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Last week, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) posted a press release that reminded international travelers using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to apply when the ticket is purchased but not less than 72 hours before their international flight to the U.S. is scheduled to depart. This is due to the fact that real time approvals are no longer available. The press release warns that applicants who apply on the same day of their flight’s departure risk not having an approved ESTA prior to their scheduled departure. International travelers without an approved ESTA will not be authorized to board their flight.
For those of you that do not know, ESTA is an automated system that assists in determining eligibility to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risks. The VWP permits citizens of 38 countries to the U.S. for business or tourism for stays up to 90 days without a visa. Those same 38 countries have to reciprocate the same guidelines to U.S. citizens. The list of countries includes, but it not limited to, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
“Since its implementation in 2007, ESTA has counterbalanced vulnerabilities inherent in visa-free travel by adding a layer of advance scrutiny that enables our officers to focus on the small population of potentially dangerous travelers,” said Todd Owen, CBP Executive Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Field Operations.
I think that it was good on the CBP to provide international travelers with a heads up on ESTA changes. I would advise those travelers to be proactive in submitting an ESTA. It would definitely be costly to change an international ticket on the day of travel.