A new requirement for the Visa Waiver Program says that international travelers to the United States will now need to apply for their U.S. ESTA (Electronic System Authorization) for at least 72 hours before travel or risk being offloaded from their flight, with the U.S. Government no longer granting “real-time” ESTA approvals.
Although most air passengers flying to the U.S. from the 38 countries that comprise the list of countries that make up the Visa Waiver Program—especially those in pre-formed groups—apply for and receive their ESTA well in advance their flights, there are occasions when busy business travelers or some leisure travelers simply forget, or don’t realize their previous ESTA had expired, and they were able to apply at the airport, get speedy ESTA approval and board their flight as they normally did. (ESTA authorization is generally valid for multiple trips over a period of two years starting the date that one receives approval or until their passport expires, whichever comes first.)
Under the change, effective immediately, “arriving at the airport without a previously approved ESTA will likely result in being denied boarding,” says the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
ESTA costs a traveler to the U.S. $14.
Travelers would only need to apply for a new ESTA if their previous approval has expired or they’ll be using a new passport to enter the United States, as each ESTA is linked to a passport, not to the traveler themselves.
It wasn’t clear from the notice given by CBP why the change was implemented, but that does matter. What does matter is that U.S.-based receptive tour operators and international tour operators overseas make their clients aware of it.
1 – Citizens with Taiwanese national ID number only.
2 – Only British Citizens are eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program.