U.S. Custom & Border Patrol Redesigns ESTA Website for Visa Waiver Program
This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Laura Danielson is an active member.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection launched a redesigned Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participants on September 10, 2015.
Some of the new features include access to frequently asked questions at any time during the application process; a mobile-friendly design that allows VWP visitors to apply and check the status of their ESTA applications using a smartphone; translation capability at any point in the application by choosing one of 23 languages; and availability of the Group feature at the beginning of the application process to make it easier for families and groups to submit their applications at the same time.
CBP said it conducted focus groups as part of the redesign process to better understand how to improve the website for the more than 19 million VWP visitors who use it each year. VWP visitors who have already applied for ESTA will be able to access their accounts on the new site. Travelers with valid ESTAs will not have to reapply for new ones until their current ESTAs expire or they receive new passports.
CBP noted that the VWP enables nationals of 38 designated countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of up to 90 days without first obtaining a visa. All nationals or citizens of VWP countries must have an approved ESTA before boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP. ESTA applications should be submitted at least 72 hours before travel. Once approved, the ESTA is generally valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires. Authorizations are valid for multiple entries.
The redesigned ESTA application website is at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/.