!
Well with little fanfare , on Monday, 03 November 2014, six more questions were added to the application form which is part of the process for obtaining Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) required of visitors to the US from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries.
The US Department of Homeland Security has introduced these changes, which also include some amendments to already existing questions, in an attempt to strengthened the security of the program in response to increasing concerns regarding foreign fighters. The changes are designed not only to address the current percieved threats but also future challanges of continuing to provide visa-free travel to the USA.
Wislst the added questions are designed to help the DHS more easily identify those travellers on the terrorist watch list it will also help reduce the number of inconclusive data matches that lead to the refusal of an ESTA which subsequently forces the traveller onto the full Visa application process.
For those of you who already have your ESTA you need do nothing to update your visa and Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), here in the UK, that the new questions only apply to visitors applying for an ESTA from 03 November onwards and will have “no impact on travellers who already have an ESTA“.
The automated system, designed to determine the eligibility of travellers to the United States of America, has been part of the VWP since 2008, collecting biographical data from answers to VWP questions from all those who apply.
People wishing to apply for an ESTA will be glad to hear that the fee is not changing and will remain at just USD14. The visa will cover travel for up to 2 years.
Although your visa can be applied for at any time before travel it is highly recommended that this process is started as part of your earliest plans and is certainly completed before any travel plans are confirmed.
New questions in the ESTA application form
For those of you who are interested, the new questions are:
- City of Birth
- Contact information (email, phone, points of contact)
- Employment information (if applicable)
- National Identification Number (if applicable)
- Other Names/Aliases or Other Citizenships
- Parents name(s)
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