Heading to the U.S.? Don’t forget your ESTA

International travelers eligible for a visa waiver now must apply for Electronic System for Travel Authorization at least 72 hours before a trip.

Effective immediately, all Visa Waiver Program (VWP)-eligible international travelers using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) for entry into the United States must apply at least 72 hours before their trip departs. The requirement from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) follows changes to the ESTA application process that now prohibit real-time approvals inside an airport.

CBP advises any traveler requiring ESTA to apply when booking their trip but no later than 72 hours before departure. Citizens of participating Visa Waiver Program countries who do not apply at least 72 hours in advance or who apply for ESTA on the same day their trip departs:

  • May not receive an approved ESTA
  • May be denied boarding or experience delayed processing
  • May be denied admission at a U.S. port of entry

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

VWP enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Travelers must have valid ESTA approval prior to travel and meet all requirements. If you prefer to have a visa in your passport, you may still apply for a visitor (B) visa.

Canada is not part of the Visa Waiver Program, and Canadian citizens are not required to apply for ESTA to enter the United States.

What is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization?

ESTA is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk.

ESTA is not a visa. It does not meet the legal requirements to serve in lieu of a U.S. visa when a visa is required. Travelers who possess a valid U.S. visa may travel to the United States on that visa for the purpose it was issued. Travelers traveling on valid visas are not required to apply for an ESTA. In the same way that a valid visa does not guarantee admission to the United States, an approved ESTA is not a guarantee of admission to the United States.

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