I've just received an email at work about the new "enhanced security requirements" for entering the USA for people entering under the Visa Waiver Program. The email was short and sweet and to the point:
International travelers who are seeking to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program are now subject to enhanced security requirements. All eligible travelers who wish to travel under the Visa Waiver Program must apply for & receive authorisation BEFORE travelling.
Information on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), the application process and forms can be found here:
Note: Authorised applications are valid for 2 years from the date of authorisation or until your passport expires, whichever is the sooner.
As I've been to the US a couple of times, I thought I'd check out the website.
First off, you get presented with this lovely warning:
Nice. What a way to feel welcome.
Anyway, I carried on through and browsed around the site and this just appears to be an electronic version of the green form you have to fill in normally, except now you get clearance under the waiver program BEFORE you depart, though it still doesn't guarantee entry into the US.
At face value, this is a great idea: I don't think I've ever managed to fill in the green form correctly first time on any of the occasions I've been to the US. I always put my Date of Birth on the wrong line or miss out a digit from the flight number. If you've seen one of these green forms, you'll understand why. Provided I don't have to fill in a paper form AS WELL, I'll be quite pleased with this new requirement.
However, there's one hitch: apparently this will soon be the ONLY method of filling in this information. No more paper forms. So all those old dears, or people in the backend of nowhere: best you get learning about t'internet. Actually, I don't think it'll be that bad: you don't seem to have to fill in the form yourself, so travel agents and airlines will probably start offering to submit this information at time of booking.
Now all they need to do is introduce an online version of the little blue and white customs declaration and flying to the US will involve a lot less paper work. This is a Godsend as the US customs officials are notoriously picky about how the forms are filled in.