Visa Waiver Program – ESTA
Since January 12th 2009, all visitors to the USA who qualify to travel under the Visa Waiver Program must go online and obtain authorization to travel to the USA through ESTA before they travel to the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michal Chertoff celebrated the creation of ESTA, stating that; “Rather than relying on paper-based procedures, this system will leverage 21st century electronic means to obtain basic information about who is traveling to the U.S. without a visa,” In addition, he highlighted the importance of ESTA by stating that “getting this information in advance enables our front-line personnel to determine whether a visa-free traveler presents a threat, before boarding an aircraft or arriving on our shores. It is a relatively simple and effective way to strengthen our security, and that of international travelers, while helping to preserve an important program for key allies.”
ESTA: Electronic System for Travel Authorization
Ever since the tragedy of 9/11, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has argued that the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) is a gaping weakness in border protection. CBP has no advance idea as to who is on their way to the US until either they arrive at the border, or after after receiving a vessel or plane manifest listing the international passengers. When considering the matter from CBP’s viewpoint, it’s very easy to concede that this notice is far too late. [Personally speaking, it is doubtful whether an early warning system could have prevented the horrific events in New York on 9/11 since, from what is generally understood regarding the hijackers, they all had valid visas and were residing in the US and had been for some time prior to the event]. Nevertheless the CBP is required to look at all areas of potential vulnerability across the spectrum.
The ESTA program has been designed to provide the CBP with a basic early warning system and to notify them of who is traveling to the US without a valid visa. So, remember to to keep your ESTA up to date prior to any travel plans to the US.
Given the sensitivity of the personal information required to be submitted, readers are strongly cautioned against inadvertently putting such information onto a rogue site.
ESTA is only intended for VWP travelers, so if you already have a valid American visa, you are not required to register under ESTA.
Once authorized to travel under ESTA, the authorization is typically good for up to two years, unless your passport expires within that time. ESTA revokes any previous authorization. ESTA authorized travel is good for multiple entries so you do not have to repeat the process each time you travel if you are a frequent flyer.
When you register under ESTA there are three possible outcomes:
(1) Your registration will go through without a hitch and you will be approved within moments of you hitting the submit button. This happens because the ESTA quickly checks all of the various databases available about you, for example Interpol, US government state and federal agencies, and certainly other databases that are undisclosed to the public. If nothing comes up at all then it will respond declaring you “Authorized to Travel”. Please note this does not mean that your entry into the US is guaranteed, it just means that they’ve found nothing at this point to indicate you should not bother boarding a plane. In fact, if your ESTA registration comes back denied, then no carrier is allowed to even let you on board their transportation.
(2) If ESTA discovers anything on your record that they need to look further into internally, the system will advise you “Authorization Pending” and ask you to keep checking the site for updates for up to 72 hours after that time. ETSA will post an approval or denial notice accordingly and refer you to your US Embassy if indeed you are denied authorization to travel. It is too early to say that even if you try to call the US Embassy on their highly expensive premium rate telephone number, that they will be able to give you any kind of specific answer as to why your case was denied. Since this system is very new indeed, we’d like to hear from you about your experience using it. Click here to visit the Official US Government ESTA page.
(3) Needless to say, there will be a very small percentage of travelers who will be denied. However, given the millions of people now having to apply this figure will still be thousands of people who will be denied daily.
We would advise any of our readers that, before they make an appointment to visit the Embassy that they first take advantage of a consultation with the Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram. There are many reasons for doing this; firstly, the traveler will need to have their travel history examined (not only visits the US but to other countries too). Also, the traveler’s personal background will need to be checked to consider whether or not there is some legitimate reason for their registration to be denied. Maybe the traveler previously overstayed in the US on their VWP or any US visa, or maybe they failed to pay a parking ticket or any seemingly minor infraction of the law in the US previously, or they may have a criminal conviction in their home country or elsewhere abroad in the past that may be triggering the ESTA rejection. There could be any number of reasons that should be discussed with an attorney before proceeding to make any formal application or approach to their US Embassy.
Whether you need help with your ESTA form, have recieved a denial through the ESTA process or simply want some great US Immigration advice, we’re here to help you. All our consultations are free, so feel free to get the help you need. Everyday we bring the American Dream to life for many families, we love what we do when we help launch families into a great new life. Call us today or complete our inquiry form and let’s get started.
US Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram
Chris M. Ingram LL.M., ESQ – Immigration Attorney
Admitted in New York.
Practice Specializing in US Immigration Law
401 Wilshire Boulevard, 12th Floor,
[Cross Streets 4th and Wilshire]
Tel: 310 496 4292
Everyday the Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram provides a comprehensive range of US Immigration expertise. We also provide a free consultation for our prospective clients.
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Specializing in the E2 Visa, EB1 Green Card, L-1A Visa and O1 Visa and K1 Visa Marriage-Based Immigration. Attorney Chris M. Ingram is dedicated to providing the very best in US Immigration legal representation. Enjoy our website.
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