Thursday, January 8, 2009

New US entry rules and registration. First confusion, now ripoff merchants. Recombobulation time?

The new US rules on registration prior to entry are coming into force next week (January 12). Called the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, the process is a four step process to apply for the right to enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program. It seems completely strange and contradictory to me that qualification for the Visa Waiver Program (ie a program that means you can enter without a visa) requires an online registration and approval and then completion of a detailed form (the green one) on the airline before entry into the US is permitted. Not surprisingly a articles are appearing with stories of confused travellers, airlines and bureaucrats (Sydney Morning Herald). Frighteningly stories are emerging of companies offering to complete this (free and supposedly easy) process for a fee ( story about Holiday Home Direct).

My advice - don't wait until you are planning a US trip. If you are a regular traveller go straight to the ESTA registration page and complete the process. You do not have to have a specific travel date in mind and (if I read this right) only have to do it once.

I hope this public service announcement has been useful. Of course I am only writing this post so I have another excuse to use the Recombobulation photograph and tag the word again :)

Update - I made a mistake above in saving that the green form also has to be completed in this new ESTA world. The form (officially called an I-94W form) does not have to be completed for ESTA approved travellers. See ESTA FAQ pdf for more (page 12)

Update 2 - there is some real confusion here. Despite what I found above in the ESTA FAQ I was still required to fill in the green I-94W form on arrival in the US.

(thank you lark is already taken from Flickr for the fantastic photo)

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