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US Inbound Tourism

Strict new ESTA entry requirements: Hasta la vista to the US?

Yusof Sulaiman, eTN Staff Writer  Feb 06, 2009

There must be now high hopes from leisure and business travelers from among the 50 or so countries in Asia Pacific that Barack Obama's administration rapprochement policy will include abolition of its strict Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) entry requirements into the US.

A much welcome argument by proponents would be it would not only lead to stimulation of the US economy during the economic downturn, but tourism will become one of its biggest foreign exchange earners?

The "continuing threat of terrorism" which has forced the USA to tighten entry requirements into the country now mandates those applying for entry into the USA to complete the ESTA, effective from January 12, 2009.

Despite the strict rules on entry into the US, travelers from six Asia-Pacific countries (Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea) are among those from 35 countries that have been granted entry into the USA under its Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Applicants from countries included under the visa waiver program are now required to go online to the ESTA website of the Department of Homeland Security and complete a form, 72 hours before leaving for their trip.

Travelers planning to work or study, however, cannot travel on the VWP, and they must obtain the appropriate visa to travel to the US, according to the US government's website ().

Airlines are required to verify electronically with the US Customs and Border Protection that each traveler has a travel authorization and to transport "recalcitrant" home if they are refused entry. "No traveler will be allowed to board without one."

New strict entry requirements into the USA stipulate travelers must "meet all entry requirements," supply fingerprints and have digital photos taken on arrival in the US.

Also covered under the new visa requirements, those who overstay longer than 90 days or are "actively seeking work" may be arrested and detained for up to seven weeks and will be deported. "There are no rights of appeal or review."

They are also likely to be barred from re-entry for life. "Pleading ignorance won't help. It is essential that tourists and business travelers get a through understanding of the USA visa waiver program now that the new visa requirements are now in place."

The electronic travel authorization now replaces the old on-plane forms and allows multiple entry into the USA for two years.

According to published reports, the US Department of Homeland Security has received up to 20,000 applications globally daily.

Strict new ESTA entry requirements: Hasta la vista to the US?
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