Strict Enforcement of ESTA Requirements for VWP Travelers

Regular readers of MurthyDotCom will recall that travelers from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries now must obtain advance approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before traveling to the United States. (ESTA Requirements for VWP Travelers Effective since Jan 12, 2009, MurthyDotCom, 23.Jan.2009) You may not have heard, though, that effective January 20, 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began ratcheting up enforcement efforts – “transitioning to enforced compliance” as the State Department website says – so that VWP travelers to the United States MUST have obtained prior permission through ESTA to travel here, or “should expect to be denied boarding on any air carrier bound for the United States”  (Visa Waiver Program (VWP), Important Notices: ESTA Updates.)

According to a recent article in USAToday, beginning March 21st, the CBP may start fining airlines up to $3,300 for each VWP passenger that it allows VWP to board a U.S.-bound flight without ESTA authorization. (U.S. Bound Fliers Required to Register, by Thomas Frank, USAToday, 24.Jan.2010.)

Be prepared. If you live in one of the 35 VWP countries, don’t wait until the last minute to file for travel authorization through ESTA. Further information about ESTA is available on the DHS Customs and Border Protection (CBP) WebSite, and the free application may be completed online at the DHS WebSite.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.