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Old 17 Jun 2010
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Travel Bulletin - New Rules for Aussies to USA

Had this sent to me today.


Travel Bulletin


from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade



The United States government has introduced an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) which applies to all Australian passport holders visiting or transiting the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. ESTA is mandatory for all eligible Visa Waiver Program travellers to the United States. The US does not currently impose a fee for the ESTA service, however a fee is expected to be introduced by around mid 2010. ESTA’s official website can be accessed [IMG]tmtb://tmtoolbar/skin/Tooltip/webicon_gray.gif[/IMG]here.


There have been reports of unauthorised websites charging users to fill out ESTA applications. See our Unauthorised ESTA Websites section below for more information.



The United States government administers a strict entry regime and you may be refused entry, detained or deported on arrival if you don't comply with entry requirements. We strongly recommend you contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United States of America about your specific circumstances, well in advance of travel, including if you plan to transit the United States.



Australian passport holders may be eligible to be admitted to the United States for 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program. If you wish to work (including on journalism assignments), study, or stay for more than 90 days, you are not eligible for entry under the Visa Waiver Program and you must obtain a visa before travelling. For up-to-date visa information, you should review information contained on the following US Government websites before deciding whether to seek entry under the Visa Waiver Program or to apply for a visa:

Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA)


All Australian passport-holders eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must obtain approval through ESTA preferably at least three days (or 72 hours) prior to travel to the United States.



ESTA is a web-based system administered by the United States Government that determines the preliminary eligibility of visitors to travel under the Visa Waiver Program prior to boarding a carrier to the United States. Travellers who do not have a valid ESTA may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing or be denied admission at a United States’ port of entry.



To obtain a travel authorisation, each family member travelling is required to complete an ESTA application using the online system. The United States government recommends that travellers use the online system no later than three days (72 hours) before departure; applications can be made after that but approval may not be received ahead of travel.



It is recommended that travellers keep a print out or record of their ESTA application number for reference, if required, at airports or seaports.



If your ESTA application is refused, you will need to apply for a visa for travel to the United States. Currently ESTA refusals are less than one half of a per cent.



The United States government advises that each approved ESTA application will be valid for a period of two years, so a visitor may travel to the United States repeatedly within a two-year period without having to apply for another ESTA. Travellers whose ESTA applications are approved, but whose passport will expire in less than two years, will receive an ESTA that is valid until the passport’s expiration date. In the same way that a valid visa does not constitute a determination of admissibility, an approved ESTA is not a guarantee of admissibility to the United States at a port of entry. In all cases, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers make admissibility determinations at US ports of entry or pre-clearance facilities.



Unauthorised ESTA Websites


There have been reports of unauthorised websites charging users to submit ESTA applications, or wrongly claiming to produce a faster approval process. Online ESTA applications should be made at the [IMG]tmtb://tmtoolbar/skin/Tooltip/webicon_gray.gif[/IMG]ESTA website, which does not currently charge a fee. Travellers can also call the United States Visa Information Service in Australia on 1800 687 844 (call charges apply). For further information refer to the visa waiver program information provided on the Embassy of the United States in Australia’s website.



Visa Waiver Program


If you are travelling on your Australian passport and seek to enter under the Visa Waiver Program, including transit stops, your passport must be:

  • machine-readable if issued prior to 26 October 2005;
  • machine-readable and have a digital photograph if issued on or after 26 October 2005; or ;
  • an e-Passport if issued on or after 26 October 2006.
Australian passports that do not have two lines of 44 characters at the bottom of the personal particulars page are not machine-readable. To confirm whether your passport is machine-readable or an e-Passport, please contact the Australian Passports Information Service on 131232 (within Australia).



Australian citizens travelling on an Emergency Passport, Document of Identity or Provisional Travel Document without a valid US visa may have difficulty entering the United States. Australians intending to travel to or transit through the US on one of these documents are advised to make every attempt to obtain an appropriate US visa before seeking to enter into the United States. For more information see the US Customs and Border Protection website.



You should ensure that you provide accurate and current travel document details to your airline. If you obtain a new or replacement passport, make sure you update any frequent flyer profile or otherwise advise your airline. A new or replacement passport requires a new ESTA for entry under the Visa Waiver Program. If there are discrepancies in the data you have provided you may be held up by immigration officials while they investigate. This can take several hours.



Whether you are staying with family or friends or staying at a hotel, you will need to provide full details of a valid address in the United States when you check in for your flight. A five-digit zip code (post code) is required for all addresses. If you are a permanent resident of the United States, you will be asked for your Alien Registration Number and your country of normal residence.



Under the US-VISIT program, most visitors to the United States, including those seeking entry under the Visa Waiver Program, are required to have fingerprints scanned by an inkless device and to have a digital photograph taken on arrival.



The Form I-94W Arrival/Departure record is being phased out for Visa Waiver Program admissions. Air and ship crew will let you know if you are required to complete one. If you have a white Form 1-94 or a green Form I-94W in your passport, you must surrender this to airline or ship check-in staff at the time you leave the United States.



The expiration date printed on your visa does not allow you to stay in the United States up to that time. Visitors are lawfully present in the United States only up to the date stamped on their Form I-94 or Form I-94W Arrival/Departure record, or if you have not been issued with either form, up to the date stamped in your passport. If detected, visitors staying beyond the 90-day Visa Waiver Program limit or beyond the date stamped on their Arrival/Departure Record or passport may be arrested and detained for 7 weeks or more, deported and likely barred from re-entering the United States, possibly for life.



Where children are travelling alone or with one parent/guardian, we recommend you carry a notarised letter of consent for travel signed by the non-travelling parent(s) or guardian.



From January 2010, HIV infection no longer makes a foreign citizen ineligible to apply for a visa to travel to the United States. Applicants who were previously refused visas because they were HIV positive, may now be eligible for a visa and may reapply.

Australians with a criminal record (regardless of how minor or how long ago the offence took place) should ensure they seek advice from their nearest United States Embassy or Consulate about their visa requirements for entering or transiting the United States as they may be refused entry.



If you have any doubts about whether you are eligible to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, or about visa matters generally, you are strongly advised to contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the United States of America about your specific circumstances, well in advance of travel, including if you plan to transit the United States.
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Old 17 Jun 2010
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ESTA was covered in the North America section quite a while back...
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