As of January 12th 2009, the United States government requires all non-US and Canadian passport-holders traveling to or via the USA using the “Visa Waiver” program to pre-apply for their waiver.
The US Visa Waiver Program enables citizens from a pre-defined list of countries to enter the United States for leisure or business trips without a formal visa, for a period not exceeding ninety days.
If you plan to travel to Mexico via the United States using the current Visa Waiver, even if only in transit, you will need to go online and apply for permission to travel. Your application will be processed and an authorization code will be issued to you if your application is accepted. From January 12th, 2009 airlines will not let you board a flight to/via the USA if you have not applied for and received an authorization code.
This new pre-authorization program gives the person permission to travel to the United States, but it does not guarantee entry; final admissibility is still determined by a US Customs Officer at the port of entry.
The new program, modelled on a similar Australian system, is called Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Although pre-registration is not compulsory until 2009, travelers may go online now for authorization and avoid the need to fill out the paper-based green waiver form.
Full details about ESTA may be found here on the US Department of Homeland Security’s website.
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