Citizens of visa waiver countries must remember to obtain electronic travel authorization prior to boarding a plane or ship to come to the United States under the visa waiver program. The ESTA program has been mandatory since 1/12/2009.
ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, and once approved, generally will be valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first. Authorizations are valid for multiple entries into the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security recommends that ESTA applications be submitted as soon as an applicant begins making travel plans.
VWP travelers are required to log onto the ESTA Web site and complete an online application. The web-based system prompts applicants to answer basic biographic and eligibility questions typically requested on a paper I-94W form; ESTA is expected to completely replace the paper I-94W in the coming months. A third party, such as a relative, a friend, or a travel agent, may submit an application on behalf of a VWP traveler.