November 7, 2014

CBP Tightens Security Measures for Visa Waiver Travel to the U.S.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) increased security screening measures on travelers who wish to enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). VWP enables citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States as visitors without obtaining a visa. Under these new measures, those seeking to travel to the U.S. under the VWP will be required to complete a longer application when seeking approval under Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). (VWP travelers are required to hold an ESTA approval prior to entering the United States). According to CBP, the increased security measures are in response to growing concerns that foreign fighters who possess U.S. and European passports or travel documents, and have joined militants in Syria and Iraq may seek to travel to the U.S. CBP indicated these individuals could pose a potential threat for committing terrorist attacks in the United States.

Effective November 3, 2014, the new measures mandate VWP travelers to provide the following additional data fields information when completing the ESTA application: (1) other names/aliases or other citizenships; (2) parents name(s); (3) national identification number (if applicable); (4) contact information (email, phone, points of contact); (5) employment information (if applicable); and (6) city of birth.

Travelers with a current and valid ESTA do not need to reapply. However, a new ESTA with these new data fields will be required once the valid ESTA or passport expire, or for any future travel under the VWP. The new security measures may result in possible delay of ESTA processing because manual adjudication may be required for cases involving erroneous information, data fields entered as “unknown,” or passports from multiple countries. All VWP countries are required to comply with the new security measures.

What should I do?

Travelers who use the VWP should apply for ESTA security clearance at the earliest opportunity and should prepare for a possible increased delay or a denial of ESTA clearance. In the event that ESTA clearance is denied, the individual will be required to apply for an actual visa at a U.S. consulate.

Please contact our office if you have any questions about the new ESTA procedures.

October 2, 2012

Taiwan Becomes Eligible for Visa Waiver Program

On October 2, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the designation of Taiwan into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP allows travel to the U.S. without a visa for eligible individuals seeking to visit the U.S. for business or tourism for a period of up to 90 days. VWP travelers are required to apply for advanced authorization through a web-based system called Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

There are currently 36 other countries eligible under the VWP, and the VWP accounted for more than 60 percent of tourist and business travelers to the U.S. in FY2011. Records show that 243,186 visitors from Taiwan traveled to the U.S. in FY2011. Effective November 1, 2012, eligible tourist or business travelers from Taiwan with an approved ESTA will be allowed to enter the U.S. on the VWP.

December 2, 2010

Report on Visa Waiver Program

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently issued a report on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) which allows foreign visitors from certain countries to enter the U.S. without obtaining a visa. To participate in the VWP, a country must offer reciprocal privileges to U.S. citizens and its participation in the VWP may help promote better international relations, tourism and commerce, and lighten consular caseloads. To date, 36 countries participate in the VWP, including Australia, Japan, and the UK, to name a few. In FY2009, 16.2 million visitors entered the U.S. under the VWP, accounting for 50.5% of all foreign visitors. For the CRS’s full report on the VWP, including issues of security, adding countries to the VWP, lost and stolen passports, overstays, etc, see http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RL32221.pdf.

January 26, 2010

Visa Waiver Program Travelers Must Complete Online Application

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reminds U.S.-bound travelers from visa waiver program (VWP) countries that they must obtain an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before boarding a plane or ship headed to the U.S. ESTA has been mandatory since Jan. 12, 2009 and does not affect U.S. citizens returning from overseas or citizens of VWP countries traveling on a valid U.S. visa. ESTA applications are submitted online at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/esta/ and are generally valid for up to 2 years with multiple entries permitted. A relative, friend, or travel agent may submit an application for a VWP traveler. The ESTA website is currently available in 21 languages.