Streamlined Visa Waiver Program: Form I-94W Eliminated28 May 2010
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently issued a press release announcing the elimination of the paper arrival / departure form (I-94W) for travelers utilizing the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP is available to citizens and nationals from a specific list of countries for short-term visits. A traveler using the VWP needs to receive an approval through the electronic system for travel authorization (ESTA). By the end of summer 2010, a VWP traveler will no longer be given an I-94W card upon admittance into the United States.
VWP Travel Streamlined through ESTA
As part of this announcement, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano emphasized that eliminating the I-94W reduces a redundancy in the DHS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s systems. The I-94W is now redundant, as all of the critical traveler information is electronically stored through ESTA prior to an individual’s boarding of a plane bound for the U.S. Long-time MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers may recall a discussion of ESTA requirements becoming mandatory in our article, ESTA Requirements for VWP Travelers Effective Since January 12, 2009 (23.Jan.2009).
Visa Waiver Program Nations
The citizens or nationals of the following countries are currently eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
ESTA Requirement for Pre-Travel Clearance
Since January 12, 2009, a traveler from a VWP country has been required to obtain an ESTA approval before traveling to the United States. ESTA is a web-based system that determines the preliminary eligibility of a person who is a citizen or national of a VWP country to enter the U.S. Since its launch in August 2008, more than 1.2 million ESTA applications have been processed, resulting in an approval greater than 99.6 percent. Most applications are processed in seconds. The change to the ESTA and VWP was first tested in a seven-month pilot program conducted by DHS with the government of New Zealand and Air New Zealand flights from Auckland to Los Angeles International Airport.
While an ESTA approval is required before a VWP traveler can board an international carrier bound for the United States, CBP may still deny entry to a VWP traveler based on a number of factors. Travelers are likely to appreciate the efforts to implement, improve, and streamline this electronic traveler clearance system, which will hopefully reduce waiting times at U.S. ports of entry (POEs), while also improving security at U.S. airports and other POEs. Changes to the VWP and ESTA programs will be monitored and shared with MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers, as it becomes available.
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